Two minutes, two fumbles, two chances to change the game – and two linemen from Michigan State regain the loose ball. With about eight minutes left of Saturday’s game, the second linebacker was off the red shirt David Ojabo powered upfield against Michigan State left tackle Jarrett Horst, then he turned the corner and got his one free arm across the quarterback Payton Thorne’s cast arm. The ball bounced right up in the air, hit the turf and was promptly dropped on by Horst.
A minute later, the Michigan attack took the field at their 45-yard line. Freshman quarterback JJ McCarthy lined up in the gun and took the snap. He turned around to meet the second time, who ran back Blake Corum to his left. When McCarthy released the ball, it hit Corum’s shoulder pads and then the ground. Michigan State defensive end Jacub Panasiuk throw a block from senior tight end Joel Honigford and dove on the loose ball. Two penalties on Michigan – one Mike Morris for jumping offside on 3rd and 3rd, another for illegal substitution – helped push Michigan State off the field before a 23-yard Kenneth Walker III run finished the ride and put six points on the board.
The fumble was made even more painful for Michigan when Walker III’s touchdown ended with giving Michigan State a lead they would not give up. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh shared his opinion on what happened when asked about the fumble during Monday afternoon’s media availability. “Yeah, you’re not out there, but it’s something Blake probably should have taken the ball, knowing the ball came to him,” he said.
The first assessment changed after Harbaugh had a chance to talk to his players in the afternoon. Asked again about the exchange on Monday night’s Inside Michigan Football radio program, Harbaugh went into much more detail.
“We’ve been through it pretty thoroughly. It’s two guys. They do the mechanics of handing it over; a guy hands it over, a guy takes it, and there’s a split second in there when the exchange happens, the quarterback feels the ball being taken away and the running back feels he will take the ball, “he said.” When he discussed it with both, Blake felt that JJ saw something late and decided to pull it and where to take it, and trust, that JJ will pull it out with both hands if he sees something that makes him want to pull it. It’s a tricky thing, they exchanges. Maybe 1-in-1000, but as we discussed earlier, I think that’s something JJ wants to be really conscious and I do not think you will see it happen again in the time he is here. ”