Michigan Soccer: Review of the 2021 Season

MIAMI, Florida. – The Georgia Bulldogs shattered the Michigan Wolverines’ Cinderella season slipper with a 34:11 demolition in the college football playoff semifinals at the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium on New Years Eve.

While Michigan believers may be disappointed, the 2021 season trip will leave fond memories. As much as fans try to hold back the pain of defeat on the last day of 2021, how about celebrating a 12-2 season, overcoming the 10-year OSU stranglehold, Big Ten Championships, a Heisman runner-up and two coach of the annual recipient?

Exceeded expectations

First of all, no one had the Wolverines as the sole representative of the Big Ten Conference in the CFP. If we’re honest, after the cut-season debacle of the 2-4 pandemic, everyone was pretty sure they weren’t a candidate for leaving the East Division.

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Michigan was nearly 1-5, but Rutgers kicker hammered a game-winning 45-yard field goal in overtime. For hypothetical purposes, if that kick goes through the posts, future AP Coach of the Year Jim Harbaugh will likely be fired.

Michigan’s head coach Jim Harbaugh observes the scoreboard during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Indiana, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo / Carlos Osorio) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Thankfully, cooler minds caught on, but Harbaugh got into the season with a healthy $ 4 million pay cut. You don’t cut someone’s salary if they do their job well.

Critics will have views on how to lead. Though strange at times, this season Harbaugh has proven why the Wolverines are “the leaders and the best”.

Michigan tight end Luke Schoonmaker (86) celebrates with his teammates at the end of the Big Ten Championship NCAA college football game against Iowa on Saturday, December 4, 2021 in Indianapolis. Michigan won 42-3. (The Associated Press 2021)

Thanks to that poor 2020 season, the Football Power Index gave the Wolverines a 2 percent chance of winning the division.

To make matters worse, Michigan lost its best attacking player in wide receiver Ronnie Bell to a knee injury in the first game of the year.

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Michigan’s head coach Jim Harbaugh (left) watches pre-game warm-ups alongside wide receiver Ronnie Bell (8) prior to an NCAA college football game against Rutgers in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, September 25, 2021. (The Associated Press 2021)

The Wolverines scored four straight wins, including a 20-13 home second leg against the aforementioned Scarlet Knights, a game they passed a pass in in the second half.

The lackluster passing game caused more unwanted noise from the media questioning the Wolverines’ undefeated record and whether they could go undefeated after a road trip to Madison against the Wisconsin Badgers.

Offensive coordinator and Broyles award-winning assistant Josh Gattis made a name for himself in this game. The tricks of the formally unrated Wolverines in 14th place turned out to be too much when they improved the Badgers with 38-17 to 5-0.

Christian Turner # 3 of the Michigan Wolverines celebrates his third quarter touchdown with Offensive Coordinator Josh Gattis during the game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Michigan Stadium on September 28, 2019 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus / Getty Images)

The jump from 14 to the top 10 was huge when Michigan faced yet another Test against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, which, according to Harbaugh, came from behind in Clint Eastwood-esque fashion.

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“I think Michigan teams have lost this game in the past,” said QB Cade McNamara. “The coaches have committed to doing differently this year.”

Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara greets fans as he leaves the field after the second half of an NCAA college football game against the state of Ohio on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021 in Ann Arbor, Michigan (AP Photo / Carlos Osorio) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Stumble in East Lansing

After the Northwestern 33-7 boat race, the Wolverines headed to Spartan Stadium with confidence, but lagged behind them thanks to Kenneth Walker III. He ran over the entire defense of future Heisman runner-up Aidan Hutchinson.

Heisman Trophy finalist, from left, Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett, Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud and Alabama quarterback Bryce Young stand for a photo with the Heisman Trophy before attending the awards ceremony on Saturday, December 11, 2021 , in New York. (AP Photo / John Minchillo) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

After the game, a stunned Harbaugh told reporters, “We need to learn from this and strengthen our resolve.”

“I think we’re still fighting,” said Hutchinson. “We still have our goals ahead of us.”

That loss started the rumor mill for Harbaugh when the Wolverines stifled the game against rival Spartans. This game resembled those in years when the Wolverines couldn’t win big games against rivals.

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Michigan calmed the noise down a bit after it demolished the Indiana Hoosiers, 29-7.

A trip to Happy Valley was next at a loss for the Wolverines who creaked for six from the Penn State Nittany Lions thanks to Erick All’s narrow end and its mesh route to the house.

Michigan tight end Erick All (83) sprints into the end zone for a 47-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter during an NCAA college football game at State College, Pennsylvania on Saturday, November 13, 2021 – Pass against Penn State to score. Michigan defeated Penn State 21-17. (AP photo / Barry Reeger) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

A 59-18 drumming over the Maryland Terrapins eventually became the coming-out party for freshman Donovan Edwards, who had 10 receptions for 170 yards and a touchdown.

Finally defeating Ohio State

In the final game of the regular season, Michigan welcomed hated rivals Ohio State to the Big House, where they eventually defeated the Buckeyes 42:27, thanks in part to Hassan Haskin’s five-touchdown performance, Hutchinson and his 14th season and fellow lineman David Ojabo, who provided a clutch sack in the final moments of the game.

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Michigan running back Hassan Haskins (25) celebrates a touchdown in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against Ohio State in Ann Arbor, Michigan on Saturday, November 27, 2021. Michigan won 42-27. (AP Photo / Tony Ding) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The win brought the Wolverines to their very first appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game. They dominated the Iowa Hawkeyes to claim their first title from start to finish. Hutchinson was so dominant that he was voted MVP as the first defensive player.

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