Jim Harbaugh had an epiphany after tunnel attack. How will Michigan respond?

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Jim Harbaugh lay awake at 4 a.m. Tuesday, replaying the violent weekend in his head and how to address his team.

Sure, Michigan scored a much-needed victory over in-state rival Michigan State, but the post-game tunnel attack was all everyone wanted to discuss. For two straight days, the Michigan coach and his players fielded questions from reporters about the aftermath and status of teammates Gemon Green and Ja’Den McBurrows, who were reportedly injured in the incident.

So when Harbaugh showed up to Schembechler Hall later that morning, he delivered a serious, stern message that hoped to flip the page on an incident that has become a black eye for the rivalry.

“He (said) he had an epiphany, and that epiphany was just to focus on Rutgers and not feel like a victim of the situation that happened,” said offensive lineman Olusegun “Olu” Oluwatimi, a graduate student transfer. “And to become a victor out of this. We’re trying not to let what happened on Saturday become a distraction and move forward.”

Oluwatimi credited the meeting with helping the Wolverines “refocus” and “charge into this week head on,” with a road game at Rutgers on deck for Saturday night (7:30 p.m., Big Ten Network). It’s the latest game in a fast-moving schedule that is approaching the final stretch.

More: Michigan players regroup, shift focus to Rutgers following MSU incident

And with that comes added pressure, with Michigan owning an unblemished 8-0 record and No. 5 ranking in the first College Football Playoff poll. Every win counts, and a loss could prove detrimental for postseason hopes.

“We had a good team meeting today, and coach Harbaugh said, basically, going into this week we’re going to play with discipline and not let the anger or whatever we may be feeling transition to this week,” senior tight end Luke Schoonmaker said. “Just kind of leaving that in the past and moving together as a team. That’s been what the focus has been.”

Harbaugh told the players that he and Michigan’s administration are “taking care of it,” a day after publicly saying he expected criminal charges to be filed by University of Michigan police, the department actively investigating the incident.

“People are expecting us to fall from this, but we’re looking to stay on the same track we have been,” said freshman defensive lineman Mason Graham.

More: Four more Michigan State players suspended following tunnel incidents

Harbaugh’s assistants expressed a similar hope on Wednesday, telling reporters that the only real option is to move forward with game-week preparation. Luckily for the Wolverines, the Scarlet Knights (4-4, 1-4 Big Ten) have struggled of late, losing four of their last five games including a 31-0 result at Minnesota last weekend. Rutgers is expected to start a redshirt freshman, Gavin Wimsatt, at quarterback, a tall task against a consensus top-10 Michigan defense.

“We’re just going to band together. I know it’s pretty cliche, but that’s all you can you do at this point,” said Steve Clinkscale, Michigan defensive backs coach and co-defensive coordinator. “We’re going to band together, we’re going to work together, we’re going to move past it right now and focus on the opponent at hand.”

Michigan quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator Matt Weiss said the postgame tunnel incident “took some of the joy” out of the win over the Spartans, but expressed confidence in the offense to flip the switch and be ready to play come Saturday night.

“We have a bunch of mature guys, a bunch of guys who have a laser-like focus every single week on what we’re doing,” Weiss said. “There’s no way that these guys would ever be distracted by something like that.”

Read more on Michigan football:

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Recruiting report: The battle for 2023 four-star OL Spencer Fano

For Michigan RB Blake Corum, patience pays off

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