The Buckeye Watch
By Tony Gerdeman
When Urban Meyer was hired one year ago, Brady Hoke appeared on Dan Patrick's radio show and Patrick asked for Hoke's first reaction when he heard that Ohio State had hired Meyer. Hoke's answer? “Not...good.” And you saw why on Saturday.
This was not a great performance by the Buckeyes. There were mistakes throughout, and yet they still found a way to win just as they had 11 times previously. The game was there for Michigan, but they just couldn't get it done.
There was something special about this team, and it showed in this game as well. The Buckeyes turned the ball over, but they more than made up for it by forcing turnovers of their own. Michigan's defense bogged them down in the redzone, but they went with four field goals and expected that their defense would hold strong, and they did.
Michigan was shut out in the second half. They weren't even competitive offensively. They made Denard Robinson a non-factor, and at times even a liability. Think about that. It was a tremendous effort. Sure it was made easier by Al Borges' play calling, but it was the defense that dictated Michigan's struggles.
And so the Buckeyes are 12-0 with nothing to do now but get ready for 2013.
This is quite the head start.
9:12 It's being reported that John Simon has a knee injury and hasn't practiced all week. They're calling him a game-time decision, but a knee is difficult to be effective with as a pass rusher. Even if he does play, I don't see him playing much. The defense can't afford to have an ineffective one-eleventh out there. Can't help but feel terrible for him, and it certainly explains Urban Meyer's emotions at the Beat Michigan tailgate the day before.
9:13 The question then becomes whether they go with Michael Bennett, or slide Nathan Williams to the strong side and play Noah Spence at leo. I'm guessing we will see a lot of Spence because the Buckeyes will need more speed on the edges than muscle, though they have to be careful not to over run the plays and leave cutbacks for Denard Robinson or Devin Gardner.
9:17 The good thing – if there is such a thing – is that the coaches have had all week to prepare for Simon's absence. Still, there are a lot of variables going into this game due to injuries, Robinson's included, which makes this a game against teams who are much different than they were just a month ago.
10:07 By the way, it's pretty dang cold here. There have been flurries all morning long. No accumulation though, as the field-level inferno consumes the snow instantly.
11:23 The teams have taken the field. Still no John Simon, and I still haven't seen Denard Robinson throw the ball yet.
11:27 I have to assume John Simon's pregame speech is going to be something. Players may not need to hear it, but he may just need to say it.
11:42 The television just showed Zach Boren seeking out Michigan players to confront. That's the nice part about playing linebacker, eventually the Michigan players will come to you.
11:49 ESPN says John Simon is out. That's devastating. More so to Simon, but it's not going to be easy for the Buckeyes either. Simon's career is over. He doesn't get to play against Michigan on his senior day, and there will be no bowl for him in January. Oh well, according to a certain athletic director, last year's seniors deserved to play in a bowl game more than this year's seniors, so no big loss.
11:58 Watching John Simon being introduced to the crowd for Senior Day. No emotions left in that guy it would seem. He's spent.
12:05 This game is littered with heroes who come out of nowhere to make plays. Is this now Michael Bennett's time?
12:06 Michigan wins the toss and defers. Buckeyes will take the ball.
12:08 Hyde opens the game up with seven yards right up the gut. Michigan opened with three linebackers in order to stop the run, and the Buckeyes went right at them as if those linebackers were of no concern. “You got three linebackers, eh? Aren't you cute.”
12:10 Third and two. Four wides. Hyde powers through for another seven yards. That is available very much today. The offensive line is giving a pep talk to the Michigan front seven. “Hey, keep your chins up. Sometimes it's just not your day. Especially if you go around wearing yellow pants all the time.”
12:10 Rod Smith replaces Hyde because college athletics should always be about sportsmanship. It's a play-action, and Braxton Miller is going deep. It's caught by Devin Smith on J.T. Floyd, and Smith gets tackled at the Michigan eight-yard line for a 52-yard gain. Amazingly, the tight end was even more wide open on a corner route than Smith was on the post route. I'm pretty sure I've been telling you all year that Floyd is quite beatable deep.
12:11 Touchdown Hyde! Good read by Miller to give it up, and then Hyde drags Thomas Gordon kicking and screaming into the endzone. Michigan immediately announces they would rather have taken the ball instead of deferring it. Buckeyes lead it 7-0.
12:12 Six plays, 75 yards, in 2:19. No Braxton carries, and very little containment of Carlos Hyde. That's about a perfect drive for the Buckeyes.
12:14 Denard Robinson gets the start at quarterback as Michigan opens in the diamond formation. Michael Bennett nearly tackles Robinson in the backfield, but he breaks out and tears down the field for 30 yards. So much for Bennett being an unsung hero on that one.
12:17 Third and eight from the 22-yard line. Devin Gardner drops back, fumble! Sack by Adolphus Washington, who just ran right by Michigan's best offensive lineman Taylor Lewan, and Ohio State recovers! Just like I said a few minutes ago, Washington is going to be the unsung hero of this game. He just abused Lewan, who is thinking of leaving early for the NFL. He might think about it even harder now. The Buckeyes lost Simon, but Washington just did his best Simon impersonation with the sack and forced fumble.
12:19 Third and three. Buckeyes go with an empty set. Miller rolls out to avoid the sack, then slips on the turf for an 18-yard loss. When was the last time the empty set worked on the third down? The Buckeyes punt.
12:25 Third and two with Gardner in the shotgun. He drops back, and finds a wide open Roy Roundtree on the sideline who was completely ignored. C.J. Barnett can't bring him down and he follows a blocker the rest of the way into the endzone. Another miscommunication in the secondary? Welcome to September all over again. The Wolverines tie it up at 7-7.
12:26 So Michigan's offense is led by two broken plays on their two series. I can't decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing. They have yet to grind down the length of the field, but they also haven't needed to.
12:32 Third and four. Quick pass to Corey Brown, who breaks a tackle and has nice blocking for 15 yards. This quick stuff is available all day because Michigan isn't crowding the line of scrimmage.
12:33 Speed option and Jake Ryan blows it up, causing a fumble on the pitch. Hyde recovers it for another 18-yard loss. That was the best Michigan has played the option all season long. Ryan didn't let anything develop, he just shut it down from the start.
12:34 Third and 14 from the Michigan 43-yard line. I would throw to whomever is being defended by a linebacker. Empty set. Miller drops back as Michigan drops into a zone. Miller waits, waits, says hi to family members in the stands, takes a memo to himself to remind him that he still has chili in the freezer and that might be fantastic on a cold Sunday, and then finds Philly down at the 24-yard line for a first down. Why drop into a zone when Miller has already shown that he isn't reacting well to pressure? Not the Wolverines' best moment.
12:35 False start on Nick Vannett. Way to kill a buzz. Now a swing pass to Hyde, but there's a flag on this play as well. Holding on Philly. This is one of those self-loathing drive-killing drives.
12:37 Second and 16. False start Marcus Hall. Wow. If they still score on this drive despite these mistakes, that's a slap in Michigan's face. Imagine how that must feel on your hand. Feels like...victory.
12:40 Michigan holds and will force a 41-yard field goal from Drew Basil. He got it. Buckeyes lead it 10-7. A nice and fitting tribute to Jim Tressel in the closing moments of the first quarter. Looks like Carlos Hyde has been dinged. He was getting work on the sideline. And sat down very slowly. The good news is that there are again receivers who are open. Miller is 8-9 for 129 yards passing. Those are winning numbers.
12:44 The first quarter comes to an end with the Buckeyes leading 10-7. The 2002 team takes the field and the crowd already begins to cheer. As expected, the loudest cheer is when Jim Tressel shows up on the screen. Easily. Now they are lifting him on their shoulders and Tressel appears both thrilled and sheepish at the gesture. The crowd got what they wanted, and they will now be vilified for it in the national media.
12:49 Third and four. Might be a good time for a blitz if the team can actually tackle when they are in position to do so. Shotgun. Holy cow, Jeremy Gallon is wide open over the middle and runs until Wednesday, but it's offensive pass interference, which explains how he was so open. They called Roundtree for the pick. Wow. Typical Michigan, trying to cheat. This is why you get bomb-sniffing dogs thrown at you. You are untrustworthy.
12:51 The Buckeyes hold and Michigan will have to punt. Wow, roughing the punter on the Buckeyes, and then Philly muffs the punt and Michigan recovers! The Wolverines are going to have first and 10 from the 25-yard line. The special teams strike again. It was going to be Michigan's ball regardless, but the fumble is a killer.
12:53 Just run Denard until OSU stops it.
12:54 Second and four. Gardner is now changing the play. It's a draw to Thomas Rawls and Zach Boren stops it for a two-yard loss. Nice check, Dev. Power football isn't going to get it done for Michigan today, so I'm not sure why they keep trying it.
12:54 Third and six. Gardner's pass is dropped, but there's a flag for roughing on Noah Spence. Everything being equal, this is a terrible performance by the Buckeyes in terms of fundamentals and discipline. That's okay, it's only the last game ever for this team.
12:56 First and 10 from the 11-yard line. Robinson at QB. He keeps it and takes it down to the one-yard line. Why go away from him?
12:57 Devin Gardner sneaks it in from the one-yard line for a touchdown. Michigan leads it 14-10. Offense, defense and special teams all letting the Buckeyes down so far. If you're not going to make Michigan earn it, they'll never have a problem taking handouts.
1:02 Three wide. Now Philly motions into the backfield. He gets the ball and he's got some room, carrying it out to the 49-yard line for a gain of 21 yards. Aside from the muffed punt (if you can say “aside from the muffed punt”), you have to like what Brown has given this team today.
1:04 Third and two. Buckeyes going with a quick snap, the defense isn't set. And neither was the offense. False start on Michael Thomas. Another killer. I'm guessing these quick snaps have worked about half the time on short downs. As easily as this team picks up two yards, they could burn the clock down to one tick and have better results.
1:05 Third and seven. Empty set. Miller drops back and gets absolutely drilled by Frank Clark for a sack. I have no idea how that ball didn't come out. Miller is still down. Official's time out. He's up now and walking off. Clark came in untouched. The Buckeyes simply didn't have enough people to block. The empty set strikes again. If you don't know how to block for it, stop doing it. Ben Buchanan's punt is fair caught at the 12-yard line.
1:10 Third and four. Shotgun with Gardner. Three pass rushers. Williams misses Gardner on the scramble and Shazier hits him a yard out of bounds, and gets rightfully flagged for it. This is going to be a whale of a halftime speech. They should hurry up and make a banner and hang it in the locker room. “Stop With The Dumb.”
1:12 Play-action, here comes Boren on the delayed blitz and he crushes Gardner for the sack. That play took forever. I don't think there's a need to delay the blitzes. Just come after him, especially when the pass plays take so long to develop.
1:13 Third and 14. Roundtree in the slot. Gardner drops back and gets sacked by Ryan Shazier! He held him up and then abused him all the way down to the ground, trying to rip the football out in the process. See, no reason to delay these blitzes. Buckeyes will get the ball back with four minutes to play.
1:16 First and 10. Hyde gets the ball and is sucked into a gigantic hole, warping him forward untouched for 15 yards. I'm of the opinion that Carlos Hyde can't carry the ball enough in this game.
1:18 The Buckeyes are hurrying it up with 3:15 to play. Don't score too soon though. Now they're slowing it down. Hyde picks up 11 more yards. The Glutton of Punishment.
1:19 Miller keeps it, runs left and gets into a dance competition with Jake Ryan before finally getting past him as the press box guffaws. Jake Ryan, you've been served! Miller ends up losing a yard as he steps out of bounds on the sideline.
1:20 Hyde again up the middle for 12 more yards. Michigan doesn't have an answer for OSU's run blocking yet. At least not a good answer. These are more like answers you tell your six-year old when he asks why you and Mommy never talk anymore, and you tell him because Mommy's breath smells.
1:20 Miller rolls right, finds Philly in the flats who turns it up field and takes it the final 10 yards into the endzone with 1:30 left in the half. Very nice drive for the second time this game. Imagine when this offense can leave its power on constantly and not just turn it on and off sporadically.
1:22 They're reviewing the play, and it looks like Philly is clearly down about a foot short of the goal line. This will come back. It will be first and goal. They can run more time off of the clock at least.
1:23 Wow, it stands. Buckeyes lead it 17-14. Not sure how that stands. The Big Ten instant replay officials have been awful at times this season. Last week they missed a clear fumble by the Badgers, and this time they let a play stand that seemed obvious to be short of the goal line.
1:28 Michigan has 75 yards to go. They open in the diamond with Robinson at quarterback. He keeps it for eight yards. Keep doing that and he'll eventually squeak out for a 40 yarder.
1:29 The Wolverines aren't really hurrying. The clock is under a minute. Diamond formation. He keeps it again, gets crushed by Christian Bryant and Travis Howard, and somehow stays on his feet and races 67 yards for a Michigan touchdown. Unbelievable. Check that. Very believable.
1:30 Bryant never even reached his arms out. Howard was at least trying to tackle him, but got blasted by Bryant and knocked free from Robinson. Had just one defender been there, Robinson goes down with ease. But both was actually a bad thing this team.
1:31 Bradley Roby returns it to the 35-yard line with 32 seconds to play. Gotta attempt some offense here, just don't give up a pick six. Miller rolls left, and it's a quarterback run. He picks up a quick 18 yards with 25 seconds to play.
1:35 The Buckeyes get it to the Michigan 35-yard line with five seconds to play, setting up a Drew Basil attempt from 52 yards. Timeout Michigan. Check that, Urban calls timeout to ice it. Only ten guys on the field? Really? At least the special teams weren't allowed to strike that time.
1:36 Here we go, from 52 yards out. It's a line drive, but it's good! Drew Basil drilled it to end the half. Michigan leads it 21-20. That's a nice way to end it. Couldn't have played much worse in terms of fundamentals, and the Buckeyes are only down one.
1:41 I wonder how many points Ohio State is leading by if Fitzgerald Toussaint wasn't injured.
1:42 So Michigan's 21 points came on two broken plays and a 25-yard scoring drive. That's easy enough to keep from happening in the second half. Of course, it was easy enough to stop in the first half and it didn't happen.
1:44 I won't let myself believe that Everett Withers is telling Christian Bryant NOT to wrap up, he just simply refuses to do it.
1:50 Braxton Miller is 11-13 passing for 156 yards and a touchdown. The Wolverines are allowing 152 yards passing per game this season. Philly has six catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. Hyde has 11 carries for 66 yards. Expect both players to have an impact on this second half.
1:51 Denard Robinson has six rushes for 124 yards. Roy Roundtree has three catches for 92 yards. That's about 800% too much production for both.
1:59 The game is starting. I just had to slam a McFlurry. Somebody call a paramedic.
2:01 Robinson starts the second half at quarterback as well. Vincent Smith gets the carry and picks up six yards to the wide side. A good defense doesn't give up yards to Vincent Smith. A great defense doesn't even face Vincent Smith since Al Borges knows there's no reason for it.
2:03 Third and two from their own 48-yard line. Michigan lines up in a power formation. Two tight ends with a fullback. Rawls gets the carry and is stopped for no gain. Why go to power football there? You're only helping Ohio State. Michigan calls a timeout. They were going to fake that punt? The defense stayed on the field. I think that was indeed a fake.
2:05 Yep, now they are going for it on fourth and two. Split backs with Robinson at quarterback. Robinson keeps it and gets stuffed! Ryan Shazier blew it up! And then Christian Bryant came in and threw a head shot at Robinson. Very lucky that there wasn't a penalty. The play lost two yards and gives the Buckeyes a first down at Michigan's 46-yard line.
2:06 The attendance is announced at 105,899, which is the largest ever for an OSU – Michigan game in the Shoe. Of course, it's not enough to see the stadium record because Michigan fans just don't travel well. I can't blame them. Would you want to leave your home not knowing if it would still be unlooted by the time you got back?
2:07 Hyde gets it and runs to the left and keeps running for 17 yards. They're gonna feed him today. He may have thought he was full on Thursday, but that was just laying the base for the eating he is doing right now.
2:11 Michigan holds the Buckeyes again, forcing yet another field goal. This one is from 28 yards, and it's good. Ohio State takes the lead 23-21. That's almost a win for Michigan, if the drive hadn't ended up in them losing the lead.
2:12 Hard to shake the feeling that the Buckeyes are simply kicking too many field goals. Seems like whichever team kicks the most field goals in this game loses.
2:16 Gardner opens as the quarterback. It's a play-action, and he's going deep to Gallon on the post, and he's got him for a 30-yard gain on Roby. Roby was lucky to get the tackle on that one. It saved a touchdown.
2:17 Robinson comes in at quarterback now. He runs towards the line and gets blasted by Christian Bryant and he forces the fumble! Roby tries to scoop and score, but misses it and Nathan Williams lands on it for the Buckeyes with 7:44 to play in the quarter. I was wondering where the tough yards were going to come from in this game, and Robinson has now been stoned twice in this half.
2:21 Second and one from the three-yard line. Wow. Miller gets sacked for seven yards trying to throw a screen to Philly out wide. Why get cute there? That has to be Hyde. Has to. Ohio Sate calls timeout. If nothing else, you pound Hyde twice. If you want to beat the **** out of a team, then beat the **** out of them. Don't get cute.
2:24 Third and seven. Whoa, bad snap and Miller dives on it back at the Michigan 21-yard line. This is astoundingly ridiculous. Ohio State now has a 38-yard field goal attempt staring them in the face. And it's wide left. The Buckeyes had second and one from inside the five-yard line and then end up with zero points to show for it. That's the type of mistake that loses this game.
2:26 Third and two for the Wolverines. Split backs behind Robinson. It's a triple-option pitch to Vincent Smith, and Josh Perry makes the tackle for no gain. Wow. Inside or outside, it doesn't matter which short-yardage play they run. The Buckeye defense just isn't letting it happen in the third quarter.
2:29 Hyde gets it, takes it outside and stiff arms Raymon Taylor very rudely, picking up 14 yards like a complete jerk. I wonder what type of tree grows when you plant a Michigan player like that.
2:31 Miller rolls right, continues running and breaks a tackle and flies down the sideline before finally being tackled at the Michigan 29-yard line after a 42-yard gain. He's still down. His leg is sticking straight up. They stop the game for him. It's a cramp it would appear. Understandable, it is a very hot day here. We have reached the end of the third quarter. The Buckeyes lead it 23-21.
2:33 Only 15 minutes left in 2012. If you're going to have to wait nine more months for football, one last good quarter might make that wait a little easier to take.
2:34 If the Buckeyes can just avoid the One Play That Changes Everything, which was forged in the fires of Mount Doom, then they might just be okay.
2:37 Kenny Guiton is in because Miller has to sit out one play. Hyde gets the ball and picks up a yard. Now Miller comes back in. And then Ohio State has to call a timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty. Props to Michigan's offense for never having this happen to them. The Buckeyes switch quarterbacks once and it forces them to call a timeout.
2:40 Miller has a third and nine from the Michigan 28-yard line. Now you've got to stay in field goal position and you can't take a sack. Empty set. [Sigh.] And Miller tries to avoid the pressure, but he gets sacked as he slips down. And now they call it a fumble and Michigan recovers at the 37-yard line! Ohio State is trying to give this game away.
2:43 Third and one. Vincent Smith comes in. They are in the I-formation, but this has to be a fake. Nope, they actually give it to Smith and he loses two yards. Michael Bennett and Garrett Goebel destroy it. What was Al Borges thinking? Luke Fickell should go over and hug him after that play call. Vincent Smith on third and short is where first downs go to die. Michigan punts.
2:44 If Michigan is going to give you the game, you've got to accept it. Don't waste this performance by Al Borges. If he doesn't want to get Denard Robinson more involved, then don't let him.
2:46 Miller opens with a quick pass to Philly for 13 yards because nobody was watching him. This has to be an incredibly frustrating game for Michigan fans to watch. When you watch this game again, remember how much it is killing Wolverine fans. It will probably enhance your viewing experience even better than 3-D would.
2:49 Third and eight. Time to go empty. Yep. Miller drops back, throws it for Devin Smith, but it's dropped on a bad throw. Ohio State will punt with 9:30 to play. Buchanan's punt bounces at the four-yard line and lands dead at the eight-yard line. A fantastic punt when the Buckeyes needed it most. I have to assume that now you are going to see the best Michigan offense – the one that doesn't run its tailbacks.
2:54 I-formation again. South Stands is rocking. It's a draw play to Smith and he gets nothing. You've got to keep the defense honest...for some reason, I guess. Seriously, how many years have I been saying that a carry by Vincent Smith is a wasted down? And he's Michigan's best option. That's what playing this game at the end of the season does – it tests your depth and health. Maybe that's another reason they'll be moving the game to October soon.
2:55 Gardner drops back. He's sacked, and there's a fumble! Travis Howard tried to scoop it up, but couldn't get it. Then he eventually jumped back on the pile and came out with the football. Amazing. Johnathan Hankins drilled Gardner, and Gardner no longer had any desire to possess the football. Nathan Williams missed the sack originally, then Bennett and Hankins came in and devastated him. I told Mr. John Porentas a minute ago that this is the type of game that turns on one play, and he just asked me if that was the one. With 8:19 to play, it's too early to say.
2:59 Amazingly, Michigan holds the Buckeyes to another field goal, and Basil drills it from 25 yards out. The Buckeyes lead it 26-21 with 6:26 to play. Time to head down to the field.
3:01 I still think there have been too many field goals kicked. You can't just kick field goals in fate's face and think it won't chew them up and spit them back at you as one giant seven-point cannon ball.
3:04 This is the slowest elevator ever. That's how you know when you're in the Big Ten. In the SEC, I'd already be out on the field.
3:07 Finally made it down to the field. There's 5:39 to play. It's pretty windy down here. Cold too. I am not dressed for any overtimes today, so let's just finish this in regulation. There is a ton of people down here on the sidelines. How's a person supposed to work? Also, how's a person supposed to take notes with freezing hands?
3:09 Second and 20 for the Wolverines. Gardner drops back, rolls left, throws one downfield and it's intercepted by C.J. Barnett!! The pass was intended for Drew Dileo, but Gardner was way off and Barnett plucked it from the cold, gray sky. Terrible pass there. Where was Denard on that series? It was all Gardner trying to find receivers down field.
3:10 There's still 4:50 to play, but there's no reason for the Buckeyes to give this ball back. We've seen it before. I don't think anybody would object to one last running of the clock.
3:12 False start on Jeff Heuerman. That's not how you want to start first down.
3:13 High snap and it goes through Braxton Miller's hands, but ends up in Hyde's arms and he picks up three yards. Wow. That might have been the play of the game right there.
3:14 Second and 12. Four minutes to play. Braxton takes it on a called run to the left side and picks up five yards as the clock continues to run.
3:15 Third and seven. A first down here would just about do it. Under 3:20 to play. Hyde gets it and goes straight up the middle and picks up 13 yards! He's doing Denard's spoon move. That boy is hungry. Feed him.
3:15 Now under three minutes. First and 10. Hyde gets it again and picks up six yards. Hyde asking to be fed some more. Now with two hands. He's really hungry! Clock is at 2:15 now.
3:16 Second and four. First down here ends it. Players on the sidelines are counting the seconds down. Hyde gets it, cuts to the left and picks up the first down! And the crowd has realized that Michigan can't do anything about it, even with one timeout left.
3:17 Down to 1:30 left. Buckeyes call a timeout to avoid the delay of game with 1:26 to play. The crowd is going crazy. The sideline is telling them to go crazier.
3:18 They can go ahead and take knees from here on out. And they are. Zach Boren comes out and the Buckeyes are in the victory formation. There's the snap. Michigan calls their final timeout with 1:24 to play.
3:19 There's the second snap. The whistle was actually blown before Miller takes a knee. The players ask the ref what he's doing and he motions for Miller to get down sooner. LOL. You can't do that. The clock falls under a minute. One more snap to perfection. The crowd is getting ready to explode onto the field.
3:20 There's the final snap. Ball game. The field is being stormed. I fear for my pen and pad. Buckeyes win it 26-21.
3:21 Truly this has been an amazing season, and it's hard to believe that it's over. There aren't too many better ways for the Buckeyes to end their season than a victory over Michigan. Bowl games come and go, but The Game is forever.
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