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Michigan's Jim Harbaugh questions officiating during Wolveriones' loss at Penn State

The (Allentown) Morning Call (TNS)
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh stands on the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Penn State in State College, Pa., Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Officiating became a subplot to a second consecutive Penn State game, though Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh took a stronger stance than James Franklin did last week.

Harbaugh said Saturday night that he wanted to compare some of the “interesting” officiating decisions after his team’s 28-21 loss at Beaver Stadium. Harbaugh specifically mentioned several plays he thought were critical to the game.

In the fourth quarter, Michigan cornerback Lavert Hill was called for holding that gave Penn State a first down on 3rd-and-11. The Lions scored four plays later to take a 28-14 lead.

Harbaugh also noted a penalty against Michigan for having an ineligible receiver downfield that negated a wild touchdown play in the second quarter. The Wolverines eventually scored on that drive, benefiting from a pass-interference penalty on Penn State’s Tariq Castro-Fields.

Harbaugh hinted that some of the calls against made against Michigan did not go against Penn State.

“It will be interesting to compare some of the different scenarios in the game in terms of the calls,” Harbaugh said. “Lavert’s holding penalty that led to a touchdown on third and 11 versus couple of those there at the end. I thought some of our receivers were getting tackled there on the last couple plays of that drive [in the fourth quarter].”

Harbaugh battled the officials all night, and his sideline received an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty in the first half for arguing for what he thought was pass interference against Penn State that went uncalled. Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, a former Penn State assistant, was livid at the no-call.

Michigan committed the game’s first four penalties, though two were offsides on back-to-back plays in the red zone. That somewhat mirrored Penn State’s game at Iowa last week, when the Lions were called for the game’s first six penalties. That game also included a Penn State touchdown that was overturned following a replay review.

Last week, Franklin said discussing the officials a “no-win situation." He did note, though, that Penn State, which entered the Iowa game as the Big Ten’s least-penalized team with 4 per game, was flagged a season-high 8 times.

Michigan was called for 8 penalties on Saturday. Penn State had 5, including holding that brought back KJ Hamler’s 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

In addition, replay involved another close-call touchdown. Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson’s fourth-quarter sneak was ruled a touchdown on the field, though the body pile made it difficult to find a clear spot. The touchdown was upheld on review, a different result than Pat Freiermuth’s apparent touchdown at Iowa.

Harbaugh brought up several officiating examples after the game, calling them "interesting" decisions.

“It will be interesting to see the lineman down field, the one they called on us that took away a touchdown compared to [safety Brad] Hawkins going for an interception and the guard knocking it away,” Harbaugh said. “There are a few. The offensive pass-interference they called on us versus the offensive pass-interference that I thought should have been called on them on their first touchdown. As far as the calls and officiating goes, it will be interesting in comparing some of those.”