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Ohio State hangs on to beat Michigan in the 114th edition of ‘The Game’, 31-20

After trailing 14-0, the Buckeyes roared back to beat the Wolverines in Ann Arbor.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

After getting down 14-0 early in the game, trouble seemed to be brewing for the Ohio State Buckeyes in Ann Arbor, Mich. However, the Buckeyes fought their way back and defeated the Wolverines, 31-20. Ohio State ended the game on a 31-6 scoring run.

For most of the second half, the Buckeyes were without their star quarterback J.T. Barrett, who went down with an apparent leg injury midway through the third quarter. With Dwayne Haskins filling in, the Buckeyes kept moving down the field, and didn’t relent in putting points on the board.

With the game 24-20 late in the fourth quarter, Michigan quarterback John O’Korn misread the Buckeye defense, and committed the lone turnover of the game with a little more than two minutes left in regulation. After that interception, Mike Weber sealed the win for Ohio State by scoring on a 25-yard rush with 1:44 left in the game.

Ohio State has now won six straight games against Michigan, and have won all three meetings since Jim Harbaugh took over in 2015. Going even further back, OSU has now won 13 of the last 14 meetings against the Team Up North.

Let’s take a look at how this game went down.

The opening kick from Blake Haubeil landed at the Michigan 7-yard line, and was returned by Ambry Thomas to the 25. Two runs, that went for a total of three yards, put the Wolverines in a third-and-7 situation. On that third down, John O’Korn showed what he was capable of doing: overthrowing wide open receivers. Three-and-out, and the Buckeyes got the ball following a punt.

K.J. Hill picked up 10 yards on the punt return, and set the Bucks up at their own 41. Like Michigan, Ohio State went three plays before punting. (Barrett was stuffed for a loss of two on first down; Dobbins then picked up two on second down; and Barrett completed a pass to Parris Campbell over the middle for six.

Drue Chrisman then came in and made his first appearance to punt the ball away for OSU. His 43-yard punt was returned by Donovan Peoples-Jones for 14, bringing the ball to the UM 23.

Drive #2 started off a little better for the Wolverines. On the first play, Chris Evans rushed the ball nine yards up the sideline. Higdon was stopped on second-and-1, but Khalid Hill picked up just enough on third down to get the first first-down of the game. O’Korn then telegraphed another incompletion—this time to the sideline.

The sluggishness of the Wolverines was about to be shaken off, as Evans gashed the Buckeye defense for 24 yards. A few plays later, O’Korn finally found his man and connected on a pass to Zach Gentry for 27. Now on the OSU 15, UM stalled on two plays and were faced with a third-and-11. Inspired by hitting Gentry a handful of plays earlier, O’Korn completed a screen pass to Evans, who took off down the sideline, breaking tackles and spinning around the Buckeye defense to the OSU 2. A false start set the Wolverines back five yards, but they punched the ball into the endzone—with the help of a collective team push.

Thirteen plays to march 77 yards, and just like that, Michigan led 7-0 with 6:02 left in the first quarter.

Ohio State’s offense, again, struggled to get anything productive going. Campbell lost five yards on an end around, and Barrett was sacked by Rashan Gary for a loss of three. Facing third-and-18, Barrett zipped a pass to Binjimen Victor over the middle for about 16 yards, but Victor bobbled the ball and was popped by a defender. The pass fell incomplete and the Buckeyes punted the ball away.

Starting on their own 38, Evans opened up the next Michigan drive with two rushes for a combined six yards. O’Korn would get a short completion to Gentry for five to get a fresh set of downs. After that, however, the fighting Harbaughs’ drive would stall out, forcing them to punt it away.

The nightmare start continued for Barrett and the offense, as J.T. lossed a yard on one play, and was sacked on another. A shining spot was Barrett breaking away from the defense, and firing the ball to an open Terry McLaurin. However, the ball was underthrown, and as McLaurin came back to get the ball, a Michigan defender caught back up with the wide out—forcing him to drop the ball. OSU’s drive ended on their own 7-yard line.

If you thought things couldn’t get any worse, they were about to get a lot worse. Chrisman punted the ball away from his own end zone for 46 yards, but Peoples-Jones returned it down the sideline, breaking tackles at every imaginable spot; just as it seemed he might be brought down around the OSU 30, he darted back toward the middle of the field, getting all the way down to the OSU 11. An Ohio State holding call on the return tacked on five more yards to the UM return.

With the penalty happening on the last play of the quarter, Michigan got one untimed down from the six. They picked up three yards on a rush from Higdon.

At the end of the first quarter, Ohio State trailed Michigan 7-0.

One play into the second quarter, the Buckeye deficit was about to be 14 points. O’Korn found Gentry wide open in the endzone for a 3-yard TD pass.

It was now or never time for the Buckeyes: they needed points. And points they got. Starting on their own 25 after a touchback, the offense dialed up five straight rushes— utilizing the speed of Barrett and Dobbins. OSU kept chipping away at yards, eventually getting to the 16 on third down. A delay of game penalty forced the Bucks into a third-and-9, but it wasn’t a problem, as Barrett escaped the pocket and waltzed up the sideline for 21 yards and the Buckeyes’ first score of the game.

It took 11 plays to march 75 yards, but Ohio State finally put points on the board.

Now with 9:50 left in the half, Michigan got the ball back. Fortunately for the Scarlet and Gray, the Wolverines didn’t do much; they punted the ball after collecting 10 yards on four plays.

Getting the ball back on their own 49 with 6:50, OSU was on a mission to equalize the game. On the first play of the drive, Weber picked up two yards. It wasn’t much, but the next two plays were about to pay dividends. Barrett took off for a 25-yard carry to the UM 26, and on the third play of the drive, Barrett connected on a wide open Marcus Baugh in the middle of the field, scoring a TD.

14-14 was the score with 5:54 left in the half.

Stagnate offenses and stout defenses meshed together for the remainder of the quarter, as Michigan went on a three-and-out, while Barrett mishandled a snap—nearly causing a turnover deep in Ohio State territory.

By halftime, the score remained 14-14.

Passing yards came at a premium, as Barrett was 3-of-7 for 30 yards, and O’Korn was 9-of-16 for 63 yards. Both QBs connected on a TD, too.

On the ground, the Buckeye quarterback led all rushers with 64 yards and a score on 11 carries; Evans led the Wolverines in the rushing category with 48 yards on seven carries.

When the first quarter ended, OSU had -6 (!) offensive yards. By halftime, they were able to work their way up to 117 yards of production.

To start the third quarter, the Michigan defense came out aggressive, and halted the Buckeyes from getting a first down on the opening drive. Making matters worse, Jeffrey Okudah grazed Peoples-Jones, who called for a fair catch, on the punt. That kick-catch interference call tacked on 15 yards, allowing UM to start their first drive of the half on the 32.

Hill and O’Korn rushed the ball on the first three plays. Somehow, the trifecta of rushes found a way to collect 10 yards of real estate, giving Michigan a first down. Higdon rushed for a measly two yards directly after the first down, and O’Korn then threw back-to-back incompletions.

Brad Robbins punted the ball away to K.J. Hill, who fair caught it at the OSU 14. The Buckeyes would get the ball back with 10:54 left in the third frame.

Mike Weber got a carry for five yards—only his third rush of the game—and gave the Buckeyes a manageable second down. However, Barrett threw a pass to Baugh, who was deep into coverage, and took a sack on third down. Chrisman barely got the punt off on fourth down, as the ball used all of its might to get to midfield.

With 9:43 left in the quarter, O’Korn and co. got the ball on their own 49. Within one play, the Wolverines got down to the OSU 8, courtesy of a 43-yard screen pass to Kekoa Crawford. A Chris Worley defensive holding call gave the Maize and Blue some life, following two plays that were stopped by the Buckeye defense. It was only a matter of time before Michigan got their lead back.

Two plays later, Higdon pounded the ball in for a score. The silver lining to the drive, though, was that Denzel Ward blocked the extra point.

Michigan led 20-14 with 7:07 left in the third quarter.

Six points is a manageable deficit, but the Buckeyes would have to overcome it without their quarterback J.T. Barrett. On the second play of the series, Barrett took off for a 10-yard rush. After absorbing a tackle, Barrett struggled to get up, and when he did, he fell back to the ground. Barrett was taken to the locker room, and according to Fox Sports reporter Jenny Taft, Barrett has been dealing with a meniscus issue in his leg—needing it to be popped back into place.

A couple of plays later, the injury bug struck again to OSU. This time, offensive lineman Jamarco Jones got his leg rolled, and had to be helped off of the field.

Dwayne Haskins, who entered at QB for Barrett, came in and got the ball moving. On third-and-13 from the OSU 47, he dialed up the perfect throw to Austin Mack for 27 yards. Mack had just enough time to haul in the catch before being sandwiched by two defenders. Haskins wasn’t done making plays, as two plays after that catch, he used his wheels to scamper down the sideline for 22 yards down to the UM 1. Dobbins went up the middle on the next play, and after the extra point, the Buckeyes had their first lead of the game, 21-20.

Unlike the last drive, this one for Michigan wasn’t going to get points—even though they were spotted some yards after Haubeil hit the kickoff out of bounds. O’Korn was able to hit Grant Perry on a third-and-9 for just enough for a first down. After that, the home team wasn’t able to do much, in fact, they about turned the ball over after Buckeye defensive lineman Sam Hubbard poked the ball out of O’Korn’s hand.

The fumble put Michigan in a third-and-26, and brought us to the end of the third quarter.

Michigan wasn’t able to convert on their third-and-forever play, and ended up punting the ball down to the OSU 26. Weber got five straight rushes and brought the Buckeyes to their own 43. On a third-and-4, Haskins threw a dime to Hill across the middle, who had just enough separation from his defender. The throw was enough for the first down, but since Hill caught the ball in stride, he took off down the field—completing the play for a 29-yard gain. Knocking on the door of the UM red zone, the Buckeyes couldn’t move the ball any further, settling for a Sean Nuernberger 44-yard field goal.

10:21 remained in regulation as Ohio State held on to a 24-20 lead.

With 2:47 left to play, Nuernberger just missed a 43-yard field goal attempt, giving the Wolverines one last chance to claw back a win the game. The last chance wasn’t much, as O’Korn made, arguably, the worst throw of the football season by chucking the ball up to nobody in particular. Defensive back Jordan Fuller was there, though, and caught the pass. O’Korn’s pick was the only turnover committed by either side.

The icing on the cake came with 1:44 left, as Mike Weber broke free and ran down the sideline for a 25-yard touchdown. Weber’s lone TD of the afternoon put OSU up 31-20—which ended up being the final score.

Ohio State’s next game will be against the Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game next Saturday in Indianapolis. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:17 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on Fox.