ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) – Jim Harbaugh refused to make it about him. Bo Schembechler would’ve been proud.
Harbaugh was a winner in his home debut as Michigan’s coach thanks in large part to De’Veon Smith’s 126 yards rushing and three touchdowns that lifted the Wolverines to a 35-7 victory over Oregon State on Saturday.
Smith is a former WKBN 27 First News Big 22 Player of the Year. He played high school football at Howland.
Perhaps fittingly, Smith wears No. 4 just as Harbaugh did as Michigan’s quarterback in the mid-1980s.
Harbaugh, meanwhile, donned a blue cap with a maize block M much like the one his coach and mentor, Schembechler, wore on the same sideline. He even sounded like the late, great leader, whose “The Team, The Team, The Team,” mantra was drilled into every player at Michigan.
Did Harbaugh take a moment to enjoy his first game as a coach at Michigan Stadium, where he played and attended games as a kid when his father was an assistant coach?
“Yeah, I did,” he said before quickly stopping himself from sharing too much of his thoughts and emotions. “It’s mainly about the players, the coaches and their families.”
Harbaugh’s wife, though, was more forthcoming.
“It was really cool and very surreal,” Sarah Harbaugh said. “When we were pulling up in the parking lot, his mother was sitting behind me. The band went in front of us and she started bawling. She said, ‘I remember this.’ But for Jim, it’s always about the team.”
Michigan (1-1) looked much better as a team than it did in last week’s loss at Utah.
The Wolverines also got some breaks in the pivotal second quarter against the Beavers (1-1).
Smith gave the Wolverines a running game they lacked in the opener, but like his coach, he wouldn’t take credit.
“Want to give a shout out to my offensive line,” Smith said. “They opened some holes you could drive a bus through.”
Defensively, Michigan put pressure on Oregon State’s quarterbacks and didn’t give up a lot on the ground – much to the delight of nearly 110,000 fans who filled the Big House with hopes the sagging program’s new leader will make a difference.
Harbaugh was quietly pacing the sideline for much of the first quarter and early in the second, rarely saying anything to players, coaches or officials.
That changed when he saw a penalty he didn’t like. The game changed, too.
Michigan’s Jeremy Clark was called for roughing the kicker, setting off Harbaugh.
The former San Francisco 49ers coach shouted at officials, flailed his arms and threw laminated sheets behind him because he thought Nick Porebski lost his protection as a punter after bobbling the ball and zig-zagging before kicking the ball.
A little later, Oregon State coach Gary Andersen made a curious decision by choosing to punt instead of going for it on a fourth-and-3 from the Michigan 39 while trailing 10-7.
“Never thought to not punt quite frankly,” Andersen said.
Then, the long snap from midfield sailed over Porebski’s head and bounced back to the Beavers 3.
“That happens once in a half-century,” Harbaugh said. “That was a heck of a good break for us, but we’ll take it.”
Smith scored his second TD with 12 seconds left in the first half to put Michigan up 17-7 and the Beavers never got back in the game.
Jake Rudock, who threw three interceptions in his Michigan debut, was 18 of 26 for 180 yards with an interception.
Oregon State’s Seth Collins completed nine of 16 passes for 79 yards. He was replaced by Marcus McMaryion late in the third quarter, then got another chance to play early in the fourth.
“We didn’t lose heart,” Collins said. “We needed to capitalize on mistakes.”
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