Three and Out: Thoughts From Ohio State's 42-41 Win Over Michigan
By Tony Gerdeman
Having watched every Michigan game this season a time or two, I found myself wondering which would carry more weight – the stagnant Wolverine offense, or the electric happenings of The Game. Well, let's wonder no more.
This was not the dying Wolverine offense that we have seen for the last month. In fact, we should probably stop calling them the Michigan Wolverines and start calling them the Michigan Possums, because they had everybody fooled into thinking they were dead coming into this game.
I expected there to be some issues and hinky things happening in this game, but once the Buckeyes took that 35-21 lead, I thought that had all been put to bed. But once again, the Maize and Blue were just playing possum, and they came snapping back to tie the game.
This one had every component of a classic game – incredible individual performances, tough coaching decisions, and a game-deciding play. If every future iteration of this game could be as entertaining as this one, we would all be better off for it.
I think I've written this each of the last six weeks or so, but it's pretty amazing to watch Carlos Hyde and this offensive line churn out yards like a bottling plant assembly line. The only time the line stops moving is at halftime, and then it picks right back up where it left off. There can be no more helpless feeling in football than knowing what's coming and not being able to do anything to stop it.
The kicker, however, is that when a defense does try to stop it, Braxton Miller ends up taking off and finding the endzone. The one-two punch of Hyde and Miller is as effective as any that I've ever seen. (And it's certainly more effective than Dontre Wilson's one-two punch.)
The frustrating part for a defense is that even though Ohio State's passing game has struggled of late, they still have to match up with it, which spreads them too thin to defend the run. Basically, even when the passing game is ineffective, it's still incredibly effective.
What Carlos Hyde did against Michigan – rushing for a school record 226 yards against that team up north – is now in the record books, and perhaps even more impressively, it's in the memory banks. It will be remembered forever, especially by those on the Michigan side of things.
As impressive as the Ohio State running game was, the defense was on the other end of the spectrum. Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges was a step ahead of the Buckeye defense for much of the game. The Wolverines pulled out a bunch of misdirection plays that worked, but also went to their old standbys that OSU should have been ready for, but weren't.
I have no idea why this was a different Michigan offense than the ones we've seen limp through games of late, other than the fact that this was The Game. Why was Borges so passive in the past, but selling out for everything in this game? If this is what Michigan was capable of every week, why was it only apparent against Indiana and Ohio State.
Yes, the Ohio State defense played a large part in these results, but I have to think that Borges has short-changed his football team by essentially refusing to find answers before this point.
I'm of the opinion that Brady Hoke made the only decision that he could on going for two. He knew that they weren't going to be able to stop Ohio State's offense, and so the best scenario he could see in overtime would have the Wolverines having to go for two points at some point anyway, so why not just do it now while you still have a quarterback who isn't entirely broken.
The credit then goes to the Buckeye defense for knowing what was coming. Michigan went with the two-point play that they felt most comfortable with, just as Ohio State did against Purdue a season ago. The problem was that the Buckeyes were ready for what was coming. The speed option had been successful for Michigan during the game every time except for their last time running it. Because of this, Borges probably felt more comfortable going with something else.
Once the players saw the formation, they were ready. While you can criticize the defense and the coaches for giving up over 600 yards of offense to a team that was hapless for weeks at a time, let's also remember that it was preparation and execution that led to Tyvis Powell's game-winning interception. Of course, it also didn't hurt that Devin Gardner's throw was off.
I've seen people excusing Dontre Wilson's role in the fight that got him ejected. Yes, he was surrounded by a gaggle of Wolverines, but he didn't get ejected until he freed himself and then went back for more. The most ironic part of his ejection was that it was Doran Grant who pushed the Michigan player into Wilson, which “forced” Wilson to respond with punches. Had Grant never pushed the player, Wilson wouldn't have thrown a punch.
It wasn't just Wilson who lost composure, obviously, but it was a teammate's lack of composure that ultimately led to Wilson's fateful punches. I can only imagine the coaching that will go on following that entire mess. I doubt it will be pleasant to be around.
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