Michigan kicker Jake Moody was likely going to make the game winning kick anyway. No matter if it was with no time left, 20 seconds left or even five yards farther back. Money Moody was going to do his part.But that doesn’t mean the time he kicked the ball at or the yardage was correct. That was due to a favorable ruling by the official and a stupid decision by Jim Harbaugh.
With 35 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Cornelius Johnson caught a pass that put Michigan down at the 17-yard line. Before the Wolverines could snap the ball on the next play, the officials blew the whistle to review the catch with 20 seconds to go.
ESPN had their rules expert give his opinion on the play and he confidently said it wasn’t catch. Which is correct. Johnson had the ball tucked between his wrists as he was diving towards the ground and then the ball bounced off the turf and into Johnson’s possession. That’s not a catch.
If that was the Detroit Lions, that would’ve been ruled incomplete.
Since the replay booth confirmed it was a catch the Wolverines were set up with 3rd and 5 and a running clock. Michigan had no timeouts and Illinois had one left. The Illini could’ve called timeout to stop the clock, but as the teams were set up and the clock rolling they still hadn’t signaled for one.
Would Illinois coach Bret Bielema had elected to stop the clock with enough time left to make Michigan kickoff had they made the kick? Or would he have called timeout to try and freeze Moody? We’ll never know.
Jim Harbaugh’s Poor Clock Management
So the clock is running, Michigan is set up in the shot gun, not really a formation you spike the ball out of. With 14 seconds on the clock, J.J. McCarthy snaps the ball and throws an incomplete pass which stops the clock at 13 seconds.
Now it’s fourth down. You have no choice but to kick it. But instead of winding the clock down and spiking the ball, ensuring it would be the last play of the game, now Illinois is going to get the ball back.
I don’t care about the odds of Illinois scoring or how sub-par their passing game is. I don’t f’ing care. You gave them an opportunity to score when you didn’t need to. What the hell was Harbaugh thinking?
Am I alone here? I went through nearly a dozen beat writers and national media members. I didn’t see a single tweet about this.
Here is the reaction from Sean McDonough and Todd Blackledge who were calling the game after McCarthy threw the pass on 3rd down.
McDonough: Wow. If that gets picked off on the interception.
Blackledge: I’m not even sure what they were trying to accomplish on that.
Exactly Todd, I have zero clue what the point of snapping the ball that soon and throwing a pass was.
The ball got tipped at the line by an Illinois defender, a little higher trajectory after it was deflected and it could’ve been intercepted.
This isn’t a referendum calling for Harbaugh’s job or a point that we should think of him differently. But that was a horrible decision. There’s just no way around it.
Other Quick Takeaways
A lot of you have responded to our article about Blake Corum’s Heisman hopes noting how bad the offense looked after he exited with an injury. Which it did.
But let’s keep this in mind, Michigan’s game plan is to run it down your throat. That’s their bread and butter that they prepare for every week.
So when their superstar running back goes down, what did you expect to happen? Did you think McCarthy was going to start lighting the world on fire with the passing game?
He hasn’t done that at any point this season, not to mention it was cold and windy during the game. Not ideal weather conditions to air it out.
And again, it’s not what Michigan game plans for during the week. They are a run-first team.
On a more positive note, this guy Colston Loveland, looks pretty damn good. The true freshman has 90 yards on five catches the last two weeks. Ohio State might want to keep their eye on that kid next week.
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)