'That was a great play': UM coaches, players baffled by some calls, especially PI vs. Notre Dame

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Michigan safety Brad Hawkins believes he should have been credited with his first career interception in the third quarter of the Notre Dame game last Saturday.

Hawkins picked off Irish quarterback Ian Book on third-and-10 after the Irish had rushed for no gain the first play of the drive, and Book threw incomplete the next.

This interception by Michigan defensive back Brad Hawkins  on a pass intended for Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet was called back due to an interference call on linebacker Khaleke Hudson, left.

“That was a great play,” Hawkins said this week. “I read it, came over the top, my instincts picked it up. Unfortunately, it was a pass interference.”

Khaleke Hudson was called for what many now refer to as the “phantom” pass interference. Notre Dame got the first down and ended up scoring to pull within 17-7. Michigan won the game, 45-14.

Hawkins was asked if he thought there really was a penalty.

“Actually, it wasn’t a pass interference,” he said. “But you can’t leave the game in the refs’ hands.”

A week earlier at Penn State, there was a questionable offensive pass interference on Michigan receiver Nico Collins.

Michigan cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich said Wednesday he has no idea what the official saw on the play.

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“I don’t know, I really don’t. I wish I could answer that,” Zordich said. “Maybe he had a bad view. A bad angle. That’s unfortunate.”

Coaches often argue calls that could, in reality, go either way or more than likely was a correct decision. But this pass interference on Hudson was considered a major miss by most, and Zordich said it’s frustrating to have those kinds of calls in games and have no recourse. Michigan, like every other team, submits what it considers were questionable calls to the Big Ten to get clarification.

“I come to work, I’m held accountable every day. I know the Big Ten is taking care of the official stuff, but there should be some more clarity on it,” he said. “That call was not interference. But i gotta stay in my little foxhole, do my job, coach my guys and let the officials take care of the officials. But yeah, would be nicer if they were a little clearer.”

Michigan offensive line coach Ed Warinner, however, said officials have a difficult job and generally call solid games.

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“I think those guys got a tough job,” Warinner said. “I have no comment about whether they’re doing — I think overall, they do a great job. I have no comment about any specific play, because I think they’re all unique. I think there’s mistakes made out there, but I think there’s great calls made out there. I think overall, though, they’re doing the best they can for our game. They’re highly trained, they spend a lot of time doing it. There’s nobody else better. If there were, they’d be out there.

“It’s like holding calls. If you really just watched, you could get holding on the lines, O-line, D-line, a lot. It’s just hard to catch it and see it and call it. The game is so fast. And, you don’t want a penalty every play.

"We all know, when you watch an NFL game and there’s 20 penalties in the first half, we’re all like (rolls his eyes). Know what I mean? Right?”

Zordich and Warinner are not big fans of replay.

“I think people rely on it too much,” Zordich said. “It kinda loosens, in my mind, they’re too relaxed. ‘Let’s just go up to the video booth and let’s see what they say,’ rather than old time ‘No, we’ll keep (the flag) right here.’ But that’s me.”

Warinner said replay has changed the game the last five years, creating discussion for a number of close calls.

“Because we can slow it down to click-by-click — ‘Oh yeah, he was this far from touching him, his knee was down,’” Warinner said. “Those would have just been fumbles or non-fumbles and move on. Now there’s so much technology that dives into the debate and what’s allowed to be reviewed, what’s not allowed to be reviewed.”

Warinner said he wondered if Stephen Spanellis might be penalized for what his play that became a viral sensation when he blocked a Notre Dame player well down field and then to the sideline.

“I think the ref wasn’t sure whether (Spanellis) knew the whistle had blown because he was 50 yards away from the action,” Warinner said. “That was an RPO play so we have a run that’s supposed to run down the right sideline, and he’s leading that play down the right sideline so he thinks he’s blocking for a run going down the right sideline, and we pull it and throw an RPO that goes down the other sideline.

“He has no idea. He’s 50-60 yards from the play and he’s not supposed to be blocking this guy looking around and seeing what’s going on. He’s supposed to stay connected to him and get him blocked and go until he hears a whistle. We have a huge crowd, it’s loud. I don’t know when the whistle blew.

"So I think the ref did the right thing and said hey, as long as there’s no extra curricular and nobody’s trying to hurt anybody, because (Spanellsi) would have no malintent on his blocking. He was just trying to be aggressive.”


Twitter: @chengelis