Evidently, shovels aren’t standard-issue equipment at Michigan.

If they were, the Wolverines would probably be able to dig themselves out of holes. Instead, falling behind by two scores usually spells doom.

For as special as the 2021 season was for No. 2 UM, its inability to overcome deficits in big games — yet again — surfaced during a 34-11 loss to No. 3 Georgia during the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.

From the onset, the Bulldogs flexed their muscles, striking first with a 9-yard touchdown pass from QB Stetson Bennett to TE Brock Bowers. UGA jumped out to a 17-0 lead before the Wolverines finally got on the board with a 36-yard field goal by Lou Groza Award-winner Jake Moody. Then the Bulldogs tacked on another field goal, going up 20-3 on the shaken Wolverines.

Minutes later, Jermaine Burton scored a 57-yard TD, giving UGA a 27-3 advantage before the break and completely deflating Michigan.

Georgia will now face Alabama in the College Football Playoff title bout, a rematch of the SEC championship won by ‘Bama. Michigan will head home and prepare for next year.

A bitter end to an otherwise incredible season. But it wasn’t a total surprise. We’ve seen this type of meltdown in the past.

When getting off to a fast start, Michigan has proven to be a dangerous team under coach Jim Harbaugh. However, slow starts or failures to keep up the pace have never turned out well for Harbaugh during his 7 years in Ann Arbor — and that has been especially true during bowl games.

Harbaugh probably doesn’t like remembering these postseason mishaps, but they’ve done nothing but support the idea that he can’t consistently win the big ones.

Now, he has proven doubters wrong with a 42-27 victory over Ohio State this past season — UM’s first over the Buckeyes since 2011 — and with a 42-3 B1G title game win over Iowa.

But the fashion of these bowl losses lingers.

Michigan trailed Florida State, 17-3, during the 2016 Orange Bowl. And despite a 17-point 4th quarter, UM lost 33-32 — that was one of Harbaugh’s first big-game disappointments.

Down 13-10 at halftime, Michigan lost 41-15 to Florida during the 2018 Peach Bowl. That was a complete slap in the face to Michigan.

Michigan actually led Alabama, 16-14, at halftime of the 2020 Citrus Bowl — but a quick start to the second half allowed the Tide to cruise to a 35-16 victory. No surprise in that one, right?

Bowl losses have been bad.

And the slow starts against Ohio State have been well documented: The Buckeyes go up by two scores and coast the rest of the way. That can be said for any team that finds a way to get a quick jolt out of the gate vs. the Wolverines.

Entering Friday night, Michigan hadn’t given up first-quarter points since Week 1 vs. Western Michigan. Additionally, the Wolverines hadn’t had to play from behind since being down 3 to Nebraska (32-29); also, they were briefly down 10-7 to Ohio State before waking up and taking control.

The Orange Bowl was billed as the nation’s best OL (Michigan) vs. a Defense of the Decade (Georgia). With just 3 points vs. the Bulldogs in the first two quarters, the Wolverines scored their fewest points of any half this season. Up until meeting UGA, UM had led every game at halftime this past season. Georgia lived up to its defensive prowess, while Michigan’s O-line struggled to protect its QB and create holes for running backs.

At one point in the first quarter, the Wolverines had 31 rushing yards and appeared able to break the 87.1-yard ceiling established by UGA’s defense. However, UM finished the first half with 29 rushing yards and had 84 for the game. Hassan Haskins entered the CFP semi with 20 rushing touchdowns and more than 2,000 career rushing yards. He gained 13 yards and didn’t get near the end zone during the first half vs. the Bulldogs, who entered the game having given up only 3 rushing TDs all year.

Getting blasted by Georgia wasn’t the end-all for Michigan. Sure, Harbaugh will still face criticism when it comes to winning on the biggest stages, but he has shaken a good deal of the pressure with his victory over the Buckeyes back in November. Yet it was basically a shield or Band-Aid — depending on you how view things — until he truly gets UM level and consistent.

But there’s no denying that the national coach of the year has the Wolverines on the right track. They know who their starting QB will be in 2022 (McNamara) and have a superb 2022 recruiting class ready to get to work next season. The 2023 class is already ranked No. 7 in the nation and No. 2 in the Big Ten.

Harbaugh has done just about everything right during Michigan’s ascent to B1G championships and a CFP appearance. Now, all that’s left is handing out shovels and teaching players (and coaches) how to dig out of holes.