ANN ARBOR, Michigan — The score was 30-24. Quarterback Kyle McCord had 1:10 to take Ohio State down the field for seven, to give Ohio State the win.
McCord and Ohio State head coach Ryan Day talked before the big game about how the 17-14 win at Notre Dame earlier this season would help prepare this team to face Michigan — and that couldn’t have been any more true. McCord once again had a chance to lead his team to a big victory, just like the first big road game of the season.
The difference was that in this game, Michigan’s top defense was all over Ohio State’s two minute drill.
McCord attempted a pass to tight end Cade Stover but it was incomplete. He followed it up with a deep left pass for 22 yards, caught by wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.. Then it was an impressive deep middle pass for 21 yards to receiver Julian Fleming, his third big-time catch of the day.
Fleming’s catch was fumbled then recovered by receiver Emeka Egbuka. McCord’s next pass, intended for Harrison Jr. was intercepted by Michigan’s Rod Moore and Michigan took a knee to end the game and secure the 30-24 win. That was the game.
“The defense got us the ball back, down six with about a minute to go, no timeouts, we knew we had to get the ball moving,” McCord said following the win.
“We started off with a good completion to Marvin [Harrison Jr.] on the sideline, then obviously Julian’s [Fleming] play and Emeka [Egbuka] with a great recovery. Then in that situation they knew we were going to take a shot downfield to get the ball moving. They played cover two on the boundary there to Julian [Fleming] so I went back to Marvin [Harrison Jr.] and kind of got hit on that throw…didn’t get as much on the ball as I wanted to.”
While Ohio State was one play short for the win, it was a game where Ohio State was never able to play its game and was fighting an uphill battle all afternoon. Ohio State was playing from behind and was disrupted by its own mistakes and missed opportunities.
Ohio State had to come in to face the No. 3 team in the country and play its game, but it couldn’t get its own offense in rhythm. Ohio State was playing uncharacteristically offensively — playing the short field, being inconsistent in establishing the run game, and dropped and inaccurate passes that resulted in turnovers and interceptions.
Then, when it needed its defense to make stops, it couldn’t. Ohio State’s defense was built to prepare for this game. While there was improvement from the prior two losses to Michigan, Michigan’s offense was also able to pick up and convert massive 4th downs when it needed to extend drives, converting on 3-of-3 fourth downs. Ohio State was 3-of-9 on third downs and did not attempt any fourth down conversions.
Ohio State changed who it was in this game, and that’s what got them beat. For Day, the loss was as simple as not winning the turnover battle and not winning the rushing yards battle.
“I’d like to say that it is more than that, but I’m not sure that it is,” Day said after the game.
Ohio State had 107 yards on the ground compared to Michigan’s 156 yards rushing. McCord threw two interceptions, one of which led to a touchdown by Michigan. Wolverine quarterback J.J. McCarthy had only one interception, and the Buckeyes were unable to convert that to points.
In a game where the where the margin of error was essentially zero, Michigan made the plays that were available. Ohio State tried, but couldn’t.