10 Things We Learned

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Last updated: 12/01/2013 7:14 PM
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Football
10 Things We Learned from a Memorable Rivalry Game
By Brandon Castel

This was one of those Ohio State-Michigan rivalry games you well tell your children about. Remember that time when Tyvis Powell picked off Devin Gardner in the end zone to save our undefeated season?

What a game. There was a fight, Carlos Hyde broke Ohio State’s single-game rushing record against Michigan, Devin Gardner threw for 450 yards… and lost, and Michigan came that close to pulling off the biggest upset in The Game since 1969.

Powell’s interception prevented Michigan’s gutsy two-point conversion try, and the Buckeyes prevailed 42-41 on a wild Saturday in college football. Here’s a look at 10 Things We Learned from a Memorable Rivalry Game.

1. The Buckeyes are still undefeated. This one is obvious, but take a moment to stop and remember what this team is accomplished. How good did you feel at the end of last season when the Buckeyes were 12-0? Now they’ve done the whole thing all over again. They are officially 24-0 and haven’t lost a game since 2011. Urban Meyer is undefeated in his first two seasons at Ohio State and the Buckeyes are playing Michigan State for a chance to face Florida State (most likely) for the crystal football. It’s almost hard to believe this program was closing in on rock bottom just a few years ago. The opportunity to hire a coach like Urban Meyer has changed everything in Columbus, and while everyone is focused on the idea of playing for a national title, it’s worthwhile to stop and appreciate what has already been accomplished. It’s not every decade your football team wins 24 straight ballgames.

2. Michigan earned some respect. There is nothing Ohio State fans love more – and I really do mean nothing – than hating on their archrivals from the state of Michigan. Hating The School Up North is a right of passage in the state of Ohio. People write songs about it, tell jokes, and make t-shirts dedicated to the hate. Even the governor of Ohio, an unabashed Buckeyes fan, sent out a resolution asking Ohioans to avoid using the letter M on the day of The Game. Hating Michigan has become it’s own subculture. For most Ohio State fans, their two favorite teams are the Buckeyes and whoever is playing Michigan, but this is also a rivalry that was built on respect. The reason Ohio State and Indiana – two teams from neighboring states – aren’t rivals is because the Buckeyes have steamrolled the Hoosiers over the years. Most people – even most Michigan fans – were expecting that type of outcome Saturday. Instead, what they got was Michigan’s best shot. The Wolverines pulled out all the stops. They played hard and looked like a different team than the one we saw for most of the season. Devin Gardner in particular looked like a different player, gutting it out through an injury all the way to that final two-point conversion. Even Urban Meyer agreed with Brady Hoke’s decision to go for two, but it’s Hoke who had to put it all on the line with that call. The hate is still there – for both Hoke and the Wolverines. It always will be, but this Saturday was a reminder of how this rivalry was built on more than just vitriol. 

Tyvis Powell seals OSU's win with an interception and puts a dagger in the hearts of Michigan fans.
Photo by Dan Harker
Tyvis Powell

3. The hate is still real. While there may be mutual respect between these two programs, there is still a whole lot of hate. Especially between the white lines. While the rivalry has been almost entirely one sided since the days of the Y2K scare, Michigan’s victory in 2011, and subsequent celebration, seems to have reinvigorated the hatred on the field between these two bitter rivals. That came to head Saturday during Dontre Wilson’s kick return. After the play, Michigan linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone, a Cass Tech product, grabbed Wilson’s facemask and practically dragged him across the field. A brawl erupted, which saw Braxton Miller jump in the middle and led to the ejections of both Jenkins-Stone and Dontre Wilson, along with starting right guard Marcus Hall. Both Wilson and Hall were seen throwing punches in the melee, which immediately brought flashbacks of Charles Woodson and David Boston. It’s one of those moments that will be shown in every hype video for The Game from now until the end of time, but it will also continue to fuel the animosity between these two programs during a period where one side has won 11 of the last 13 meetings.

4. Carlos Hyde is the MVP of this football team. Braxton Miller rushed for 153 yards and accounted for five touchdown on Saturday, but once again it was Carlos Hyde who carried the Buckeyes to victory on his broad shoulders. Certainly Miller and Hyde make each other better, which is why both of them have topped 100 yards on the ground in each of the last three games, but it’s almost impossible to imagine where this team would be without its 230-pound wrecking ball in the backfield. Yes, the Buckeyes have other options at tailback, but no one who brings the passion, toughness and sheer force of will Hyde provides for this offense. 

Carlos Hyde
Photo by Jim Davidson
Carlos Hyde

5. Hyde’s fumble nearly cost Ohio State everything. For everything Hyde did right on Saturday, his one mistake put everything on the line for the Buckeyes. His fourth quarter fumble could not have come at a worse time, as it helped the Wolverines erase a 14-point deficit to tie the game at 35-apiece with five minutes to play in the game. You could see how upset Hyde was on the sideline about coughing up the football. He went to each of his fellow starters on offense and apologized for letting go of a ball that could ultimately have derailed a perfect season and put an end to Ohio State’s 23-game winning streak. It was a reminder of how important it is to not only have a running back who can produce the way Hyde does, but also one who can hold on to the football. The fact Hyde was distraught about letting his team down is all we really needed to know, however, about what he means to this football team. I’m not sure there’s anyone out there who puts more of his heart and soul into each game than Hyde, which is why it didn’t surprise me one bit to see him find the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown less than three minutes later.

Carlos Hyde fumbles the football.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Carlos Hyde

6. Braxton Miller is one of the all-time great quarterbacks in school history. Maybe he’s not on the same level as Joe  Germaine, Troy Smith, Art Schlichter, or Bobby Hoying when it comes to throwing the ball, but Braxton Miller deserves a spot among the school’s all-time greats. He broke Troy Smith’s school record for most 200-yard performances on Saturday, rushing for 153 and passing for 133 more in the victory. It wasn’t Miller’s finest performance as a quarterback, but his football team is now undefeated in two straight regular seasons. With Alabama’s loss on Saturday, Miller may also have a chance to etch his name into the history books with guys like Rex Kern and Craig Krenzel.

Braxton Miller
Photo by Jim Davidson
Braxton Miller

7. Ohio State’s defense is who we thought they were. This isn’t news to anyone, except maybe those who thought the OSU defense had made a 2012-like transition over the last month. Then reality set in on Saturday. This group isn’t very good, and they aren’t going to be a championship caliber defense – whatever that means these days – at any point this season. I know what the statistics say, and I know they have some really good individual players, but I also know they got outplayed in every area by a Michigan offense that had failed to reach 200 total yards in its last three losses. Give Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges some credit, he pulled out every trick he had in his book. It’s like he went back and watched all the other games he coached and decided to do the exact opposite in every situation. That’s always tough for a defensive coordinator, but Luke Fickell has been around long enough. He knows how it goes, and he should have been ready for Borges and the Wolverines to pull out all the stops on Saturday. He wasn’t, and it showed. The Buckeyes allowed 41 points and almost lost the game on a last-minute two-point conversion attempt. The most troubling thing was not the total amount of points allowed, but the fact they had the lead with two minutes left and couldn’t keep Michigan out of the end zone.

8. Ryan Shazier is who we thought he was. Despite the struggles of the defense as a whole on Saturday, it was impossible to ignore the play of OSU linebacker Ryan Shazier. Even though he was constantly being targeted at the second level by Taylor Lewan and the other Michigan linemen, Shazier finished with 14 tackles against Michigan. He now has 46 tackles… in his last three games. That gives him a league-high 123 tackles for the season with two games left to play. He also leads the conference with 85 solo stops (no one else has more than 64), and 22 tackles for loss (no one else has more than 15). What Shazier is doing this season is historic and it deserves to be noticed, even if the unit around him isn’t that good.

Ryan Shazier puts the stop on Derrick Green
Photo by Jim Davidson

9. The offensive line won the day. Ohio State racked up 393 yards on the ground Saturday against one of the better run defenses in the Big Ten. Both Miller and Hyde topped 100 yards again and the Buckeyes averaged over 8 yards per carry in a rivalry game. That is complete dominance up front by the offensive line, which really took over the game after that first quarter. Certainly Miller and Hyde made a number of plays, but Jack Mewhort, Andrew Norwell, Corey Linsley, Pat Elflein and Taylor Decker deserve a ton of respect for the job they did in the trenches on Saturday, and really for what they have done all season. There’s a reason Carlos Hyde has over 1,200 yards rushing right now and it has a lot to do with those five guys up front.

10. Pat Elflein stepped up for Marcus Hall’s stupidity. If we are talking about most valuable players from Saturday’s game, how about Pat Elflein? The redshirt freshman out of Pickerington was forced into action when starting right guard Marcus Hall was ejected from the game. It’s been glorified on Twitter, but there is nothing redeeming about the way Hall carried himself on Saturday and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Urban Meyer sit him down for at least part of the Big Ten Championship game – assuming the conference doesn’t step in and take care of that for him. Hall embarrassed himself, his coaches and his university with his immaturity on Saturday. I realize he was sticking up for his teammates and feeding off the energy of an intense rivalry, but the guy took a swing at an opposing player and flipped double birds to the crowd as he left the field. Not exactly the way Meyer or Ohio State fans would like their seniors to carry themselves.

Pat Elflein (far right) jumps for joy after helping Carlos Hyde into the endzone.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Pat Elflein

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