Sept. 1 feels like a long time ago.
Michigan football has cranked out nine-straight wins since that opening-Saturday, one-touchdown loss to Notre Dame.
And the Fighting Irish? They haven’t lost either, sitting pretty at No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings, one spot ahead of the Wolverines.
When other teams might have become discouraged, 2018’s Michigan players leaned on each other and on the coaching to refocus after that evening in South Bend.
“A lot of teams could have packed it in and started blaming each other,” redshirt senior fullback Jared Wangler said during media availability Tuesday night. “I think you’ve got to look at the team leaders and the coaching. The coaches did a phenomenal job of getting this thing turned around. There wasn’t anyone feeling sorry for themselves. At that point we had lost four-straight games, so a lot of us could have looked at the coaches and not trusted them or looked at each other and not trusted each other. It speaks volumes to us as a team, and I think that’s why you see us at 9-1 now is because guys trust each other, and that’s a huge part of our success.”
Sophomore wide receiver Nico Collins was thrust into a starting role (due to redshirt freshman Tarik Black’s injury) at Notre Dame after recording only three catches last season. He had three receptions for 66 yards including a 52-yarder against the Fighting Irish and has provided solid production in a crowded wide receiver corps ever since.
“We worked really hard during spring and during camp, and we didn’t win (at Notre Dame), so that kind of set a funny feeling in our stomachs,” Collins said. “We didn’t like that feeling. It was terrible. We took it personally and it made us play like each week was our last and make improvements each week up until now. Hopefully we just keep improving and reach our goal.”
In the nine contests following the Notre Dame game, Collins has 23 catches for 363 yards, averaging 15.85 yards per catch, plus four touchdowns.
“Nothing had to be spoken,” Collins said. “We knew what losing meant. We didn’t like the feeling.”
That feeling is something echoed by redshirt senior defensive tackle Lawrence Marshall. The Wolverines want to win, but it seems that, just as much, they want to avoid the crushing disappointment of failure.
“Ever since that loss, we don’t want to lose anymore,” Marshall said. “Sometimes when you go 9-0, you don’t know how it feels to lose. We know how that feels, and we don’t want to feel it again.”
Marshall’s contributions have seen a serious uptick this year after considering transferring in the offseason. He saw a silver lining in the Week 1 loss.
“We were just getting the pieces together, seeing how everyone would gel, and after the first game, we knew we had something special,” Marshall said. “If you were going to have a loss, that’s when you want to have it, first game. Then you’d see how everyone would gel together, and everyone did come together.”
Michigan would have to win three more games, including at Ohio State, and maybe get some help in the form of an Alabama win over Georgia in the SEC Championship Game in order to make it to the playoffs, and even if it did get there, there’s no chance it would play the Fighting Irish in either of two possible playoff games, but many have begun discussing the possibility that the “Revenge Tour” could be extended to include avenging the Sept. 1 loss.
“I feel like it would be a very competitive game because they know what we could bring and we know what they could bring,” Collins said when asked about a potential rematch. “They probably got better too, so I’m sure that would be a good game to watch.”
A rematch in the playoffs for a National Championship or with a trip to the National Championship on the line? “Good game to watch” hardly does it justice.