Michigan fans are some of the most insufferable people on the planet.
The football team spent two and a half quarters erasing a 17-point first half deficit against Northwestern on the road to win 20-17, the largest Michigan comeback win in the Jim Harbaugh era.
You wouldn’t know that at all talking to a lot of fans, pundits and alumni though. In fact, I’m pretty sure a lot of them would have rather Michigan lost the game for some sick reason.
Michigan did not have a good first half on either side of the ball. The defense had no answers for Clayton Thorsen and the Wildcats offense and the Michigan offense had no rhythm whatsoever. Punter Will Hart had in the most work he’s seen this season by far and the penalties were a problem across the board for the whole team.
Yet for all of the badness Michigan played with in the first half, they were only down 10 at halftime and adjustments were made in the second half. The pressure that the defensive line wasn’t getting on Thorsen in the first half materialized in a big way, mostly from Chase Winovich, Kwity Paye and Josh Uche. Rashan Gary left the game with an injury and had issues up until that point, but the defense didn’t surrender a single point for the entire rest of the game.
The offense conversely scored 13 points, though it probably should have been 21 as they had two drives stall out in the red zone and settled for field goals, making the comeback even slower and dicier if you were watching the game at home. In the end, Karan Higdon finished with 30 carries for 115 yards rushing and two touchdowns to give Michigan its fourth straight win of the 2018 season.
It was ugly, it was messy and there are a ton of things for the team to learn from and clean up, but they won the game.
If only that were enough for Michigan fans.
Because the Wolverines didn’t pull a Penn State from the past few weeks and drop half a hundred on Northwestern in the second half to win by blowout, there was little praise to be found in any corner of the fanbase from anyone for what was Jim Harbaugh’s 32nd victory as Michigan head coach, now one ahead of Brady Hoke’s 31 total wins in four years if anyone was paying attention.
No, it was all about how unprepared, undisciplined and badly coached the team was in Year 4 of the Harbaugh era against a squad that lost to Akron a few weeks ago. Surely a waste of $7 million a year to pay a coach that calls the most vanilla offensive plays in the history of football and clearly refuses to throw the ball downfield. At this rate, Michigan will be lucky to win two to three more games this season they say.
Seriously, take the Notre Dame postmortem, replace the seven-point loss with a three-point win and that’s what you have from the Michigan fanbase after securing a 4-1 record. To a lot of them it’s just more proof that Penn State and Ohio State are going to curb stomp the Wolverines in November, especially since they played the “best game we’ll see in the Big Ten all year.” Right. The one where Urban Meyer was acting like a baby most of the night on the sideline and James Franklin called a play on fourth down and five yards that couldn’t have been worse if he had told everyone in the world exactly what he was going to do.
At this rate, the best way to enjoy a Michigan football game is to never watch it with other Michigan fans, and don’t read their reactions on Twitter or social media of any kind during or after the game itself, even if the team wins. That is unless you want to see the most miserable, constantly unhappy people on the planet talk about how much their own team sucks.
It’s one thing to be critical of Michigan’s performance this season. You can have questions about the offensive philosophy or why the legitimate penalties keep happening, especially since it’s clear that the referees don’t need a penalty to actually occur for them to throw a flag against Michigan this season. You can have issues with the slow starts and express concern about the rest of the season if you so choose.
On the other hand, it’s something else entirely to sit on Twitter and scream about how overpaid and underwhelming your head coach is, how useless you think certain players are on offense or defense, and how much the rest of the Big Ten is going to pile drive your team because you can only beat Northwestern by a field goal. That’s not criticism, that’s being a miserable jackass.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s fanbases all over the country that act the same way about their teams, but the difference with Michigan fans is that it comes with extra impatience and extra lack of perspective because of how long it has been since the program has won a Big Ten championship or beaten its rivals on a consistent basis. Every Saturday all of the blue hairs and Bo disciples wear their hearts on their sleeves and they want nothing less than Alabama-level dominance against the Northwesterns of the world, and when that doesn’t happen they release the venom about it.
The truth is that Michigan has a good team this year, not a perfect one. They got caught with their pants down against the Wildcats, regrouped and won because they’re truly the better team on the field. Northwestern didn’t beat itself, Michigan took the game from them, however long it took them to do it.
Will that approach be as successful against Penn State or Ohio State? No, of course not but no one is saying that it is. Obviously the team has things to work on and flesh out as the season goes along, but game plans change and are never the same for each opponent, so while you sit there screaming at the TV for them to empty the playbook to beat Northwestern by 30, bear in mind that what they run against one team is not going to be the exact same plan against another team, hence the reason Michigan is paying Harbaugh $7 million a year, not to run the same damn playbook against every team, but to build a game plan for each one that gets them the win.
So far, he and his staff have built four winning game plans out of five games total. That’s an .800 winning percentage for the 2018 season with seven games to go. Maybe instead of going straight to misery and melancholy after a tough road win against an unranked conference opponent in Week 5, you actually let the season play out and see how many more winning game plans Harbaugh’s staff and the players come up with from here on out.