The Michigan Wolverines suffered a heartbreaking loss against Michigan State on Saturday after a botched punt by Blake O'Neill and following death threats to the punter, Michigan athletic director Jim Hackett has asked fans to support the team. Head coach Jim Harbaugh had the chance to meet President Obama this week and the president expressed support to the Wolverines after the last-second loss.
Michigan was setting up to punt with the lead against Michigan State with second left in the fourth quarter, but O'Neill could not handle the punt and the Spartans were able to recover it. Jalen Watts-Jackson and the Spartans swarmed the ball and Jackson was able to get into the endzone for the winning touchdown.
The Wolverines were leading the game 23-21 at the time of the attempted punt with just 10 seconds left on the clock and a punt likely would have sealed the game. If Michigan was able to stop Michigan State on a normal punt, the clock either would have run out or left just enough time on the clock for one final Hail Mary play. Instead, O'Neill bobbled the ball and the Spartans were able to pick it up with blockers in tow and scored the winning touchdown.
According to ESPN.com, the last time an FBS college football game ended with a "defensive or special teams" touchdown without any time left on the clock was back when Auburn won against Alabama on a return from a missed field goal. Harbaugh spoke after the game and said a "mistake was made" when O'Neill did not fall on the ball and now the Wolverines are 5-2 after coming seconds from an upset against Michigan State.
O'Neill has been getting death threats and other criticism from social media and following that, Hackett released a statement imploring fans to support the team. Part of the statement read: "I'm asking that our community not lose this game twice by condoning thoughtless comments. Today I awake to the shocking reality that our community who care so much about this program would send hurtful, spiteful and vicious comments to one of our students. To be clear, such comments come from a small minority, none of whom are reflective of our institution."
Harbaugh was at the White House on Monday as a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama while supporting an education program and while there, Harbaugh had the chance to speak with President Obama about the game. According to Yahoo Sports, the Detroit Free Press reported that Harbaugh said about meeting the president: "(He) told the fellas to keep their chin up. ... (He) likes the way our team plays and he told the guys to keep it going."