Closing The Bank
There is an old saying goes something like, “They’re writing checks they can’t cash.” Well, in the days leading up to their matchup with Ohio State, the Michigan Wolverines wrote an awful lot of checks. Wolverine running back Karan Higdon guaranteed a win. Constant talk of the Revenge Tour. Quarterback Shea Patterson said they prepared for the Buckeyes like any other team. The Michigan team and fans crossed over from confidence to arrogance. They wrote a lot of checks. Unfortunately for them when they got to Ohio Stadium they found Urban Meyer and his Buckeyes had closed the bank to the tune of a 62-39 win that wasn’t really as close as the score indicated. At the end of the day the Wolverines were left with a chest full of their own hubris, and a handful of checks they couldn’t cash. If any team in recent memory deserved to be embarrassed by their arch rival, it was this Michigan one.
Going into Saturday’s game I really felt the key wasn’t the Ohio State defense; it was the offensive line. If they could protect Dwayne Haskins, the Buckeyes’ laser-armed quarterback would pick apart the Wolverine pass defense. I didn’t care if Michigan had the top-rated pass defense in the country, they had not faced an arm like that of Haskins, or receivers with the speed and athleticism of this Buckeye group. The offensive line played their best game of the season, and did not yield a single sack. Offensive coordinator Ryan Day and co-offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson attacked Michigan’s defense with the shallow crossing routes the Wolverines have been susceptible to,
and gave OSU’s speedy receivers a chance to catch the ball in the open field and make something happen. There may not have been a better example than when Parris Campbell took a short flip from Haskins on a jet sweep, got two outstanding blocks from Rashod Berry and Johnnie Dixon on the edge, turned the corner, and blew past Michigan safety Josh Metellus as he streaked down the sideline past the Michigan bench for a 78-yard touchdown. Day and Wilson attacked Michigan’s third cornerback, Brandon Watson, and exploited matchups with him all day. How good was the Buckeyes’ passing offense? They forced the number one pass defense in the country to change what they do. Michigan loves to play
press coverage. But, after the Buckeyes killed them with those shallow crossing routes on their first drive that ended in a Chris Olave touchdown on one of those routes, the Wolverines played a little bit of zone on their next couple of series. When the third quarter began they went to playing a lot more zone to help their linebackers and safeties against the crossing routes. It didn’t help much. Buckeye receivers ran free all day. Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown vastly overestimated how well his secondary could match up with the OSU receiving corps. Haskins said he was licking his chops after seeing Michigan likes to play with a single high safety in man-to man coverage (basically it means if a cornerback is beaten by a receiver, he can’t always count on help from a safety). He said that is a quarterback’s dream. Haskins finished 20-31 for 396 yards and six touchdowns; he averaged 12.8 yards per attempt.
There’s more folks. Oh yes, there’re more. The Buckeyes had the ball for just over 24 minutes, and ran eleven less plays than Michigan. But, they scorched the number one defense in the country for 567 yards at an average of 8.5 yards per play. That’s 8 ½ yards PER PLAY for the Buckeyes. Michigan native Mike Weber’s 96 yards led a rushing attack that totaled 171 yards, and averaged nearly five yards per carry. The Buckeye offensive line either controlled or neutralized Michigan’s front seven play after play. The difference in speed and athleticism between the Ohio State offense and Michigan defense was noticeable from the very beginning. As the fourth quarter progressed, you could see their defense fading. The Buckeyes had beaten them into submission. If this had been a boxing match, the referee would have stepped in and stopped the bout because the Wolverine defense was, well, defenseless. Instead Urban Meyer is the one who had to step in when his team was on the verge of scoring again in the final few seconds to save the Wolverine defense from further embarrassment by having Haskins take a knee.
The maligned Buckeye defense saved their best performance for the biggest game of the season. The Wolverines scored 39 points, but 20 of those came after Ohio State had built a comfortable lead. The defense did its job early by keeping Michigan’s vaunted run game in check, and continually forcing them into third and long. Michigan isn’t built for that. When the Wolverines did try to throw, the Buckeyes put all kind of pressure on quarterback Shea Patterson, and forced numerous bad throws. The OSU defense was finally able to get pressure with just their front four; Chase Young was outstanding. By mixing in timely blitzes they kept Patterson, and the Michigan offense off balance when it counted. The
Wolverines did rush for 161 yards, but were held far below their average of 219 yards per game. They snapped Karan Higdon’s streak of eight consecutive 100-yard games by holding him to just 72 yards. Most importantly the Buckeye front seven did not allow Michigan to gain any real
momentum, and control the game by running the ball. The linebackers were outstanding in gap control; Malik Harrison seemed to be everywhere. I felt the Buckeyes needed to force field goals when the Wolverines got inside the red zone, and they did just that on Michigan’s first two trips inside the OSU 20-yard line. Instead of a possible 14-14 game, the Buckeyes led 14-6, and Michigan was forced to continually play from behind. Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano’s group made plays when they needed to (Pete Werner knocking the ball out of the hands of the Michigan receiver on what looked like a sure touchdown catch), and did not give up big plays. The Wolverines longest play of the day came on a 43-yard pass late in the fourth quarter long after the game had been decided.
What I Liked
As much as I felt the defense really did a great job, I’ve got to go with the offensive line. Their performance against what is considered one of the best front sevens in college football allowed the receivers to get into their routes and exploit the speed difference, and most of all it allowed Haskins time to see the field and deliver strike after strike. As I said earlier, I really believed the offensive line was the key to the entire game. They had to give Haskins time to throw, and create just enough space when run blocking to allow Weber and J.K. Dobbins to be effective. They did all of that and more.
What I Didn’t Like
I almost hate to go with this one, but the officiating was awful. Twelve penalties for 150 on the Buckeyes? Michigan was hit with seven for 72 yards. But, let’s face it, the officials bailed out Michigan on third and long so many times I lost track. At least two of those touchdown drives were kept alive by interference penalties. That’s another thing I lost track of. I stopped counting how many flags were thrown for interference on the Buckeyes. A few were legit, too many were ticky tack, and two were just plain ridiculous. Kendall Sheffield was called for interference when the Michigan receiver clearly was holding his arm. Jordan Fuller was flagged for grabbing the jersey of Donovan Peoples-Jones while having his facemask grabbed by the Michigan receiver. I began to hold my breath every time Michigan threw the ball; it was that bad. On one drive in the fourth quarter, there were so many flags on OSU I thought the officials were going to pick the ball up and set in the end zone for the Wolverines (kind of like the end of an NFL game I saw last week).
The continued pass interference penalties were one thing, but allowing Michigan to get away with two egregious personal fouls is something entirely different. K.J. Hill was clearly hit 2-3 yards out of bounds in plain view of an official. It wasn’t debatable in the least. Hill was out of bounds. But, the one that sent Urban Meyer and Buckeye Nation off the deep end was when Haskins was drilled in the helmet by a Michigan player as he was sliding. The rule clearly states when a player slides he is giving himself up, and is no longer a ball carrier. Wolverine linebacker Noah Furbush led with his helmet, and his first point of impact was the helmet of Haskins. To make matters worse, not only did the officials blow the call, they penalized Meyer for unsportsmanlike conduct for his reaction.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you there was a Big Ten conspiracy to help the Wolverines because they were viewed as the conference’s best chance to make the playoff. I won’t go that far. I’ll just leave it as Wolverine fans can put to rest the idea Harbaugh has planted in their heads about the conference being anti-Michigan. Yeah, that’s kind of a ridiculous notion to still cling to after what we saw on Saturday. Then again this is a fan base who still believes their team has been a national power over the last eighteen years.
This one goes alongside the 59-0 rout of Wisconsin in the 2014 Big Ten title game. The Buckeye offense was nearly unstoppable against the number one defense in the country. It was as
dominating of a performance as you will ever see in a game involving ten-win teams. Urban Meyer and his staff deserve a ton of credit for coming up with an impeccable game plan, and mentally getting this team ready to play. This one will be remembered for a very long time.
It is very obvious the Buckeyes still hold a clear advantage over Michigan when it comes to speed, athleticism, and overall talent. Harbaugh has closed the talent gap between the two teams. That gap was so wide when he arrived in Ann Arbor he couldn’t help but narrow it. But, I think it has widened in the last two years. For all of their other issues this year, the Buckeyes are faster than they were just two years ago. Michigan appears to be staying the same, and is trying to win a championship in 2018 with a team built for the 90’s. Harbaugh may win a recruiting battle here and there, but Meyer is winning the war.
It isn’t just beating Michigan that makes me happy. It isn’t just the 62 points they hung on Michigan, and embarrassed them that makes me happy. It isn’t just the way they showed they’re still the superior program that makes me happy. It isn’t just denying Michigan a trip to the Big Ten Championship game, and a College Football Playoff berth that makes me happy. It’s all of those things. If any team deserved to be run off the field, and embarrassed it is this Michigan bunch. We listened to a guarantee of a win, and we listened to their players, fans and media chirp about all of that Revenge Tour bullshit. This group was so full of themselves when they strutted into Ohio Stadium I’m surprised they didn’t expect people to avert their eyes. One Michigan player said after the game the team felt they were set up to dominate Ohio State. The last time a group wearing blue was this arrogant in thinking they were set up to dominate, some guy named Crazy Horse and a few of his friends did to them what the Buckeyes did to the Wolverines. Maybe when the Michigan program and its fans look back on this game they’ll think of Ohio Stadium as Little Big Horn. The Maize and Blue got exactly what they deserved.
For those who say this isn’t much of a rivalry because Ohio State has dominated in the last 18 years obviously doesn’t remember the 90’s. I won’t say the Wolverines dominated the series
back then because what we have now is dominating. I’ll say they controlled the series. But, what I remember is how insufferable Michigan fans were. Especially the ones in the Ohio Valley who became a Wolverine fan because they didn’t like the Buckeyes, and wanted to antagonize OSU supporters. You hated to see one come your way. They always had a snide remark or a dig to throw at you. They loved to sidle up to a Buckeye fan and say, “Guess who my favorite football coach is?........John Cooper!!!!!! HAHAHAHAHA.” Well, I’ve never forgotten having to put up with their crap. That’s why I’ve enjoyed the Buckeyes OWNING the Wolverines in the last eighteen years. There can never be enough misery come the way of Michigan fans as far as I’m concerned. EVER!
Random Stuff From A Massacre
Dwayne Haskins became the Big Ten’s first-ever 4,000 yard passer, and is now the single-season record holder. His six touchdown passes against the Wolverines allowed him to break the single-season record in that category as well. He now has 42 TD passes for the season. He was named as the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Week.
Receiver Chris Olave showed off the skills his teammates have been raving about. Both of his catches went for touchdowns. On the second the true freshman schooled a Wolverine senior cornerback by cutting inside of him for an easy catch in the end zone. Olave gets better every time I see him, and don’t doubt he’s going to be a special player. Keep this in mind about Olave: he was listed as only a three-star recruit, and one service had him rated as just the 399th player in the country. There’s a reason why I wrote a blog about this back in February titled “The Fault In Their Stars.” 247 Sports named him as their True Freshman of the Week.
Olave played a very large part in one of the game’s biggest plays. With the Buckeyes leading 24-19 in the third quarter, Olave blocked a Michigan punt that was caught out the air and returned for a touchdown by fellow true freshman Sevyn Banks. That gave the Buckeyes a twelve point lead, and they never looked back. The block play was designed by Greg Schiano and Parker Fleming, a first-year quality control coach for the kicking game. The play called for Olave to line
up on the right side of the line of scrimmage. When the ball was snapped, he was to hesitate for just a breath, and then loop into the middle and shoot through the gap. It’s that hesitation that had Meyer very skeptical it would work; he felt there would not be enough time for Olave to get to the punter. When he decided to go for the block, Meyer thought Schiano called the other block play the team has, and was quite mad when he found out which they were going with. After the game he laughed and said he was wrong.
Right guard Demetrius Knox suffered a foot injury on the game’s next-to-last play, and will miss the Big Ten Championship game. The fifth-year senior played what was probably his best game as a Buckeye. Redshirt freshman Wyatt Davis will start against Northwestern.
Despite the unfortunate injury to Knox, he and Parris Campbell finish their Buckeye careers 5-0 against the Wolverines. Meyer cited Campbell’s pregame speech as being very inspiring. On the other hand Chase Winovich, one of my most disliked Wolverines ever, wraps up his career with ZERO wins against the Buckeyes.
Parris Campbell needs 97 receiving yards to reach 1,000 for the season. He would become just the fifth Buckeye to reach that milestone.
Ryan Day showed just how good he is by outcoaching Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown, who is considered the best in the country at his job. Whatever adjustment Brown made, Day didn’t just counter, he countered with the perfect adjustment. Day implemented different types of pre-snap motions than the Buckeyes had shown all season, and even had them in an unbalanced line at times when left tackle Thayer Munford lined up on the right next to Isaiah Prince. This was an offensive play calling masterpiece by Day.
The only problem I had all day with the offense was when they went to Tate Martell on a goal line series. I think Haskins gave them a better chance to score at that time because of his threat to throw the ball. The package being used for Martell right now is far too predictable, and needs to be expanded.
I really liked the blitz used to get the sack on Michigan’s first series. When Tuf Borland came through the A gap on the right side (the gap between the guard and center), Malik Harrison came in behind him an eye blink later, and got to Patterson. I’ve always been a fan of sending two defenders through the same gap on blitzes, and hope it is something we see more of.
The 62 points the Buckeyes scored are the most a Michigan team has ever given up in regulation.
Parris Campbell was the team’s offensive player of the game. Malik Harrison took defensive honors for his seven tackle, two tackles-for-loss, and one sack performance. Justin Hilliard, Keandre Jones, and Olave split the special teams award.
Newton’s 2nd Law
Well-known college football fan Isaac Newton once said, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” For all the celebrating done by Buckeye Nation in the aftermath of their win over their archrival, that’s how much anguish and outrage there was among Wolverine fans and media.
The blowback was swift, and brutal. Maize and blue fans used the word embarrassed quite often in social media posts. They did not hide their frustration at losing to Ohio State in a year when they thought their beloved ugly helmeted heroes were finally going to give them the win they feel is their birthright. There wasn’t any less bloodshed in the media. One writer from the Detroit Free Press termed the season a failure because of this loss. Another said Michigan’s program has failed each time the spotlight has been shined on it since Harbaugh’s arrival. Yet another said Ohio State has everything Michigan wants, but can’t have. Ouch! The worst may have been the from the fan who referred to Harbaugh as Michigan’s John Cooper. Double Ouch!! But, unlike other years there were no excuses. All involved acknowledge Ohio State is the better team and program.
When you come right down to it they acted like Sally Brown when she found Linus had duped her into spending Halloween night in the pumpkin patch waiting on the Great Pumpkin, and she missed out on getting candy. You might say Wolverine fans were duped by their team into believing they were something special, only to find out the hard way that wasn’t the case. If you remember, Snoopy showed up in that pumpkin patch instead of the Great Pumpkin. I’m guessing Wolverine fans will tell you a dog showed up on Saturday instead of their Great Pumpkin.
I somehow managed to use one of Isaac Newton’s laws, and mention characters from the Peanuts comic strip in the same section. I have no idea how I did that. You can tell it’s been a long season. Or maybe I’m still giddy from seeing my favorite college football team boot stomp their biggest rival. I’ll go with that one. On to Indianapolis.