SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — In the few hours before his group decelerates Purdue to capture its second consecutive Big Ten Title, Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh passed the time by watching an epic clash between Texas Christian and Kansas State inside large 12 Championship.
Harbaugh found himself mesmerized by the red-haired prodigy playing quarterback for the Horned Frogs, and each time he struggled with it. by Max Duggan His knees were already bloody, each wheezing run caused him to bend over in pain, making the eventual Heisman Trophy finalist one of the sport’s most avid purists. . It’s hard to imagine Harbaugh, a once gray-haired signal caller, loving anything more than a short, underrated midfielder who throws 251 yards, rushes another 110 yards, and pushes himself forward. absolute limit to a single trace of DNA upon awakening.
“I can’t tell you the joy and pleasure of watching him play in the game on Saturday,” Harbaugh told reporters on a Zoom call the next afternoon, shortly after the selection committee. selected the College Football knockout round that combined the Wolverines with TCU into the national semi-finals. “Nothing but tremendous respect for the kind of opponent he is. And it will be a huge challenge to be ready for such a midfielder. All I see is a relentless opponent. off, super talented, great effort. .”
Harbaugh’s lavish praise is notable for both its applicability to the Fiesta Bowl (Saturday at 4 p.m. ET), which shows Duggan’s unyielding tenacity against one of the best defenses in the country and its familiarity to those who closely follow Michigan football. The flattery homage Harbaugh describes Duggan very much like his appreciation for another unannounced, unsurprisingly skilled quarterback whose contributions play a vital role. in the cultural overhaul of the program in 2021: Cade McNamarawhose effective combination of tenacity, tenacity, selflessness, and leadership has led Werewolf to a season that will be remembered for generations — even if he can’t match. with the remarkable statistics of Duggan.
A year later, McNamara’s absence enveloped Michigan like an unrecognized fog as his former teammates set their sights on surpassing the standards he set when guiding Werewolves to the world title. the first meeting in 17 years and the first appearance of CFP. McNamara lost in midfield competition with former five-star prospect JJ McCarthy in early September and injured his knee at the end of last season Connecticut State in Week 3. Decided to proceed with the surgery in Los Angeles, where orthopedic surgeon Neal ElAttrache was recognized — the team doctor for the surgery. Rams and Dodgers — performing the surgery, further isolated McNamara from his teammates. He entered the transfer portal at the end of November, committed Iowa after that, and is no longer considered part of the Michigan program, according to a spokesman for the group.
One of the most important werewolves in recent memory seemed to disappear in an instant.
“Cade is a great leader who brought us together,” said the left hand Ryan Hayes, who remains close to McNamara, in an interview with FOX Sports. “He was exactly what we needed last year. And this year, JJ came in as a great leader: cool, calm and collected. Obviously a little different. leadership styles, but both know how to lead the attack, know how to stay calm and collected, and both have done it very well.
“It’s time for Cade to move on. We love Cade. We know he’s not leaving our team. We still talk to him. No one on this team has a grudge against Cade. We love him. him. I just think he needs a new chance. And we’re all excited for him. We’re all supporting him.”
Many people wonder if Duggan should pull the same exit valve after coming in second Chandler Morris in a quarterback competition earlier this year. Duggan appeared in 32 games in his first three seasons at Fort Worth, but the Horned Frogs won just 16 of 34 games in that span. Former head coach Gary Patterson, who earlier in his career oversaw some of the best seasons in the show’s history, stepped down midway through the 2021 campaign to create the opening that ultimately ended filled by current coach Sonny Dykes.
The disappointing end to Patterson’s tenure further tarnished Duggan’s resume as a starting midfielder. He threw 5,920 yards and 41 touchdowns from 2019-21, but also launched 20 interceptions and failed to claim more than three straight wins as Horned Frogs finished under 0.500 twice. Duggan’s unevenness has brought him to the for criticism that McNamara experienced in Ann Arbor, where a growing number of fans expect the critically acclaimed McCarthy to take the #1 spot on the charts. depth in 2022.
“When I got here,” said the TCU queue man Johnny Hodges“I would notice how many fans and people almost wanted to scream at (Duggan) calling his head, getting ready for him to finish, calling the other midfielders to play, just trying to see something new. I think that’s a big reason why he didn’t start early (this season), just because of the fan base. And just seeing him push all of that. aside and mature as a person, and obviously a footballer, people love him now.”
Despite losing his original job during the fall camp, Duggan said the idea of a job transfer never crossed his mind. He grew up enjoying the Fort Worth community and wanted to fulfill his four-year commitment to play and graduate from TCU. Duggan also told reporters that he is confident in the way Dykes is rebuilding the program and informed his new coach that he will stick around to be the best backup and teammate he can be. .
That’s the reaction Harbaugh expected from McNamara or McCarthy right before picking a main catcher for this season. Harbaugh told reporters at the end of August that his quarterbacks “are all people who don’t flinch, give up or give up when faced with the slightest adverse situation or something goes wrong. It’s not Cade McNamara; it’s not JJ McCarthy.” He is adamant that the possibility of losing one of them to another team will not affect his decision.
Four months later, it’s fair to wonder how Harbaugh reacted when McNamara walked into the transfer portal and committed to another Big Ten show. McNamara, who redshirted earlier in his career in Michigan, still has two qualifying years left if he chooses to use them. Harbaugh has yet to comment on McNamara’s departure and is beginning to close on tight Erick all, who has also left the Wolverines in favor of Iowa, since those decisions were made public earlier this month. Neither player was on the team that attended the Fiesta Bowl.
“It’s a tough question,” co-attack coordinator Matt Weiss said when asked what has changed for McNamara as the season progresses. “I think you really have to ask Cade what led to that decision. We fully support him and what he wants to do. He has had surgery and he wants to finish it soon. rather than later to give him more chances next year. We fully support him doing what’s best for him.
“I think maybe if he hadn’t had the injury, I think he could have taken on the role where, yes, if anything happens (with McCarthy), he’ll have a chance to win the national championship. join and become a hero.”
This is exactly where Duggan found himself as the Fiesta Bowl approached. Morris’ knee injury in the third quarter of TCU’s opening game returned Duggan to the starting role he was so disappointed to lose and sparked one of the best seasons in show history. submission – for both the Horned Frogs and their most valuable players.
Duggan captivated fans with his intoxicating blend of toughness, determination and big playability. He pushed for a foul that ranked sixth nationally scoring 40.3 points per game and making more plays over 50 yards (19) than any team in college football. He has thrown 3,321 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2022 while reducing his interceptions to 4 and scoring over 400 javes and six additional points on the ground. His list of accolades now includes the Davey O’Brien Award, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, a second-place finish in the Heisman Trophy vote and the all-American title for the second team from three separate media.
“He’s a great guy,” said Wolverines roader Teenager Colson. “He reads very well. He could kill us with his feet if we let him. He’s a fighter. He’s a fighter. You can see, all the time, especially. especially if things get tough, he’ll carry the team on his back and carry them.”
Like McNamara did for Michigan last season.
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Michael Cohen covers college football and basketball for FOX Sports with a focus on the Big Ten. Follow him on Twitter at @Michael_Cohen13.
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