Michigan narrowly avoided a scare on the road this past weekend against Purdue, outscoring the Boilermakers 21-0 in the second half to secure a 28-10 victory and improve to 4-0.
But head coach Jim Harbaugh was less than pleased, to say the least, following the game regarding a couple of things. The biggest of which was on his starting quarterback Wilton Speight in the first half that eventually led to Speight’s departure from the contest.
Speight took a sack from one defender before another came in from behind and lowered a hit in the region of the quarterback’s head or neck. Speight remained down momentarily and eventually got up and left the game under his own power, albeit very gingerly.
The hit warranted no flag on the play, to which Harbaugh was surprised.
“If I had a stronger word to use, I would use it,” Harbaugh said Monday afternoon. “With all the emphasis on protecting defenseless players, it appeared that the player knew what he was doing. He targeted the head. [Speight] was on the ground, and he accelerated.”
Harbaugh also added that he plans to file a complain with the brass of the Big Ten on why there was no penalty called on the play. Additionally, the head coach shared his thoughts on the overall condition of Purdue’s facilities, specifically those for teams visiting Ross-Ade Stadium.
Speight after he left the game actually had to be transported to a medical facility outside the stadium because the areas within stadium grounds designated for visiting teams to do so “weren’t sufficient to address the issue on site.” Harbaugh later described the environment at Purdue as “unsanitary and unsportsmanlike.”
“I wish I would’ve taken a picture of the actual table that is given to the visitors to put players on when they’re injured,” Harbaugh said. “It looked like it was from the ’20s. It’s ripped. It’s just not good. I think that’s a pattern in the Big Ten.”
“It’s 2017,” Harbaugh said. “There have been advancements, and our stadiums need to reflect that. Visiting locker rooms need to reflect that. Gamesmanship should cease at the line of health and safety for the players.”
Harbaugh believes that some teams almost deliberately make the welcoming for visiting opponents less accommodating as means of gaining further home advantage. In fact, he reportedly offered his team to sit on the air-conditioned bus pregame on an unseasonably warm fall Saturday in West Lafayette because the visiting locker room at Purdue had no A/C.
“It was such a tight, cramped environment,” Harbaugh said. “You have to do open the doors to get some kind of ventilation going in a very small area. People are walking by and watching you dress. The number of urinals or bathrooms for the players and staff, I think there were two. There’s not even a private door around [the bathroom area].”
With that said, Harbaugh said he plans to use this past weekend’s experience to not only make sure that their own facilities in Ann Arbor are up to standards for visiting teams, but he is also hopeful that his “fellow coaches (in the Big Ten) will weigh in” on the issue moving forward.
Michigan is off this coming Saturday, allowing for Speight to recover a little longer. Still, it’s a safe bet that the quarterback position will be a topic of conversation over the next two weeks leading up to the showdown under the lights against rival Michigan State (October 7 at 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC).
After Speight left the game against the Boilermakers, fifth-year senior and former transfer John O’Korn took his place and gave the offense a much-needed spark. O’Korn threw for 270 yards on 18/26 passing coming off the bench.
Harbaugh for now is calling the injury to Speight of the “soft tissue” variety and while he declined to go into further detail, he did say that if Michigan had a game this upcoming weekend, Speight would not be playing.