Jim Harbaugh made three big errors Saturday in Michigan's 30-27 double-overtime loss to Ohio State in The Game Saturday.
The first came before the game. The second came in the third quarter. The final one came towards the end of regulation.
The influence of the errors is debatable. The errors themselves are up for debate. But Michigan had a 17-7 lead in the second half of a game where points appeared to be rationed. They were in control of the contest — in control of their own destiny to play in the College Football Playoff — and they choked it away.
After the game, Harbaugh wanted to pin the loss on the officials, saying he was "bitterly disappointed" with the officiating and going just shy of saying that they gave Ohio State the game.
"I thought there were some outrageous calls," he said.
This is a diversionary tactic. The referees did not hand Ohio State the game. J.T. Barrett did get the first down on fourth down deep in Michigan territory in the fourth quarter — they went to instant replay and didn't overturn it. The pass interference penalties Harbaugh rallied against were a judgment call — someone was always going to be upset with the decisions because no one knows what "catchable" really means and not every hook and grab is seen.
And Harbaugh certainly cannot plead innocence to getting a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct against the referees.
There has never been a perfectly officiated game. Sometimes judgment calls go against you. But Michigan didn't lose because of the men in stripes — they can only blame themselves for that loss Saturday, and Harbaugh needs to be at the center of that blame.
He played an injured Wilton Speight and had him throw 36 times
No one can say what level of influence Wilton Speight's shoulder injury had on his game Saturday. And while he had his moments of glory, the redshirt sophomore threw two critical interceptions — one a pick-6 — in Saturday's game.
Backup quarterback John O'Korn did not have an impressive game against Indiana last week — it's clear why Harbaugh would want to go back to Speight, who was medically cleared to play, but it was also clear that Speight was going to be up-and-down early in the game.
But instead of running down the clock, the Wolverines threw the ball 36 times. Speight threw a pick-6 and then an interception that set up the turning point of the game.
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He turned momentum when he lost his cool in the third quarter
After a Speight interception late in the third quarter, Ohio State took over at the Michigan 13.
Before Ohio State could snap it, Michigan was called for offsides — a 50-50 call — and Harbaugh went berserk, throwing his clipboard and breaking his headset. He was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Ohio Stadium crowd lost its mind after Harbaugh's penalty and the Buckeyes were in the end zone two plays later.
Ohio State had not manufactured a point on offense in the game — Speight threw them a touchdown and then his interception and Harbaugh's meltdown after a five-yard penalty gifted them another.
The Wolverines had the Buckeyes in a vulnerable situation and couldn't capitalize. They melted down.
And Harbaugh, whose sideline demeanor is ... let's go with aggressive ... lost the right to complain about how he's treated by officials long ago.
Harbaugh mismanaged the clock late in regulation
But Michigan still had a chance to win late. Ohio State trailed by 3 with 5:30 remaining in the game, and the Buckeyes drove down the field looking for a game-tying field goal.
With 2:27 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Buckeyes made it into field goal range. Harbaugh had two timeouts to use. He decided to let the clock run.
When Barrett ran for losses on back-to-back plays with under two minutes to play, Harbaugh let the clock run.
Ohio State worked 1:22 off the clock with those two failed plays, finally passing on third down with 22 seconds remaining, leading to Ohio State taking a timeout with 6 seconds remaining. The clock finally stopped.
The Buckeyes made the field goal and tied the game, and Harbaugh did nothing to leave his team any time to respond.
Michigan proved on the final play of regulation — a Jourdan Lewis kickoff return that went to the Ohio State 43 — that they could have used that time on the clock to perhaps kick a field goal to win the game late.
Instead of using those timeouts, Harbaugh played for overtime.