ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan was having problems on offense even before Michigan State exposed them.
The Wolverines were failing to score touchdowns in the red zone, struggling to find a groove in the passing game and searching for consistency on the ground before losing 14-10 at home to the Spartans . That was fewest points Michigan has scored in Jim Harbaugh two-plus seasons.
While Michigan started 4-0 this fall, it was easier to overlook its issues with the ball. A loss, though, has brought increased scrutiny to the offense. And, Harbaugh doesn’t care for it.
“You want to question the play calling?” Harbaugh asked a reporter Monday. “That’s usually the case when something doesn’t work.”
The 17th-ranked Wolverines (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) will have all week to work on a plan to have their offense help them beat Indiana (3-2, 0-2) on the road Saturday.
Harbaugh will give John O’Korn a second straight start against the Hoosiers. O’Korn is filling in for Wilton Speight, who has “some cracks in his vertebrae,” and the coach insisted the injury may not end his season.
“I don’t know that he’ll be out for the year,” Harbaugh said.
Speight was hurt in the first quarter of last month’s victory at Purdue. Harbaugh reiterated he expects Speight to miss multiple weeks.
On a windy night with a heavy downpour in the second half, the Wolverines went away from a running back having success and continued to attempt to pass with a quarterback struggling in poor conditions. Karan Higdon was consistently gaining yards, 5.4 per attempt, but had just 12 carries. Chris Evans had as many carries, and ran for just 27 yards.
O’Korn completed a little more than half of his passes in the first half before finishing 16 of 35 for 198 yards with three interceptions, which he said were “100 percent my fault,” after the game.
Harbaugh said he has the final say on play calling.
“I’m not going to get into questioning the play-calling,” Harbaugh said. “That’s a very easy thing to do.”
Taking care of the football was very difficult for Michigan against the Spartans, who recovered two fumbles and forced five turnovers.
“We had a ballgame where stuff happens,” Harbaugh said.
When Speight went down against the Boilermakers, O’Korn played well in relief. He was 18 of 26 for 270 yards with a TD and an interception in last month’s 28-10 win at Purdue.
“He’s a great quarterback,” receiver Grant Perry said. “He’s shown what he can do. In the Purdue game, he played a great game. This is his first start this year this past weekend, in a monsoon. I wouldn’t get too worried.”
Michigan’s results this season are worrisome for their fans.
Among teams at the highest level of college football, the Wolverines rank 115th in tackles for losses allowed; 110th in first downs; 109th in turnovers and 84th in total offense with a running game that ranks only slightly better their passing game.
“We’re not frustrated,” Harbaugh said.
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