Michigan Football Preview 2016

2016 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 145 of 179

144 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2016 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY BRANDON BROWN A fter finishing 5‑7 in his fourth year as the head coach at Michigan, Brady Hoke reached the end of his tenure. On Dec. 2, 2014, interim director of athletics Jim Hackett announced that Hoke would not be returning as football coach in 2015. Hoke gave his all to U‑M, but it wasn't enough. It's never pleasant to see someone fired, but his removal allowed for Michigan's prodigal son to return home. On Dec. 30, 2014, Hackett announced that former Wolverine quarterback and San Fran‑ cisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh had been hired as the 20th head football coach in school history. Harbaugh became the sixth for‑ mer Michigan player to be named the leader of college football's winningest program. "Throughout my life, I have dreamed of coaching at the University of Michigan," Harbaugh said at the time. "Now I have the honor to live it. "Across every discipline on campus, the University of Michigan stands for excel‑ lence. I feel privileged to take a leadership position at one of the finest universities in the world. I truly believe it is time to ask what we can do for our great university, and how I can be a great teammate. I commit to do my part to see to it the Michigan football program upholds its tradition of excellence." Harbaugh's arrival and everything leading up to the 2015 season opener went perfectly, but unfortunately a very good Utah team squandered his maiden voyage. The Wolver‑ ines were on the road against the Utes, who were coming off of a 9‑4 season and were poised for success in 2015 (they finished 10‑3). Michigan fifth‑year senior quarterback Jake Rudock — a graduate transfer from Iowa — threw three interceptions in the game, including one that was returned for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, giving the Utes a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Running back Devontae Booker had 124 yards from scrimmage and a touch‑ down while Utah spoiled Harbaugh's debut, beating Michigan 24‑17. After dropping the season opener, Harbaugh and his Wolverines went on to win their next five games by a com‑ bined score of 160‑14 over Oregon State, UNLV, Brigham Young, Maryland and Northwestern, pitching shutouts against the Cougars, Terrapins and Wildcats. At 5‑1, the Wolverines were ready to host Michigan State. Michigan led for the entire game and was up 23‑21 with just 10 seconds to go. Wolverine fifth‑year punter Blake O'Neill, a graduate transfer from We‑ ber State, walked onto the field to kick away the game‑clinching punt — but that didn't happen. O'Neill bobbled a low snap and tried to kick it anyway only to be hit, caus‑ ing the ball to pop into the air. Michigan State defender Jalen Watts‑Jackson scooped it up and ran it back 38 yards giving the Spartans a 27‑23 victory in one of the most improbable wins in college football history. At Monday's press conference following the heartbreaking loss, Harbaugh said that he'd rally his "Throughout my life, I have dreamed of coaching at the University of Michigan. Now I have the honor to live it." Harbaugh YEAR IN REVIEW THE Jim Harbaugh Triumphantly Returns To Michigan Jim Harbaugh lost his debut as the Michigan head coach, falling 24-17 to Utah, before ripping off five straight wins by a combined margin of 160-14. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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