Opinion: Whether it was a punch or not, Michigan linebacker Jonas Mouton should sit against Eastern Michigan
For the second time this week, Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez played dumb. He said he didn’t know what reporters were talking about when asked about a Wolverine player punching a Notre Dame player following a play Saturday.
Except he knew. He absolutely knew. And he changed course about two seconds after video evidence was mentioned.
On the bottom left corner of the television screen with 8:42 remaining in the first half, Michigan linebacker Jonas Mouton got up after Notre Dame center Eric Olsen hit him at the whistle. As Mouton rose, his arm swung and made contact with Olsen’s face, sending him weeble-wobbling back down.
“I know they are talking about one incident, but from what we saw on film, I didn’t see anybody throw a punch, anything like that,” Rodriguez said.
Really, Rich? Really?
Come on. If that wasn’t a punch - or at least an unfriendly slap - I’m not sure what is.
Watch the video. Olsen may have stayed on him a bit longer than necessary. But as Mouton got up, he put his left hand on Olsen’s right shoulder. He moved him over a little bit. Then his right hand connected with Olsen’s chin.
But no, that’s not a punch at all, according to Rodriguez. His take: guys were tangled and Mouton was trying to free himself. Tangling usually involves the intertwining of body parts, which was not the case.
Is that possible? Sure. It’s possible. But not likely. Not after watching the tape.
And even still, if you’re Rodriguez, how do you not at least publicly say you spoke to Mouton about it? Don’t you ask him if he did it? Because Rodriguez, when pressed, said he didn’t. And he said that he’s not punishing the junior.
It’s clear, too, that Rodriguez became perturbed at the line of questioning, even wondering aloud, ‘What are we talking about that for?”
Well, Rich, it is an issue, especially since you’re denying it happened. And because at least publicly, you’re saying you’re not doing anything about it.
Listen, Mouton didn’t come close to LeGarrette Blount levels. Remember, it’s less than two weeks ago that Blount, an Oregon running back, punched a Boise State player after the game. It cost Blount his senior season.
Don’t sit Mouton for the season, because after-play shenanigans happen often in football games. Emotions run high during rivalry games. But to not punish him at all is wrong. Mouton was caught, film-handed. So sit him Saturday against Eastern Michigan.
Show your team that play like that - caught or not, in the heat of the moment or not - is unacceptable.
Especially since Michigan, according to Rodriguez, has a clear hierarchy of punishment for penalties from holding to personal fouls.
“No penalties go unpunished,” Rodriguez said Wednesday. “Personal fouls in particular, there’s no place for that in the game of football. Not only in the game but every day in practice. We take great pride in that.”
Except Saturday appeared extraordinarily chippy - on both sides - but not to Rodriguez.
“From my view on the sidelines, I didn’t sense guys were jawing at each other too much and that there were intentional late hits or any of that kind of stuff,” Rodriguez said. “I didn’t sense that at all.”
What game was he watching?
Players on both teams jawed back and forth continuously, notably in the matchup between Notre Dame wide receiver Golden Tate and Michigan cornerback Boubacar Cissoko. Also caught on film was Cissoko pushing Irish wide receiver Michael Floyd back to the ground after a play in the third quarter.
And the play before Mouton’s punch, Mouton appeared on the TV footage to be shoved down by Notre Dame running back Armando Allen when both were well out of bounds. Those are just a few examples.
Mouton wasn’t the only guilty player Saturday. But it doesn’t make it right. And it doesn’t mean you can pretend that nothing happened. Because Rodriguez knew something did.
Why else would Rodriguez, when he was done, walk away from the media seething?