Michigan football's Jim Harbaugh mum on naming Cade McNamara starting QB

Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press
·4 min read

Jim Harbaugh went back and reviewed the film of Michigan football's 48-42 triple overtime win at Rutgers on Saturday night.

His main takeaway?

"It was just one heckuva good football game," Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh opened his weekly news conference by commenting on the back-and-forth nature of Saturday's game, in which the Wolverines snapped a three-game losing streak.

"So many players on both sides, really proud of the guys on our team," Harbaugh said. "Just kept battling and made plays. Looked like every player out there was having fun playing football.”

Here are more takeaways from Harbaugh:

No announcement on QB battle

For a second consecutive week, Cade McNamara replaced Joe Milton at quarterback, and this time he led Michigan to a win, completing 27 of 36 passes for 260 yards and four touchdowns and also rushing for a touchdown.

The Wolverines' quarterback change seems like it could be permanent, given McNamara's role in the comeback win. But Harbaugh didn't say whether McNamara is Michigan's new starting quarterback.

“The way we have this all set up here, the timing of everything, I talk to you in the media before the players arrive for meetings," Harbaugh said Monday. "So we will — not gonna make any dramatic announcements as per usual at this press conference.”

The Wolverines re-opened the quarterback competition following a 49-11 loss to Wisconsin on Nov. 14, in which McNamara took over at quarterback in the third quarter and led the offense on its only touchdown drive of the night. Milton, who started the first four games, remained the starter against Rutgers, but the offense scored zero points in his five possessions. Milton finished 5 of 12 for 89 yards against the Scarlet Knights before he was replaced.

No updates on injured players

Michigan was without five starters due to injury against Rutgers and lost two more, Cameron McGrone and Brad Hawkins, during the game.

Harbaugh did not provide an update on any of the individual players but said "some are possible" to play this week against Penn State.

“Questionable, I think, is the word everybody understands," Harbaugh said. "As of Monday, guys are still working through things. We’ll see where we are later in the week.”

McGrone was injured and carted off in the first half of Saturday's contest and did not return. The redshirt sophomore entered the season as one of the defense's most promising talents after tallying 65 tackles, nine tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in 2019. This season, he recorded 26 tackles, two tackles for loss and half a sack. Hawkins, one of the defense's two starting safeties, was also hurt against the Scarlet Knights and did not return. He has 40 tackles and one tackle for loss this season.

The Wolverines turned to former walk-on Adam Shibley at middle linebacker after McGrone left the game (Michigan also did the same when McGrone was injured against Michigan State on Oct. 31). Shibley finished with five tackles and one tackle for loss and earned praise from Harbaugh after the game. Hunter Reynolds, meanwhile, replaced Hawkins at safety.

"Thought Adam Shibley came in and played really well," Harbaugh said Saturday night. "He does a really good job of not overrunning the play and made a couple good tackles."

McGrone and Hawkins' injuries are the latest blow to Michigan's defense, which lost defensive end Aidan Hutchinson to a season-ending injury at Indiana and has been without defensive end Kwity Paye for the past two games. Across both sides of the ball, the Wolverines have now had six starters miss a combined 12 games this season.

Haskins gives run game a boost

Michigan relied heavily upon running back Hassan Haskins, who ran 22 times for 110 yards and the game-winning touchdown. Haskins tallied 95 rushing yards in the second half and overtime periods — and staked his claim to continue earning a majority of the carries going forward.

“Hassan really was running the ball and making yards where there were no yards to be made," Harbaugh said Monday. "Talk about yards after contact. There was yards after there was no yards to be made. Just great. He played great. It was great to see. And I thought the other running backs did as well. But a lot of tough runs out of Hassan."

During the first half of the season, the Wolverines rotated between four running backs, but that could change going forward. Against Rutgers, Haskins received 67% of the carries given to the running backs. And Michigan primarily utilized running back Chris Evans as a pass-catcher, with Evans tallying four catches for 30 yards (including a crucial 21-yard reception on fourth down).

Contact Orion Sang at osang@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @orion_sang. Read more on the Michigan Wolverines and sign up for our Wolverines newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan football's Jim Harbaugh mum on naming Cade McNamara starter