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Jim Harbaugh Regrets Calling 'Philly Special' on 4th Down in Michigan's Loss to TCU

Erin WalshJanuary 1, 2023

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 31: Head coach Jim Harbaugh and J.J. McCarthy #9 of the Michigan Wolverines are seen during warmups prior to the game against the TCU Horned Frogs in the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium on December 31, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Norm Hall/Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines fell to the TCU Horned Frogs 51-45 on Saturday in the Fiesta Bowl, putting an end to their national title hopes during the College Football Playoff semifinals for the second consecutive season.

While there's plenty for Michigan to examine following the loss, there's one specific play that head coach Jim Harbaugh wishes he could call back: the "Philly special."

The Wolverines were knocking on the door early, marching down the field on their first drive of the game. On 4th-and-goal from the TCU 2-yard line, Harbaugh called the trick play, and the Horned Frogs quickly snuffed it out, taking down Colston Loveland for a loss of eight yards.

Michigan could have kicked the field goal for the easy three points; instead the Wolverines turned the ball over on downs.

Harbaugh said after the game he wished he called a different play.

Michigan Football on UMGoBlue @UMGoBlog

HC Jim Harbaugh on the failed Philly Special: "They had us wired in - I wish we had called a different play." 〽️ <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoBlue?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoBlue</a> <a href="https://t.co/0sInZkRfMc">pic.twitter.com/0sInZkRfMc</a>

The Philly special gained national attention during Super Bowl LII between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots in 2018.

On 4th-and-goal late in the first half, Eagles offensive lineman Jason Kelce snapped the ball directly to running back Corey Clement. Clement then pitched it to tight end Trey Burton, who threw it to quarterback Nick Foles for the touchdown.

The Eagles went on to win their first Super Bowl.

Many teams have tried the Philly special since then, and many, including Michigan, have failed as opposing defenses have become more aware of the play.

Michigan dropped to 1-6 in bowl games in the Harbaugh era, and it hasn't won a bowl since the 59-year-old's first season in Ann Arbor in 2015.