ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Jim Harbaugh’s emotions are hardened from experiencing it all as a college star, NFL quarterback and coach before coming back to campus to lead Michigan.
“I’m dead in here,” he said, gesturing toward his stomach. “I’m burnt wood.”
The young Wolverines (2-0) are far from savvy, leading to a relative letdown against Cincinnati after opening the season with an impressive victory over then-No. 17 Florida.
Ty Isaac ran for a career-high 133 yards and Wilton Speight threw for two touchdowns to help No. 8 Michigan overcome a sluggish performance to pull away and beat the Bearcats 36-14 on Saturday.
The Wolverines led by just three points early in the second half and were booed until getting the fans behind them again by scoring 19 straight points to turn a closely contested game into a lopsided one.
“We had the feeling coming out of this game that we stopped ourselves,” Harbaugh said.
The Bearcats (1-1) had the same feeling, failing to take advantage of Michigan’s many mistakes and making some miscues of their own to spoil an upset bid.
“Our ability to finish is a stress for our program,” said Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell, a former Ohio State interim coach, assistant and player. “That’s the thing that hurts, and really leaves a bad taste in the mouth.”
CINCINNATI: The Bearcats should come away encouraged that they had a chance to win a game in which they were five-touchdown underdogs, but they are lamenting missed opportunities against a major program after struggling to beat Austin Peay .
“When you get an opportunity to take advantage of a game, and it just slips right out of your hands, it hurts,” Cincinnati defensive tackle Cortez Broughton said. “Once we get that opportunity again, I’m pretty sure it’s going to end differently.”
MICHIGAN: The Wolverines were humbled a week after beating Florida 33-17 and found out they have a lot of work to do.
“It could be,” Isaac said.
UP IN THE AIR:
Cincinnati’s Hayden Moore was 15 of 40 for 132 yards with a TD pass to Kahlil Lewis that cut Michigan’s lead to 17-14 in the third quarter and capped a 10-play, 85-yard drive. Moore had some passes dropped, including by Lewis inside the Michigan 10 when trailing by 10 points early in the fourth quarter. He also had some errant throws, two of which were intercepted and returned for scores by Tyree Kinnel in the first quarter and Lavert Hill late in the fourth.
Speight completed 17 of 29 passes for 221 yards. He had TD passes to Kekoa Crawford early in the game and to Grant Perry in the third that gave Michigan a 10-point cushion. Speight also sailed some passes over intended receivers and in front of them.
“I get a little sloppy with my feet, which causes my ball to sail or to go low,” he said.
The quarterback avoided throwing an interception a week after throwing two against Florida, but the Wolverines turned the ball over twice and had seven penalties for 68 yards. Speight was charged with a fumble when he tried to hand the ball off. Michigan’s other fumble happened on a punt return.
Michigan’s defense didn’t appear to be as dominant as it was against the Gators, but did limit the Bearcats to an average of 2.3 yards per carry, forcing them to throw a lot more than Moore appeared to be capable of doing successfully. Isaac started a week after backing up Chris Evans and took advantage, following up his 114-yard performance with another impressive game.
“He keeps ascending,” Harbaugh said.
Isaac pushed Evans to the sideline for much of the afternoon as Karan Higdon was the team’s primary backup at running back.
Perry was reinstated a month ago after pleading guilty to resisting a police officer and misdemeanor assault and battery in connection with an October confrontation outside an East Lansing bar.
“I’m very happy to be on the team,” Perry said. “It’s a blessing.”
CINCINNATI: The Bearcats stay on the road to face Miami of Ohio on Saturday night.
MICHIGAN: The Wolverines will get a chance to work on many problems in practice before hosting Air Force on Saturday afternoon.