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You’re Nuts: ‘That Team Up North’ - Wolverine slayers

Who comes to mind when you think of an Ohio State player that dominated against Michigan?

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

From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about Ohio State’s rival. We are talking all things TTUN. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our ”That Team Up North” articles here.

Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.

In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.

This week’s topic: Which OSU player comes to mind when you think about great performances against TTUN?

Josh’s Take

It is That Team Up North week on LGHL, which means that I am in a foul, foul mood. Because there are few things worse than spending a week trying to come up with content relative to the *ichigan Wolverines. I mean, just thinking about their maize and blue color scheme gets me heated. Call it yellow! Or gold! Get outta here with that ‘maize’ stuff.

The week takes on extra meaning – or becomes even more of an annoyance (please don’t get mad editors, I understand) – when Ohio State is in the midst of a two-game losing streak to their bitter rival. I would much rather be on the winning end and poke fun at TTUN, but that has been difficult to do in recent years. Instead, we have been forced to give them credit. And admit that Jim Harbaugh might be a good football coach. Gross.

I really had no interest in doing that (above), so when Gene and I were coming up with a topic for You’re Nuts, I thought to myself: How can we write about TTUN without giving them any kudos or credit? And how can we celebrate the Buckeyes without coming across as a couple of bitter berries? Well, I thought, when all else fails, you can always talk about the greats. Great games, great players, whatever... As long as the content is still somehow relevant to TTUN.

With ‘greats’ serving as our motivation, Gene and I both kind of arrived at the same destination. Or ended up with a similar question in mind. That being: Which OSU player comes to mind when you think about great performances against TTUN?

And I had to think long and hard about this one. Because there are so many players to choose from, that have played well and impacted The Game/The Rivalry during my lifetime. My core memories really only go back to the mid-to-late nineties, and although the beginning of that stretch was a rough one, the last 20 or so years have been pretty damn enjoyable as an Ohio State fan. We have been fortunate to watch a lot of winning football, and to see dozens of Buckeye legends leave their mark.

The one (Buckeye Legend) who stands out to me, due to their play in The Game, only started one game against TTUN. And all together, he didn’t even play six quarters against them! But this player’s impact was felt, it was awesome, and his numbers may never be topped. Call it recency bias, but the player who comes to mind when I think about great performances against TTUN is none other than the late, great Dwayne Haskins.

Haskins was a redshirt freshman in 2017, who had appeared in seven games prior to the Buckeyes’ regular season finale in Ann Arbor. He saw extended playing time against UNLV in Week 2 but was otherwise your typical young backup at OSU. However, when J.T. Barrett went down with an injury against the Buckeyes’ bitter rival, Haskins was forced into action in one of the most high-pressure moments a college football player can face. He wasn’t just playing in a pivotal November conference game; he was playing in The Game. And his team was trailing!

The future Heisman candidate went 6-of-7 (passing) for 94 yards and added a 22-yard run, helping Ohio State complete an exciting comeback victory. It was not the flashiest or prettiest of games, but Haskins acquitted himself quite well in relief of Barrett. And he began to establish his brief but memorable legacy against TTUN, with plenty of fireworks to come the following season.

OSU’s offense, led by the record-breaking Haskins, was elite in 2018. But TTUN’s defense was pretty damn good too. The Wolverines had not surrendered more than 21 points since Week 1 against Notre Dame, and they were coming off of a four-game stretch during which they allowed just 10 PPG to Michigan State, Penn State, Rutgers, and Indiana. Unfortunately for them, the Buckeyes’ now-experienced signal caller was a man on a mission, and he pumped out one of the greatest individual performances in the history of The Rivalry.

Haskins was the ‘man on fire’ meme on Nov. 24, 2018, lighting TTUN up to the tune of 396 yards passing and 6 (!) TD. He was absolutely surgical in dicing up the Wolverines’ secondary and getting the ball to his playmakers, specifically Parris Campbell. The latter accounted for 192 yards and 2 TD, but it was still Haskins’ day. To pick apart a top-10, top-15 defense, in the manner he did... on the stage that he did... was absolutely incredible. The end result was a 62-39 thrashing of a 10-1 (at the time) *ichigan team. That’s special, folks!

62 points is the most points (single game) put up by either team in The Rivalry. Unless we’re counting the Wolverines’ 86 in 1902, but I’m not sure I trust that record-keeping. And Haskins was responsible for 36 of them. I know there are players who have a larger body of work in The Game. Or four pairs of gold pants. Or maybe they just made a single memorable play that will go down in infamy. But Simba is the guy for me. He put forth one of the greatest performances I have ever seen, period. And he did so while absolutely dismantling TTUN. It doesn’t get much better or more memorable than that.

Gene’s Take

It makes sense that Josh and I went with two of the quarterbacks who played for Ohio State during their historic eight-game win streak against Michigan from 2012-19. While my counterpart went with the man who replaced J.T. Barrett in Columbus, I want to talk about Barrett himself.

Funny enough, I’m actually not a huge Barrett fan. Overall I think he was a largely average QB who did a great job at handling the system he was in and was a great runner but a below-average passer. However, it’s hard to knock the fact that he won games in his time at Ohio State, and none moreso than the games against Michigan, wherein Barrett went a perfect 4-0 as the Buckeyes’ starting QB.

In his four starts against the Wolverines, Barrett compiled over 860 total yards with 10 total touchdowns and only one interception thrown. That’s even including the game in 2017, where he only threw for 30 yards and ran for another 67 before getting injured and being replaced by Haskins. In fact, Barrett has been injured twice during The Game, as he also famously broke his leg in the 2014 rendition before Cardale Jones and Ezekiel Elliott helped lead OSU to the promised land.

Barrett’s numbers over those four games certainly aren’t gaudy by any means, but he did what he needed to do for Ohio State to win those games and made some huge plays along the way.

In 2014, Barrett found Nick Vannett for the game’s opening touchdown. Then later, with the Buckeyes trailing 14-7, he scored back-to-back rushing TDs for the game-tying and go-ahead scores and Ohio State never trailed again, going on to win 42-28 after pulling away late.

The 2015 game was a bloodbath, with Ohio State easily dispatching Michigan, 42-13 in Ann Arbor. Statistically, this was Barrett’s best performance in The Game. The QB went 9-of-15 passing with 113 yards and a TD while adding 139 yards and three scores on the ground. Barrett scored the opening and the final TD with two more in the middle as he and Zeke (214 yards and two TDs) beat up on the Wolverines at The Big House.

2016, of course, is when Barrett’s most famous play in the rivalry occurred. With Ohio State trailing 27-24 in double overtime, Curtis Samuel’s 8-yard run on 3rd-and-9 left the Buckeyes just short of the sticks. On 4th-and-1, Urban Meyer drew up ole reliable and Barrett took the ball up the middle and fell forward just past the line of gain for a first down. The play was reviewed for what felt like an eternity for fans on both sides, but the Spot Was Good, and on the very next play Samuel’s 15-yard TD run walked it off for Ohio State.

An injury limited Barrett’s effectiveness in the 2017 matchup, and as Josh outlined it was Haskins who led the comeback for the Buckeyes this time around. However, with Ohio State trailing 14-0 in the second quarter, it was Barrett who helped even things up. A 21-yard TD run at the 9:50 mark of the period put the Buckeyes on the board and cut the Michigan lead in half, and a short while later Barrett found Marcus Baugh for a 25-yard TD as things were all tied up heading into the break. From there, Haskins took care of business.

Barrett was never going to be an NFL QB, and he certainly isn’t one of the best quarterbacks Ohio State has seen of late — especially under Ryan Day — but what he did against Michigan can never be taken away from him. To this day, Barrett remains the only Buckeye quarterback ever to go 4-0 against the Wolverines, and that is something even his most adamant detractors will appreciate forever.