“So yes, Olave is that fast, and that play sparked a 17-0 third quarter for the Buckeyes and a 38-20 second half altogether.”
-Stephen Means, Cleveland.com
When considering the fact that Ohio State’s top-four receivers are not returning next year, it’s natural to start panicking a little, especially considering how good the passing game has looked this season. Then you remember that freshman who had two catches for two touchdowns AND a punt block Saturday against Michigan and you calm down.
Chris Olave came to Ohio State a three-star recruit from Mission Hills High School in California. Olave sat out his junior season, and, as a result, was not highly touted coming out of high school, but managed to get an offer from the Buckeyes. He has spent much of his freshman season behind a trio of career 1,000-yard receivers plus one more who is 10 yards off the mark. Three among that group are his captains. It was going to be a tough go to get time on the field as a receiver, but Olave proved he could handle it.
Before entering the game Saturday, he’d seen action as a receiver in four other matchups, including Maryland and Michigan State, recording five additional receptions for 94 yards and no touchdowns. Before he was considered for a role at wide out, however, Olave had to impress on special teams--something which became very obvious Saturday against the Wolverines with his epic play in the third quarter. Some estimates clocked Olave at 16.3 miles per hour on his rush to block the punt.
While the play was impressive in itself, it also helped to turn the tide in favor of Ohio State. The Buckeyes had dominated the first half but, at the time of the punt, were sitting on an eight-point lead late in the third. Olave’s block led to Sevyn Banks’ 33-yard touchdown, and kicked off a streak of 17 unanswered points for the Buckeyes, sealing the win over their rivals from the north.
“That’s a tough injury, and he’s done so much for this team and in his career here. It’s a tough loss for us, and we’ve got to regroup.”
-Urban Meyer, via Dan Murphy, ESPN
The Ohio State offensive line may have had trouble at some points this season. It is natural given the loss of a first-team all-American at the center spot to the first round of the NFL Draft, and the move of an all-American guard to replace him. Like the rest of the team throughout the season, however, it was hard to tell if the line was actually struggling, or if they were simply not as dominant, explosive and shiny as they were expected to be heading into the season. That evaluation became especially difficult given that three of the linemen are seniors, and Michael Jordan, a true junior, has started since he was a freshman.
But any doubt as to their collective ability vanished Saturday as the line stepped up to the occasion and owned Michigan’s defensive line for an entire afternoon. For all the rhetoric from Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich, neither they (nor anyone else on the Wolverine defense) recorded a sack against the Ohio State offensive line. That support allowed Dwayne Haskins to throw for 396-yards against a Michigan squad which had allowed under 124 passing yards per game all season. It also cleared the way for a tandem of Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins (and occasionally Haskins himself) to rush for 171 yards.
Unfortunately, that line took a huge hit in the fourth quarter with an injury to guard Demetrius Knox which has already knocked fifth-year senior out of the Big Ten Championship game against Northwestern this weekend. Urban Meyer indicated that Knox suffered an injury to his Lisfranc ligament in the middle of his foot. Knox himself earned eight starts last season following an injury to Brandon Bowen against Maryland.
Meyer has indicated that Wyatt Davis, a redshirt freshman who came to Columbus as a five-star recruit, will start in place of Knox Saturday.
“But this was supposed to be Michigan’s year. And then it wasn’t.”
-Matt Brown, SB Nation
With Michigan’s loss to Ohio State Saturday, Jim Harbaugh has become the first Wolverines coach to go 0-4 against the Buckeyes. Which begs the question: When, if ever, will Harbaugh get the proverbial monkey off his back and beat his rivals? Saturday morning at 11:59 a.m. ET, all signs would have pointed to this season, when Michigan seemingly had all the weapons in place, all the swagger of a team ready to take revenge and a coach who has been eerily quiet in his preparation for The Game. But as we know, things didn’t go to plan as Harbaugh was systematically outcoached and his team outplayed once again by his rival.
The major downside for Michigan is that, unless the Wolverines beat Ohio State, they will likely not have a shot at any of the coveted post-season games—ever. Because in general, year in and year out, the Big Ten East victor has been crowned as a result of The Game. Yes, Michigan State and Penn State get in on the action and cause disruption each year, but Michigan hasn’t finished higher than second in its division since Harbaugh arrived, and a lot of that credit goes to Ohio State. Unless the Buckeyes turn in a season a la 2004, when a then-6-4 Ohio State squad usurped No. 7 Michigan in Columbus and Michigan still managed a Big Ten co-championship, the Buckeyes will continue to spoil seasons for the Wolverines during the final week of the regular season.
In the near term, things don’t look to improve for the Wolverines (unless Urban Meyer opts to retire in the offseason). They lose much of their firepower on defense, including their emotional leader, Chase Winovich, and Shea Patterson would have a shot at the NFL Draft with a light quarterback class.
Then again, rivalries have a tendency to defy the odds.
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