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Harbaugh reasserts confidence in Michigan team to bounce back against Irish following loss

| Thursday, October 24, 2019

As usual, No. 19 Michigan football head coach Jim Harbaugh was brief in his press conference ahead of the Wolverines’ (5-2, 3-2 Big Ten) matchup against No. 8 Notre Dame.

The Wolverines are coming off a tough loss to now No. 6 Penn State on the road as they head back to Ann Arbor for their last scheduled matchup against Notre Dame (5-1). In State College, Penn., the Wolverines fell behind early, finding themselves down 21-7 heading into the second half. But the defense buckled down and the offense, led by senior quarterback Shea Patterson, came alive, and the Wolverines had a chance to tie late in the game in the red zone before ultimately falling short.

Anna Mason | The Observer

Irish wide receiver Chris Finke makes a leaping touchdown grab over Michigan safety Brad Hawkins during Notre Dame’s 24-17 win over Michigan at Notre Dame Stadium on Sept. 1, 2018.

The 28-21 loss comes amidst much national criticism of Harbaugh, who has struggled in rivalry games during his tenure at Michigan. As far as the big picture goes, Michigan’s football program has been under immense scrutiny during Harbaugh’s time at the helm. But the veteran coach responded to big picture questions by saying that his focus, and the team’s focus, remains on the next game.

“This week [is] the most important game of the season. Our next game [is] the most important one. Tough loss last week,” Harbaugh said. “[To] come back against a very good opponent — those are some of the memories. We can respond in that kind of way.”

When asked about what would make this season, as a whole, a successful one moving forward for the Wolverines, Harbaugh reiterated his focus.

“Win our next game,” he said. “That’s our goal. We put together a really good plan for next week, we’ll practice it and go out and execute. I feel like our team is as optimistic as ever that it’s hitting its stride.”

Michigan — which was projected by many as the favorite to win the Big Ten this year as a serious college football playoff contender — finds itself with two conference losses before having faced Ohio State, historically its biggest rival. Patterson has received notable criticism during this stint, and many have suggested benching the Ole Miss transfer. But Harbaugh remains confident in his starting quarterback; he said Patterson played a fantastic game against Penn State.

“I think Shea [Patterson] has been playing great football,” he said. “Heroic, even. I’ve been really pleased. He’s into it, his whole demeanor in the game. Confident, excited about it. [He] likes being in that atmosphere and playing in that big type of game. You can sense it from everything about him.”

Patterson and the squad, who lost to Notre Dame in South Bend in the first game of the season last year, will face the Irish on their home turf this time. Harbaugh didn’t have much to say when asked about Notre Dame besides that the Irish have been playing good football.

“They’re really talented offensively, defensively,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a really good football team. … They’re playing really good football.”

Given this is the last currently-scheduled game in the rivalry series between Notre Dame and Michigan, Harbaugh was asked if he would like to see the rivalry continue.

“Think there’s some discussion about it. Yeah, that’d be good,” he said.

Lastly, Harbaugh was asked if his team is better suited to bounce back after a tough loss since it will be going up against a big-time opponent. Harbaugh responded simply, saying teams always rebound, no matter what.

“It’s football. That’s what you do — you bounce back,” he said.

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