After watching last week’s game against Maryland, I was feeling very confident that a) Ohio State’s offense would have no answer for the Michigan defense, and b) the Buckeye defense would have a tough time stopping the Wolverine offense.
Good thing you don’t take stock market advice from me, as the No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes proved that not only could they tear through the “vaunted” Michigan defense, but also held the Wolverine quarterback (Shea Patterson) and running back (Karan Higdon) in check.
A calamity to close out the first half gave that team up north some momentum. However, the Scarlet and Gray went on a 17-0 scoring run in the third quarter, and forced miscues in all facets of Michigan’s game.
Urban Meyer is now 7-0 against Michigan, and holds a 4-0 mark against Jim Harbaugh. With a Big Ten Championship appearance next week in Indianapolis against No. 19 Northwestern, the conference crown and College Football Playoff appearance are very much still on the table.
But, before we get to the the B1G Game next weekend, let’s take a look at what we learned from OSU’s 62-39 victory in the 115th edition of The Game.
Try again, but with feeling this time
Against Maryland, big plays were surrendered on the ground and in the air by the Buckeye defense. Honestly, I didn’t think a week would lead to that many changes, especially considering the fact that OSU found a way to win.
Whatever happened in the past week worked. I don’t know if Urban made Greg Schiano and Billy Davis walk back to Columbus from College Park, or if one of the coaches stumbled across a magical genie that granted them three wishes to fix the team’s inefficiencies, but this was a night and day effort from Ohio State.
The defense held Michigan to 10 total chunk plays (four on passing, six on rushing plays). But a few of those big plays came in garbage time, when OSU had the game all sealed up. So really, seven chunk plays happened in the first three quarters of the game — and none of them went beyond 25 yards.
Linebacker Malik Harrison, right off the bat, was a headache-and-a-half to the UM offense. On stretch runs by Higdon, he chased the RB down. And when Patterson was looking to run or throw, Harrison had an eye — and often a hand — on him. He ended the game with seven tackles, two for loss, and a sack.
However, Harrison wasn’t the defensive statistical leader. That honor belonged to Tuf Borland, another linebacker. Borland ended the game with a team-leading 10 tackles, and Jordan Fuller was behind him with eight. Fuller, however, added an interception to his stat total. Jonathon Cooper also tallied a sack, and forced Patterson to move around the pocket to keep plays alive all day.
For the game, Michigan had 401 total offensive yards. Patterson was held to 187 yards passing, while Higdon had 72 yards on 15 carries. Wide receiver Nico Collins made four grabs for 91 yards and two scores, but outside of him, the passing game couldn’t find stability. Donovan Peoples-Jones led the Wolverines with seven receptions, but could only corral 64 yards. Tight end Zach Gentry had three huge dropped passes over the course of the game, including a touchdown — thanks to a Pete Werner breakup.
Overall, this was the most complete game from the Buckeye defense, and it came at the most important game of the season.
In Dwayne We Trust
It hasn’t been a secret this season that Dwayne Haskins can throw the football. With that being said, you’d think that Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown would’ve at least tried to put together a game plan that could limit the passing game. At a minimum, stopping the run should’ve at least been on UM’s strategy chart.
They did neither — not that I’m complaining. Haskins, though, went berserk in the air again. Of the 30 passes that he threw, he connected on 19 of them for 318 yards and 5 touchdowns. On Saturday, he broke Curtis Painter’s Big Ten passing yards in a season record, as well as eclipsed Drew Brees’ Big Ten single-season passing touchdown mark.
Crossing patterns were the name of the game this week, rather than the deep ball. Michigan’s defense left the underneath portion of the field unguarded, enabling Haskins to take them to the cleaners and back. And when the Buckeye offense was picking up yardage down low, they were going after the weak link.
UM defensive back Brandon Watson could not contain, nor even keep up with, his assigned Buckeye wide out. Chris Olave slipped past him for a touchdown, and Haskins kept targeting his side of the field. Watson had a defensive holding and a pass interference call against him to boot, and one of those penalties came on a third-and-17. The fact that Haskins recognized the mismatch and took advantage of it shows his football IQ.
Haskins completed 11 chunk passes over the course of four quarters. Four of those were TDs, and five went for 25 yards or more. The No. 1 defense in the land was anything but in Columbus.
Outside of a few dropped passes, and ball throws behind his receiver, you couldn’t ask for a better day in the air from the Heisman contender. While Haskins is a long-shot to win the coveted trophy, you have to figure that this game helped his case for a trip to New York City.
Even though he broke all of those school records, a couple new conference records, and guided the Buckeyes to a Big Ten East crown, his crowning achievement may be torching the Wolverine defense, and being part of a team that launched Michigan into the ether.
Chris Olave, welcome to the theatre of dreams
The Game creates legends. It was the stage for Desmond Howard and the “Hello Heisman” moment, it was the stage for Charles Woodson and his down-the-sideline punt return. Ohio State’s Jim Tressel turned the tide in the 2000s when he guaranteed fans would be proud of their team in Ann Arbor, and Troy Smith became the de facto Heisman winner after leading the Buckeyes to a win in 2006’s “Game of the Century.” And just a couple of years ago, we got J.T. Barrett and The Spot (it was good, by the way).
This season, we may have seen another legendary Buckeye blossom. Freshman Chris Olave made a little noise over the past couple weeks at his big-game potential. But against Michigan, he busted onto the scene.
Even though he only had two catches, both of them were 24-yard TD snags. He outworked his defender, and made the big play when the Bucks’ needed him most. On special teams he made the game changing moment of the game by getting a hand on a Will Hart punt in the third quarter.
BUILD THE OLAVE STATUE RIGHT NOW pic.twitter.com/5MZ593yOI1— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) November 24, 2018
That punt absolutely changed the game, and sucked the life out of Michigan. If there was an X-factor on the field, it was Olave. No questions asked.
From here on out, the people in Columbus — as well as the followers of college football across the country— now know what No. 17 can do. Expect him to only get better with each game played, regardless of who OSU is up against. He’ll probably have around the same number snaps next week against Northwestern, but I’d bet that he makes the most out of whatever opportunities that he gets.
The B-I-N-G-O sheet of penalties
If there was a downside to Saturday’s game, it was the penalties. Five penalties were called on the offense; seven were called on the defense. In total, 150 free yards were given up to the Wolverines.
The flags covered a variety of infractions. If you had a BINGO sheet for the penalties, you probably would’ve hit BINGO up, down, diagonally, and in the four corners to boot. There were false starts on Demetrius Knox and Terry McLaurin. Tight end Luke Farrell committed a hold; Malcolm Pridgeon got a personal foul penalty for blocking after the whistle for some reason.
Defensively, Damon Arnette picked up two pass interference calls, while Shaun Wade, Jordan Fuller and Kendall Sheffield picked up a P.I. penalty apiece. If you do the math, that’s five (!) pass interference calls on the Bucks. Some of them came on very handsy fights for the ball, while a couple looked questionable at best. Jonathon Cooper got dinged on a facemask, and Fuller found a way to get a second call against him — this time for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Not to be outdone, Urban Meyer picked up a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct as well. After Haskins was hit while sliding, Meyer was irate on the sideline, looking for a targeting call. That penalty didn’t arrive, but he got one for himself.
In the end, fortunately, the flags didn’t erase the the positives for the Buckeyes; in the same way that OSU lost the turnover battle against Oregon in the National Championship Game in 2015, they still rolled to a victory. However, it’s never a good practice to commit 12 penalties in a big game.
Next weekend, it could be another week of pass interference calls on Ohio State. Entering the final week of the regular season, Northwestern had the 11th best passing efficiency squad in the Big Ten, but they also had the fourth best passing offense. In terms of efficiency, Michigan had the second best, and Purdue had third best. At this point, the holds and false starts are just a part of life for Ohio State, but they shouldn’t have another 12 penalty outing.
On the surface, this was a really good win. But deep down, something feels a little weird. Ohio State didn’t just beat Michigan, they destroyed them. While the Wolverines have shown cracks throughout the season, this was a full-blown shattering of an offense, defense and special teams.
Harbaugh has been in this rivalry as a player, and has an intrinsic understanding of what this rivalry means. Michigan controlled its own destiny for the Playoff, and for the first time in what seems like an eternity, entered this week’s game as the favorite.
With all that on the line, Michigan gave up the most points ever allowed in a non-overtime game in school history. Harbaugh looked deflated; there appeared to be no fire in him midway through the third quarter. This performance made Don Brown, a defensive guru, look incompetent. Defensive end Chase Winovich, who has been cited as the creator of UM’s “Revenge Tour” slogan, was irrelevant in this game; as was Karan Higdon, who guaranteed a win over OSU earlier in the week. This Wolverine squad went through the regular season with a mean streak. But by Saturday afternoon, they were a toothless adversary; nobody stepped up (a la OSU’s Olave), the revenge tour got cancelled one stop early; and yet another guarantee was unveiled to be nothing but hot air.
It’s almost as if Ohio State was playing this game not with purpose or anger, but for a person. That person may have been Urban Meyer.
There have been murmurs about the status of Meyer’s future in Columbus. With health related issues making their way to the headlines, the only person that knows what’s happening is Meyer.
If this was the last home game for Urban, it was the perfect ending. He gets another Big Ten Championship appearance, but more importantly, he’s now 7-0 against Michigan. From Brady Hoke to Harbaugh, nobody has been able to get the W over Meyer and the Bucks.
Personally, I don’t think this is the swan song for Meyer. 2019? Maybe. But right now, I don’t think he’ll go out. Even if the Rose Bowl becomes the postseason game this season, I don’t think that will be the final game. And the Rose Bowl is the dream for anybody he grew up in the shadow of the Big Ten. But, whether or not Meyer is actually contemplating a departure or not, you know his players love him and wanted to give him every reason to quiet his critics.