UM’s Butt: Harbaugh 'getting our backs' by taking on refs

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan tight end Jake Butt gets a hug from Ohio State safety Malik Hooker as they walk off the field at the end of the game.

Ann Arbor — Michigan senior tight end Jake Butt watched film on Monday of the Wolverines’ double-overtime loss to Ohio State on Saturday and saw several plays they never capitalized on that could have been the difference.

Butt, a co-captain, spoke Monday night after appearing on the “Inside Michigan Football” radio show at the Pizza House, and said he’s well aware of coach Jim Harbaugh’s postgame rant about the officiating. Harbaugh received a reprimand from the Big Ten and the school must pay a $10,000 fine for his comments.

But the loss was due to more than questionable officiating, Butt said.

“I watched the film today. It hurt. It definitely hurts,” Butt said. “I know the big thing people want to talk about right now is the officials. I’ve never blamed a game on the refs. I haven’t come across a game even that I didn’t play in that I watched that I can say the refs cost somebody the game.

“You look back at the film, and I know there was things we could have done regardless whether the refs were for us, against us or neutral, we could have won that game. That being said, that game is going to be talked about. That will be one of the most historical games in this rivalry and in college football for a very long time, and it’s going to hurt being on the wrong side of that one."

He took no issue with Harbaugh’s comments after that game. Harbaugh repeatedly said he was “bitterly disappointed” with the officiating, including the spot on Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett’s fourth-and-1 run ruled a first down to set up the winning play in the second overtime.

“Coach Harbaugh is speaking his mind,” Butt said. “He’s getting our back, but I know the first thing is, he’s speaking his mind. He’s not blaming them. Were there some questionable calls? Absolutely. In a game like that, you want there to be no questionable calls.

Jim Harbaugh reprimanded by Big Ten, UM fined $10,000

“When it’s next year in the Big House, I don’t want Michigan fans officiating that game, and I’m sure Ohio State fans can understand that. Again, I want to reiterate, I’m not blaming the game on the refs. We beat ourselves. We left a lot of plays on the field. And I do look at that as coach Harbaugh getting our backs.”

Now, the Wolverines must wait and see if things could fall into place for them to reach the four-team College Football Playoff, which seems a bit of stretch for the two-loss team, although many national college writers have strongly supported Michigan as one of the four best teams. They were ranked No. 3 in the CFP facing No. 2 Ohio State before losing, 30-27.

They are now ranked No. 5 in the AP poll, but the important CFP ratings will be released Tuesday night. Michigan has three victories over top-10 teams and could be the highest-rated two-loss team if it slips into the No. 5 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings. Michigan has victories over Wisconsin and Penn State, who are playing Saturday for the Big Ten championship, and over Colorado, which is playing for the Pac-12 title.

While it seems to be a stretch, things could happen to give the Wolverines hope when the final rankings are released Sunday. If Colorado beats Washington in the Pac-12 championship and Virginia Tech upsets Clemson, Michigan might have a chance.

“Listen, we know anything can happen,” Butt said. “We know as well as anybody that anything can happen in college football. We’ve been on the wrong side of history a couple times and we’ve been on the right side of history a couple times.”

Like Butt, defensive lineman Taco Charlton feels Michigan is one of the four best teams in the country. Many projections have Michigan playing in the Orange Bowl. The Wolverines could have a shot at the Rose Bowl if Wisconsin beats Penn State and somehow slips into the playoff.

Regardless, they said the team will rebound and play hard no matter the destination.

“Things are kind of out of our hands right now,” Charlton said. “We hope and pray for the best that things turn out and they choose the four best teams which we think we are one of, and they choose us.

“But if not, we have one more chance as a group of seniors to go out one more time and I hope we go out as a high note. We worked so hard these four, five years that we definitely want to go out on a high note no matter what game we play in.” @chengelis