Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh claimed several “objectionable” defensive pass interference and holding calls affected the confidence and performance of his defensive backfield Saturday against Michigan State.

The Spartans quarterback, Rocky Lombardi, skinned the Wolverines for 323 yards and three touchdowns in Sparty’s 27-24 upset win in Ann Arbor as a three-score underdog. 

“There were a couple of calls that were objectionable. A couple of calls affected how our corners played,” Harbaugh said on a Monday morning call with reporters. 

Defensive back is one of the most difficult positions to play from a technique perspective, and often one of the last to reach a confident, mature state, particularly when corners are asked to defend a swift-moving and athletic wide receiver one on one.

Even great college corners often do not become fully developed until their second or third season in professional football. Young college corners and safeties are often a rollercoaster ride on every play. 

The Wolverines experienced those growing pains against Michigan State as redshirt sophomore cornerback Vincent Gray was called for both pass interference and holding in the first quarter before subsequently being torched by Spartan’s receivers later in the game. He was replaced by redshirt freshman Jalen Perry who was himself called for defensive holding on his first drive on the field. 

The regular of flags on passing downs made the defensive backs simultaneously more cautious, slower, and as a result, more likely to commit additional fouls to compensate for mistakes, according to Harbaugh. The Wolverines were flagged 10 times for 86 yards on the game, with multiple penalties allowing Michigan State to extend drives that later ended in points. 

Whether or not the Big Ten league office will have a reprimand for Harbaugh for criticizing officials is not known. 

The Wolverines play at Indiana next week, a team with a potentially dangerous passing attack under the talented arm of redshirt sophomore Michael Penix, Jr.