What can we learn from something that happens every year?
Ohio State took Michigan’s best shot on Saturday, but finished the game with a 31-6 barrage that put the Wolverines away.
Michigan fans may argue that that was their best shot, but this was The Game, and you always get each team’s best shot.
Michigan’s shot simply fell short, and Ohio State’s most certainly did not.
What else did we learn from the Buckeyes’ 31-20 win at the Big House?
1. Dwayne Haskins is a gamer.
Urban Meyer hates the term “gamer” because he doesn’t believe that you can be successful in a game without also being a “practicer.” I’m not saying Dwayne Haskins isn’t a practicer, because he is, but I’m also saying that he’s a gamer. The guy prepared as a backup should all season long, and on Saturday in the biggest game of the year, he performed like a starter. People will say this reminds them of 2014, but it couldn’t be more different. Cardale Jones didn’t take his role as a backup seriously until after the Michigan game. Haskins has taken his role seriously every step of the way. After the game Haskins said he was never nervous. That’s exactly what you want to hear from any player, especially your backup quarterback.
2. The offensive line can still get it done.
Billy Price told Dwayne Haskins to trust the offensive line, so he did. But they also needed to perform, and they did. The Buckeyes rushed for 122 of their 226 yards with Haskins on the field. They put the run blocking in overdrive and re-arranged the Michigan defensive line to find the proper feng shui for the Buckeye offense.
3. Michigan didn’t know who Denzel Ward was.
When you were watching this game, I’m guessing you kept asking why the Wolverines were throwing at Denzel Ward. I have no idea why, but my assumption is that they had never heard of him before or seen seen his film. At least now they are more educated on arguably Ohio State’s best defensive player.
4. J.T. Barrett is one tough dude.
Listening to J.T. Barrett describe his ability to lock and unlock his knee almost on command had my own knees creaking. When he went down on the field during the game, he was trying to pop whatever had popped out back in, hoping that he could do it in time to avoid having to leave the game for a play. When it wouldn’t unlock, however, he had no choice but to leave — which he did, under his own power. After the game, he spoke of his injury as no big deal. I believe he also said it’s not an injury. He also said he has dealt with this all season long. That’s the mark of a special — and very tough — player.
5. The interior of Ohio State’s offensive line dominated.
Coming into this game, there was some argument that Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst was the best player on the field. Do you remember hearing Hurst’s name during the game? If you heard it, you really had to listen because he was only involved in three tackles, and the Buckeyes were getting some tough running done inside. Hurst played all but five snaps in this game, and that lack of depth contributed to Ohio State’s success in the fourth quarter when they were able to close the game out with 84 yards rushing despite playing with a backup quarterback.
6. Tight ends are still a problem.
Granted, they weren’t a huge problem, but you were probably pulling your hair out when John O’Korn found Sean McKeon for a 3-yard touchdown. Michigan’s tight ends only caught four passes for 38 yards, but it would have been much more with a more accurate quarterback. I don’t know what the answer is, but at least I’m not alone because it seems like OSU doesn’t know either. Up next for the Buckeyes is arguably the best tight end in the nation in Wisconsin’s Troy Fumagalli.
7. The OSU passing game continues to be selectively good.
We can point to J.T. Barrett’s pregame knee injury as the reason for Ohio State’s struggles throwing the ball, but what do we do about his other rough outings? Four interceptions against Iowa, two against Michigan State, and one near-interception against Michigan that couldn’t have been any easier to intercept. And now the Buckeyes are about to take on the best pass defense in the Big Ten. Saturday is not going to be easy, and it may never be any kind of pretty.
8. Losing this game is becoming easier for Jim Harbaugh.
It was difficult for Jim Harbaugh to lose last year’s game the way they did and he was very upset about it. After Saturday’s loss, however, he even found time to crack a joke. This is not a good sign. In fact, it is the first symptom of Buckholm Syndrome.
9. This game came at a price.
No Ohio State team has ever come from 14 points down to beat Michigan, but this one did. The Game always takes a part of any player who plays in it, which makes it very difficult for those players to get back up one week later and play at their best. This Buckeye team gave it everything they had and now they’ll have to recharge their batteries and do it all over again. That’s not exactly easy, but this is the task that the OSU coaches have in front of them this coming week. They will try to learn from their mistakes following the comeback win over Penn State, and the Buckeyes will try to figure out how to get amped up following a game that they simply would not lose.
10. Good habits are hard to break.
At this point, it feels like Michigan is not supposed to win this game. The Wolverines are Charlie Brown lining up for the kick and the Buckeyes are Lucy, perpetually ripping wins away from the Wolverines’ foot before the cleat meets leather. This is six-straight wins over Michigan for the Buckeyes. Two wins in a row is an accomplishment. Three wins in a row is a streak. Four wins in a row is special. Five wins in a row is almost criminal. Six wins in a row, however, is habit.