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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Dan Lyons

Michigan’s Clock Management to End Half Raises Questions

Michigan, shorthanded with star running back Blake Corum hampered by injury, found some serious explosiveness in the first half vs. Ohio State on Saturday. When it came to the end of the half, however, Jim Harbaugh and his offense got extremely conservative, despite decent field position and some time to try and add points to the board down 20–17.

After CJ Stroud found Marvin Harrison Jr. for a touchdown to put Ohio State up with under four minutes left, the two teams traded three-and-outs, with Michigan getting the ball back at its own 33-yard-line with 1:04 remaining in the half.

Quarterback J.J. McCarthy had already completed touchdown strikes of 69 and 75 yards to Cornelius Johnson, but rather than let him loose, Harbaugh and his staff reined things all the way in. 

McCarthy threw two passes to Roman Wilson and Ronnie Bell for a total of eight yards, allowing the clock to tick all the way down to 17 seconds when Ohio State took a timeout. After back-to-back false starts, McCarthy found Johnson for just four yards. With four seconds left, the team opted to punt it away.

It certainly didn’t look as if Michigan was confident in its ability to score with one minute left, but the team also didn’t play as conservative as possible in preventing Ohio State from getting the ball at all. The Buckeyes would take a knee at their own 26-yard-line to end the half.

Some are defending the Wolverines’ attempt to get into field goal range without giving the Buckeyes much of a shot at scoring, but in a game this big against an opponent like Ohio State, most seem to believe that Harbaugh and his staff were far too conservative to end the half.

The second half of a de facto Big Ten East title game is set to start on Fox momentarily, with significant College Football Playoff stakes on the line for the two 11–0 teams.

For more Michigan coverage, go to Wolverine Digest. 

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