MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Michigan outscored Georgia in the second half of the Orange Bowl, College Football Playoff Semifinal, a fact lost on many but surely not Coach Jim Harbaugh.
“It was a heckuva football fight tonight, they got the better end of it, but I thought it was physical on both sides of the ball,” said Harbaugh, who led the Wolverines to their first CFP appearance on the heels of the program’s first Big Ten Championship Game win.
“It wasn’t our best but certainly was theirs,” Harbaugh said after the 34-11 loss to the Bulldogs at Hard Rock Stadium.
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Georgia jumped out to a 27-3 lead at intermission, scoring on its first five drives before Michigan could make halftime adjustments.
“They did a very good job early in the game … they were able to bleed out yards on the perimeter with bubbles and swing routes,” Harbaugh said, referencing how UGA quarterback Stetson Bennett was 6 of 6 passing for 30 yards on passes thrown at or behind the line of scrimmage in the first half.
“They got the swing route early to (Brock) Bowers, that was big.”
Bowers’ leaping, finger-tip grab on the overthrown pass went for 35 yards and sparked the opening scoring drive.
It’s also worth noting the Bulldogs essentially shut things down midway through the fourth quarter, calling 11 consecutive run plays on their two possessions the final 7 minutes of the game.
Harbaugh, understandably, focused on the positives for his program including the Wolverines’ fourth-quarter touchdown and 2-point conversion.
“Our offense was moving the ball there in the second half,” Harbaugh said. “We had those drives — could have converted on two drives before, but got to give credit to the Georgia defense, they’re a tough team to score on.”
Michigan had two fourth-quarter drives stall out in Georgia territory via downs.
Quarterback JJ McCarthy, who replaced starter Cade McNamara in the second half, threw incomplete on third and fourth-down attempts at the Georgia 41 on the first two plays of the fourth quarter with UM down 27-3.
The Bulldogs scored on the ensuing drive, effectively putting the game away, before Michigan responded with another long drive.
But after 15 plays and 59 yards, Georgia stubbornly turned the Wolverines away, again, with Derion Kendrick coming up in run support to stop Donovan Edwards for a 1-yard loss on a fourth-and-goal at the Bulldogs’ 5.
“Like I said, our guys kept fighting, the way they always do,” Harbaugh said. “It was a great season. To me it’s one of the best seasons in Michigan football history. We were trying to make it greater.
“To me, it feels like a start, feels like a beginning.”