No. 6 Michigan made several blunders in her loss at No. 8 Michigan State on Saturday. Jim Harbaugh’s most scrutinized decision would be to bring in new quarterback JJ McCarthy to play, which ended on a game-changing note.

The play came at a critical juncture, as the Wolverines were leading 33-30 in the middle of the fourth quarter. The defense had just forced a penalty kick after giving up consecutive goal-scoring attempts that ended with successful two-point conversions. Michigan offense captured the 45-yard line, and you just need to score a short field touchdown—or at least eat some hour and pin the Spartans deep—to escape East Lansing with a win.

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Instead, the Wolverines fumbled a delivery in the first play of the drive—McCarthy was credited with the spin—giving Michigan State the ball at Wolverines 41:

The Spartans went the distance needed to score in seven plays, twice converted down third, to take a 37-33 lead from a 23-yard touchdown run by Kenneth Walker III. He finished the game with 197 yards — more than a quarterback had thrown by Payton Thorne — and five touchdowns.

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Harbaugh had McCarthy called up freshman Cade McNamara throughout the game – he finished the day completing 3 of 4 passes for 23 yards and touchdowns – leading many to believe the substitution was part of the game plan. The move has been heavily criticized for the time being, considering McNamara had played a great game up to that point, completing 23 of 32 passes for 350 yards and two records. (He finished completing 28 of 44 passes for 383 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.)

McCarthy had fumbled at his last play on the field minutes earlier. The ball rolled out of bounds before the Spartans could recover, and Michigan kicked a field goal to take the lead.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Harbaugh said the decision to play with McCarthy was necessary due to McNamara’s injury. From Austin Meek from The Athletic:

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That play wasn’t Michigan’s only late-game mistake—it was the most notable one.

In fact, the Wolverines had two more offensive drives to take the lead, but those ended with two spins on the touchdown and a game-seal interception, respectively. Overall, Michigan topped 15-3 in the fourth quarter, only able to muster 101 yards of attack in the final loss.

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