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Michigan coach talks about a questionable holding penalty that was called on running back Karan Higdon. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News

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Evanston, Ill. — Michigan has been piling on penalties this season, and while Jim Harbaugh has questioned many calls against his team, the “phantom” hold called on Karan Higdon against Northwestern is among the more egregious.

Early in the fourth quarter with Michigan trailing, 17-13, quarterback Shea Patterson, on second and 8 from the Michigan 39, ran 20 yards to the Northwestern 41-yard line. But running back Karan Higdon was called for holding and suddenly the Wolverines were in a second-and-18 situation from the UM 29.

The problem was, Higdon had been tackled. He couldn’t have held.

Harbaugh said he asked officials for an explanation.

“They called it on 22, they called it on Karan, so I asked the referee, ‘Go ask the side judge who he called it on just so it wasn’t some different explanation days from now,’ ” Harbaugh said after Michigan came back from a 17-point deficit to win, 20-17, Saturday at Ryan Field.

“So he came back and said it was on the running back holding the linebacker. The whole stadium saw that the linebacker tackled our running back. It was a zone read, faked it to the running back, their linebacker tackled him, and then Shea ran for 28 yards, and they tacked on 10 yards for holding. It was a phantom call.”

More: Poised Patterson picks up play on UM's winning drive

Higdon said he had no idea what had happened.

“I thought it was on someone else,” Higdon said. “I got to the sideline and coaches were flipping out and I realized they must have called it on me.”

Patterson also had no idea what the call was or why it was called.

“Somebody told me Karan had the holding,” Patterson said. “That’s pretty weird because, didn’t he get tackled? That play just describes how the game was called. Don’t really know about that one.”

Michigan now has 46 penalties for 421 yards this season. The Wolverines had six first-half penalties.

achengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis

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