ANN ARBOR — Brady Hoke wasn’t angry or accusatory, nor did he feel cheated Monday, two days after an official’s controversial call late at Iowa may have cost Michigan a touchdown — and perhaps a win.
Confused? That probably best describes Hoke’s mental state, as he is unsure why Junior Hemingway was not awarded a touchdown on the final drive of a 24-16 loss, and he’s already contacted the Big Ten seeking an answer.
“I thought Junior made a catch,” Hoke said flatly, echoing legions of Wolverines fans and nonpartisan observers alike.
Was he inbounds?
“Oh yeah,” Hoke responded.
The Big Ten does not comment publicly on judgment calls, and nothing Hoke or his players said Monday warrants a reprimand from league officials.
Contacting the Big Ten to clarify an official’s ruling is typical procedure for Hoke, who, like his coaching peers in the league, submits a few plays to be reviewed every week. As of Monday afternoon, Hoke had not received word back from the folks in Chicago.
The play in question was viewed by the team in Sunday’s film session, and the consensus among the Wolverines is they got robbed. With seven seconds to go, Hemingway pulled in a pass from Denard Robinson with one hand at the back of the end zone and dropped to a knee inbounds as he scrambled to secure the ball before it fell to the turf. An official nearby ruled it an incomplete pass, and the call was upheld after a replay review upstairs. It’s possible the official ruled the pass incomplete based on his observation that Hemingway never had possession of the ball. An explanation was not given to Hoke, and the game continued with Robinson throwing two more incomplete passes to end it. Had Hemingway been given a touchdown, Michigan still would have needed to convert a two-point conversion to force overtime.
“We thought he caught it,” defensive end Ryan Van Bergen said. “But you know, it comes down to a call. The call was made, no touchdown. We still had an opportunity to win the game. We had opportunities before that. We can’t get hung up on that. We have to move forward.”
Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint said simply: “I believe it was a catch.”
Center David Molk wouldn’t reveal his stance, opining that the call was correct because that’s what the referee decided.
“It’s whatever the ref says goes,” Molk said. “Can’t fight it, can’t change it, so there’s no reason to think about it.”
Molk is right. Even if the Big Ten phones Hoke to say, “Oops, we screwed that one up,” it won’t make a difference. The outcome will be unchanged, as will Michigan’s record (7-2, 3-2) and No. 22 ranking heading into this season’s final road game at Illinois. But perhaps an admission of error by the league will provide Hoke and his players a measure of closure to a frustrating afternoon.
“Believe me, you want your kids to win,” Hoke said. “You want them to have success. They work hard. They invest.”
HOKE GAFFE: Although he stopped short of ripping the officials, Hoke laid into another individual for making a bad decision — himself.
With 5:22 left in the fourth quarter, Hoke called timeout after mistakenly counting 12 players on his punt return team. Upon further review, there were only 11, and in turn the wasted timeout came back to haunt the Wolverines on the final drive.
“I didn’t count very well,” Hoke said. “As soon as I called it and counted, I said, ‘You know what, I hope we don’t need that one late.’ I talk about kids’ effort. I had pretty good effort, but I didn’t execute on that one very good.”
Hoke used his third and final timeout to stop the clock with 16 seconds left after Robinson and Roy Roundtree hooked up for 19 yards to the 3-yard line. Had Hoke had one more timeout at his disposal, Michigan may have felt comfortable running the ball once. As it was, coordinator Al Borges called four straight passes.
“You might be able to [call a run]” with a timeout remaining, Hoke said.
INJURY REPORT: The team came away from the game relatively healthy. Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint left the field late upon reaggravating a shoulder injury but could have returned and is fine, Hoke said. In the second half, Robinson bumped his “humorous bone,” as Hoke called, and lost feeling in his fingers. He came back after a brief reprieve and is OK. Hoke hopes to have left guard Ricky Barnum (ankle) back for Saturday. Barnum has played in just one Big Ten game.
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