Michigan State’s No. 8 win of 37-33 over No. 6 Michigan on Saturday was not without controversy.
In fact, it would be more accurate to say that the Spartans’ home win had several controversial moments, as officials made several questionable calls throughout the match, each of which had a direct impact on the final result.
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Michigan definitely lost this game: Jim Harbaugh & Company made several fouls that squandered a 30-14 lead in the second half. Furthermore, it is impossible to know if changing one referee – or several – will result in a Wolverine victory.
However, officials from Saturday’s contest put themselves at the center of this game’s story in calls they made, reviewed, endorsed, reversed or declined to call.
With that said, Sporting News takes a look at the four plays that directly affected Michigan State’s bottom line win:
Did Kenneth Walker drop the ball before you touch it?
The first controversial call from Saturday’s game came early in the second quarter: Kenneth Walker’s third 27-yard touchdown to trim Michigan’s lead to 10-7. At first glance, it looked as if Walker scored an easy goal. Upon further review, it appeared that he had lost control of the ball before crossing the plane.
That would result in a rebound for Michigan, giving the Wolverines the ball without a hitch in their 10-0 lead. To their credit, officials reviewed the call, but did not find enough evidence to call off the play—hence the verdict that the landing was as required in the field, rather than confirming it.
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Did Payton Thorne fall on the defensive landing of Michigan State?
Officials made the right call when they endorsed Walker’s relegation in the second quarter. Oddly enough, they reversed course at the end of the half. It looked as if Michigan quarterback David Ogabo sacked quarterback Payton Thorne, with defensive end Aidan Hutchinson recovering the ball in the end zone to give the Wolverines a 27-14 lead before the first half. Naturally, officials reviewed the play.
Several camera angles showed Thorne’s left cane retracted, but none of them proved conclusively that he was still in control of the ball when he was falling. It looked as if the play would stand as it’s called, uncertain, but officials reversed the call, giving Michigan State a chance to bet. The Wolverines went down the field and kicked a field goal, costing them four points – the ultimate loss difference.
Has Jayden Reed completed the two-point conversion?
Another play that Michigan fans noted after the game was Jayden Reed’s two-point conversion to tie the game at 30-30 early in the fourth quarter.
The focal point of this play was the fact that Michigan defensive linebacker DJ Turner came off the ground with the ball. It looked as if Reed had taken several steps back after making the contested shot in the air, but he would have needed to control the ball by completing the capture – that is, on the ground – until the call stopped.
Whether the play will reflect, stand as it is called, or be confirmed is a matter of guesswork. The biggest problem is that the officials have refused to review the way the game is tied up at all. As such, this is the only angle of the play:
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Did Michigan State Punishment for Doran Wolverine Upon Relegation?
The last official nail in the coffin. Despite giving up a major lead, Michigan still had a chance to take the lead of late—it only needed to complete the fourth and third attempt at Michigan State 31 to keep its leadership alive.
McNamara threw an inside tilt at Mike Sainristel, but the pass was incomplete with both Ronald Williams and Angelo Gross in defence. It looked as if the Wolverines tried to run a pick game, but Williams grabbed Sainristil’s waist while Grose simply hit him, interfering with his competitive ability for the ball.
It looked as if the officials could easily call an overlap pass or defensive hold on the play, keeping the impulse — and Michigan’s hope of victory — alive. They kept their flags in their pockets, however, and forced the Wolverines to take another defensive stance before the attack entered the field for the last time. (The Michigan crime’s final drive ended with an objection.)
Harbo was visibly angry at the lack of contact in the field, although Sinresteel did not object to the officials’ decision.