Michigan came into Saturday’s game against Ohio State with one of the nation’s top defenses, holding opponents to just 13.5 points per game.
The Buckeye offense, undeterred, went ahead and scored four times that amount against the Wolverines.
Quarterback Dwayne Haskins threw for 396 yards and six touchdowns, and the running game did more than enough to keep things balanced.
It wasn’t that Michigan’s defense was exposed, it was just that Ohio State’s offense was able to handle everything defensive coordinator Don Brown threw at them.
And it all started up front.
“I knew we were going to come out and put on a show,” Haskins said after the game. “I’m proud of how we played today. It started up front with the O-line. And the playmakers made plays. That’s what mattered.”
Haskins had so much time to throw the ball on Saturday that it felt like this game was being played under playground rules of no pass rushing until ‘five Mississippi.’
It was the offensive line’s best performance of the year. For a unit that had struggled for so many weeks, this was the culmination of a painful rebirth.
“A-plus job. Zero sacks. I have to take them out to dinner,” Haskins said after the game. “So that’s good. But as far as picking up protections, there was no pressures. I really had all day in the pocket. I can’t complain. The line did a great job. To have a performance like that, try to do it again next week.”
It is said every week that the game is won in the trenches, and it was no different in this game. The offensive line gave Ohio State’s skill players time to get where they needed to be, and once they got there, it was over for the Wolverine defense.
Because of Michigan’s aggressive man-coverage defense, if Haskins had time to throw, then it was going to be up to the receivers to get open.
Three-hundred and ninety-six yards later, it would appear that things went as planned for the Buckeyes.
“I knew we would be prepared for it,” Urban Meyer said of Michigan’s defense. “Whenever you face man coverage, it’s not that complicated. If you can beat guys and they get open, you have a chance to move the ball. So we challenged our wideouts. We knew it would come down to one-on-one matchups and they answered the challenge.”
There were more than just the one-on-one matchups outside, however. They were everywhere, and the Buckeyes won way more than they lost.
“And when I say ‘one-on-one battles,’ if you win the battle, you win the war. And if we have enough guys win the battle, you win the war,” Meyer said. “And that goes from Isaiah Prince blocking their number 3, to Thayer Munford blocking their 15 and also the inside guys blocking No. 10, who is a hell of a player for them. But the one-on-one matchups, obviously you saw it. And we worked extremely hard on that. But you also have talented guys that really care.”
Coming into the game, Haskins had watched enough film of Michigan’s defense to know that if his offensive line won their one-on-one battles that his receivers would do the same.
“I was licking my chops, I see the one-high coverage and that’s a quarterback’s dream,” he said. “The biggest responsibility for me all week was to be able to pick up blitzes and protection, because we saw a lot of different fronts and exotic looks.
“I spent hours in the film room just trying to figure out how we can pick the blitzes up. And once we picked it up, receivers make plays, and I’m going to put it there. And it was a great overall team effort today.”