Michigan Football Documentary Provides Glimpse Into Opponents’ White Out Preparation
Amazon debuted its Prime video series on Michigan Wolverines football on Friday, documenting the team’s 2017 season. The Wolverines went 8-5 and ended the season with a loss in the Outback Bowl at the hands of South Carolina, the Big Ten’s only loss of the bowl season.
Episode 5 of the series, “Nowhere to Surrender,” documents Michigan’s matchup at Penn State, from preparation throughout the week to locker-room consolation after the Nittany Lions won 42-13. There’s just something about that White Out atmosphere, and even Jim Harbaugh knows it.
“Alright, night game. This is gonna be a White Out they call it there tomorrow night. Don’t let that surprise you. You know, their music — make it our music. They’re playing something? Whoo, that’s our song. They’re cheering? They’re cheering for us. Maybe time it so we run out when they’re running out, pretend they’re cheering for us,” Harbaugh told his team the day before the game. “It’ll be a great atmosphere — their music’s our music, okay? The race is not always won by the swiftest or the strongest, but the one who endures ’til the end. Now, I think we’re the swiftest. I think we’re the strongest football team out there tomorrow night. Let’s make sure we endure to the end.”
Besides the White Out atmosphere, the game was a sort of homecoming for then-starting quarterback John O’Korn, who grew up in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. The 10,000-person town is “just over the mountain from Penn State” as O’Korn described it. In a call with his parents, his mom, who works at the Naked Egg, said the only time she doesn’t root for Penn State is when the Nittany Lions are playing Michigan.
“As a team, I think Penn State fears us. I think they fear Michigan,” O’Korn said during the week leading up to the game. “We’ve really beat them handily the past two years. Whatever people want to say outside of our building, they can say whatever they want, but we know we’re not the underdog in this game. If we go out and play and execute, we can impose our will on them just like we did everybody else we’ve played this year.”
Needless to say, that comment didn’t age well.
“I know these guys,” Michigan defensive lineman Chase Winovich told his teammates right before kickoff. “They’re thinking about Ohio State next week. They’re not thinking about us. Let’s take it to ’em every play.”
A few minutes later, Saquon Barkley ran in a 69-yard touchdown on the second offensive snap of the game. And he didn’t stop there. Despite Defensive Coordinator Don Brown’s warnings to get ready to defend Barkley, the Wolverines were left high and dry as Penn Staters broke Beaver Stadium’s attendance record with more than 110,000 fans.
“I’ve never seen our defense get torched like this,” O’Korn later said on the sidelines during the second half of the game — after this play:
“No feeling sorry for yourselves. No excuse making. We got beat by a better team. We gotta regroup, we gotta refit, we gotta reload. But don’t look for soft shoulders to cry on,” Harbaugh said in the locker room after the game. “You can already tell the bandwagon has weened itself out. Ain’t a lot of people anymore with the bandwagon. All we got is right here. And there ain’t nowhere to go to surrender in football. There’s no Appomatox in football. We’ve got opportunities ahead of us. We’ve got to take advantage of ’em. But don’t look for people outside of here to help you. All you got’s right here. All the medicine’s right here. The only place it can get fixed is right here. Regroup. Refit. Reload. Take this. Head back to Ann Arbor.”
A slow-motion shot of the student section shaking the all-white shakers was nothing short of majestic. And hearing Harbaugh yell, “What’re we doing over here?” from the sidelines made it all the sweeter.
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