By: Will Burchfield
Jim Harbaugh has been pleased with Michigan’s 2-0 start, particularly the progression his players showed from the first week to the second.
“I feel good about our team. We’re making mistakes in games but we’re not repeating those mistakes the next game. We’re learning from them and doing a lot of good things,” Harbaugh told the Jamie and Stoney Show on 97.1 The Ticket.
In Michigan’s season-opener versus Florida, wide receiver Grant Perry was assessed a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for spinning the ball after making a catch. A few other receivers, Tarik Black and Kekoa Crawford among them, staged showy displays of their own later in the game.
The following week in practice, the coaching staff emphasized the importance of celebrating within the confines of the rulebook.
“We made a conscious effort and coached it. We said, ‘When you score, when you make a big play, give the ball to the official. Hand it to the official,'” Harbaugh explained.
(No, they didn’t show film of Barry Sanders as inspiration, but Harbaugh laughed and said, “He was the greatest of all time at it.”)
Fast-forward to Saturday, Michigan’s home-opener at the Big House. On the Wolverines’ first drive of the game, Crawford caught a 43-yard touchdown pass down the middle of the field.
“He gets up, he’s very excited and his first reaction is to run toward the official, who was about 10 yards away,” Harbaugh recalled. “He’s in the back of the end zone, the official’s at the goal line and (Crawford) is trying to get there.”
Of course, his teammates weren’t making it easy.
“Meanwhile, there’s five, then seven, then nine and 10 of our players trying to hug him and high-five him and congratulate him. It looks like he’s trying to score. He’s going through them like a salmon swimming upstream,” Harbaugh laughed. “And he gets the ball back to the official under duress from his own team.”
The coach, who insists he doesn’t have fun during games, was basking in the moment on the sideline.
“I mean, that warmed the cockles of my heart. They’re listening and they’re not repeating errors. That’s a lot of joy for a coach when you see that because you know it’s important to them. They want to make those improvements,” said Harbaugh.
“He should get a (helmet) sticker for that,” Harbaugh said of Crawford.
For Harbaugh, it all goes back to avoiding penalties. That can be difficult for a young team, but the Wolverines are already showing signs of progress.
“You want to get your job done without penalty, and there’s definitely techniques and tools that as a coach you can tell the players. Then they experience it and you really hope — and good players will get this done — that they won’t be error-repeaters,” Harbaugh said.