'The film doesn't lie': Big Ten admits flubbing key calls in UM-MSU game, Harbaugh says

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Hours after his weekly news conference, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh wanted to reiterate what he said and clarify his intent.

Earlier Monday, Harbaugh was asked if he had heard from the Big Ten Conference regarding calls he questioned in the Wolverines' 37-33 loss to rival Michigan State on Oct. 30. Harbaugh said the conference has admitted to “mistakes” in officiating calls that went against the Wolverines in that game.

Michigan sent the Big Ten copies of officiating calls that the staff believed were incorrect, including a reversal of the call on a fumble by Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne. It was ruled on the field a recovery by Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson for a touchdown.

A replay review overturned the call and officals said Thorne was ruled down before losing control of the ball. Harbaugh had also previously spoken about a missed pass interference on the Wolverines’ second-to-last possession.

“You don’t make excuses, but the guys deserved better,” Harbaugh said last week during a radio show.

After social media furor questioned the motive for answering the question 10 days after the game, Harbaugh, reached late Monday, was asked about his comments regarding what he was told by the Big Ten during a brief conversation with The Detroit News.

"I am built for being forthright and honest," Harbaugh told The News. "I was asked a question and answered it honestly and forthrightly."

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh waits with the team before running out onto the field for the start of the game.

Michigan is 8-1, 5-1 in the Big Ten and is preparing to play at Penn State on Saturday.

Last week, Harbaugh had said he and his staff would be sending plays for the Big Ten to review. He was not available to media until Monday, although he did speak late Saturday after Michigan defeated Indiana. During his Monday news conference, Harbaugh was asked if the Big Ten had responded to what he had sent.

“Yeah, as we all expected, all saw, mistakes were made,” Harbaugh said Monday. “That was the response — they made a mistake.”

Harbaugh was asked specifically about the reversal of the call on a fumble by Thorne, which was called on the field as a recovery by Hutchinson for a touchdown.

“Yeah, and others,” Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh said he could not be clearer than that.

As he was about to respond to another question Monday, Harbaugh made one final point about officiating.

“The film doesn’t lie, you know,” he said.

Not long after the Michigan news conference, Michigan State coach Mel Tucker met with reporters and among the discussion were key penalties during the Spartans' loss at Purdue last Saturday. Tucker said several had been sent to the Big Ten and was expecting a response soon.

When asked about them, and specifically a targeting call on defensive tackle Simeon Barrow, Tucker said he didn’t want to say the calls were the reason Michigan State lost.

“I don't like to talk about bad calls,” Tucker said. “That's not part of our culture. We don't like to make excuses about anything. I think that makes your program soft. I think it gives your coaches and your players a way out, so I don’t even like to talk about it that much."

Harbaugh was asked several other questions Monday night that he chose not to answer, including how many calls from the UM-MSU game he sent and which ones did the Big Ten admit were mistakes. 

When asked for for clarification on which calls Michigan sent to the Big Ten for review, athletic department spokesperson Dave Ablauf earlier Monday declined further comment.

The Detroit News reached out to the Big Ten twice last week regarding the officiating in the Michigan-Michigan State game but did not get a response until Monday afternoon. A Big Ten spokesman told The News it would not comment saying there would be no confirmation of Harbaugh's comments, nor would the conference dispute it, either.

Bill Carollo, the Big Ten head of officials, is made available to the media once a year at Big Ten media days in July. The Big Ten typically does not send statements regarding officiating unless a program is being fined or a player is being suspended.

Typically, the conference does respond to programs when complaints are filed. For instance, Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said on a radio show in September he had heard back from Big Ten officiating supervisors regarding complaints he made from his team's game against Ohio State and one response supported his issue with the call in question.

Injury update

Michigan had several players leave the Indiana game last Saturday night with injuries, including leading rusher Blake Corum, who returned to the sideline in the second half with a boot on his right foot and leg. Receivers Andrel Anthony and A.J. Henning also left the game with undisclosed injuries, as did cornerback Gemon Green. Quarterback Cade McNamara, as he did late in the MSU game, visited the medical tent during the IU game. Harbaugh said last Saturday that McNamara was dealing with “one thing” from the previous game.

The Wolverines were already down one running back, freshman Donovan Edwards, who missed his second game with an undisclosed injury but was on the sideline in street clothes. Tight end Erick All, who appeared to injure an ankle late in the game at Michigan State, was in uniform and went through pre-game warmups last Saturday but did not play.

Harbaugh did not shed any light Monday on where things stand with those players.

“I don’t have any updates on injuries at this time,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a matter of a team working every day, trying every day. You’re refreshing, trying to have good days. Good meetings, good practice and go play the game.”

Running back questions

It is unclear which running backs, beyond Hassan Haskins, will be available at Penn State. With Edwards on the sideline in street clothes and Corum in a walking boot on his right leg, Haskins was the only experienced back the Wolverines had against IU.

Haskins finished with 27 carries for 168 yards and one touchdown against the Hoosiers and also had a catch for 20 yards. Haskins now has 11 touchdowns this season and Corum has 10. But what if Corum and Edwards aren’t available for the Penn State game?

Freshman Tavierre Dunlap had two carries for 8 yards late in the game against Indiana. Harbaugh said Dunlap Leon Franklin, Danny Hughes and Isaiah Gash will get more work this week.

“There’s really good, quality players there,” Harbaugh said. “Those guys that have been preparing, they’ve been working all season.”

We're running a new-subscriber special. Support local journalism, and subscribe here.


Twitter: @chengelis