Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown devised the perfect game plan to stifle Urban Meyer’s Ohio State offense. Through four quarters, the Buckeyes ran 75 plays for 280 yards, which averages out to about 3.73 yards per play. Their front seven pressured Barrett 18 times on the day and the secondary locked down the Buckeye receivers on the perimeter.
In the run game, they were ready for every type of Curtis Samuel wrinkle that worked so well throughout the season and honestly made him a non-factor. As we mentioned, J.T. Barrett’s legs kept them in the game and won the game for the Buckeyes, but Michigan did an excellent job all day of being one step ahead of Ed Warinner’s offense — until late in the fourth quarter and the overtime period.
Ohio State only had to run seven plays in overtime to score twice, including just two plays to score in the first overtime. After Curtis Samuel took a simple speed option — a play that had no chance earlier in the game — down to the 7-yard line, the Michigan defense turned into a group of individuals rather than a well-coached team defense. Ohio State took advantage.
First overtime: First-and-goal at Michigan 7-yard line
After Samuel ran for 18-yards on the prior play, Michigan’s defense was clearly in shambles — and Ohio State’s staff knew they could exploit it. Peppers lined up at middle linebacker and they knew that he would most likely freelance himself out of the play. With the defense as a whole keying on Samuel, they flared him out as a decoy.
When Samuel went out on a fake route, linebacker Mike McCray (No. 9), the safety and Peppers (at middle linebacker) all flowed to Samuel. Peppers and the safety completely took the bait and abandoned the middle of the field.
With the middle of the field wide open and all three players converging on Samuel, Barrett had an incredibly easy path to the end zone.
With no linebackers or safety in the middle of the field, Barrett gives the Buckeyes the lead.
Second overtime: First-and-10 at Michigan 15-yard line
Once Michigan forced a second overtime and then hit a field goal to go up three, it was now Ohio State’s chance to win the game or send it into a third overtime. After converting a semi-controversial fourth-and-one to extend the game and their season, they decided dial up their bread and butter with Samuel — the outside zone.
Barrett held the ball at the meshpoint, which froze the two backside players. Peppers, Ben Gedeon (No. 42) and Dymonte Thomas (No. 25) all flowed with Samuel out of control and each looking to make an individual play. Both linebackers and the safety lost their run gaps.
Peppers overran the play and slow-played tight end Marcus Baugh when he was supposed to be the force player, allowing Mike Weber to block both him and Thomas at once. This allowed a gigantic cutback lane for Samuel to exploit.
Weber and Jamarco Jones were able to block all three Wolverine defenders out of the play and Samuel ended the game.
Overall, Michigan showed throughout the game how well-coached they were defensively, as they kept one of the nation’s best offenses in-check. But as the momentum switched, Michigan’s defense began to turn into a bunch of individuals rather than playing the sound technique that they displayed throughout the majority of the game. Ohio State ended up using the Big Ten’s most decorated defender’s flaws against them in overtime, and it resulted in a Buckeye victory.