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Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Now that the first "Game of the Century" has come and gone between Michigan State and Michigan, it's time to turn the microscope away from the playing field and on to the coaches. After all, Mark Dantonio is among the longest-tenured and most successful in the B1G Conference, and Jim Harbaugh is obviously, at this point, the most well-known football figure in the history of western civilization. Unofficial reports are that the Dalai Lama follows Harbaugh on Twitter, and Vladimir Putin has a poster in his rec-room of the "Topless Harbaugh" from last summer. Chinese orphans are being taught to say "Harbaugh" before "Mama" in order to be ready for American adoptions. President Obama has Harbaugh on speed-dial in case an international emergency arises where his super-powers would be of some help to save humanity.

All sarcasm aside, Harbaugh coached a great game, at least for 129 of the 130 plays. His team didn't lose because of him, in fact, they only reason they were able to hang with MSU was largely due to his coaching. Okay, there, I choked out my compliment to the Attention Diva. He doesn't scare me, but I know he is a very good game-coach.

Outside of the lines, though, Harbaugh remains a bit of a mystery. He clearly loves being the center of attention and he doesn't like to speak to reporters, that much we already knew. And I respect that he went to the 50-yard-line to shake Dantonio's hand, even waiting momentarily before moving on.

But his post-game remarks were a bit eyebrow-raising. It seemed like he was blaming the officials for his team losing, and I wasn't the only one who thought so. There were certainly bad calls, but they obviously went both ways, or at least there were many big bad calls that favored UM. The Wolverines were given a touchdown that they didn't score, and the Spartans were denied a touchdown that they did score, so those two calls alone - - - both after official reviews - - - represent a 14-point swing in favor of the home team.

The call that seems to have drawn the most attention however, was a fairly routine call - - - by current standards - - - for "targeting", against the spike-wielding Joe Bolden. Like all "targeting" calls nowadays, it was marginal, not brutal. The "targeting rule" has eliminated the nasty missile-launching head-hits of yesteryear, and players called for "targeting" these days usually have little more than incidental contact with their "target". That's the way it was for Riley Bullough earlier this season; he barely touched a ball-carrier and was chucked for it.

So there's no question that the Bolden Hit was minimal, with incidental helmet-contact on Connor Cook. Still, the officials are required by rule to enforce the penalty.

But what about Harbaugh's description of that play? Who could possibly agree with the way he said that play happened:
"Bolden was pushed in the back," Harbaugh said. "It really should have been a push in the back penalty. (The referee's) explanation was…well, you people saw it the same way. Hard to fathom. And the quarterback wasn't even down on the ground. He was straight up and had to drop like a sack of potatoes. That was just one of many (bad calls)."
-Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh

Cook was clearly flat on his back, laying on the ground for between one and two seconds when Bolden landed on top of him. There is no question about Cook's body position at the end of the play. But Harbaugh said in a press-conference setting that he dropped "like a sack of potatoes"? Who can defend Harbaugh on this? Why isn't it getting more attention?

What if Dantonio claimed that the Michigan punter caught the last snap between his legs, did a pirouette and a back-flip with the ball tucked into his pants, then threw the ball up in the air for Jalen Watts-Jackson to catch and return for a touchdown? Would any member of the media follow-up with Dantonio to ask what he was talking about with such a fanciful version of reality?

There is no way that Dantonio could "get away with" such an openly distorted statement about what everybody watched and viewed numerous times on video replays.

Harbaugh is getting "protection" from
the sports media that loves him so much.

We are used to it, but very tired of it.

Will anybody ask Harbaugh to explain what he meant?


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1 comment:

  1. FYI, close scrutiny of the game replays shows clearly Bolden was not pushed in the back prior to the targeting penalty.


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