For the second year in a row, Michigan brought misery to the Ohio State Buckeyes.
As hard as it is for the Buckeyes to swallow, Saturday’s 45-23 loss to their arch-rivals was more painful than last year’s loss.
In 2021, the Wolverines had a home game, snowy weather that favored them, and a Buckeye team weakened by illness. That 42-27 loss could be written off as a runaway, not necessarily a signal that the rivalry had returned to Michigan.
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But in ideal weather, losing to the underdogs Wolverines at Ohio Stadium, where Ohio State hadn’t lost to the Wolverines since 2000? Armageddon has arrived.
The Buckeyes’ unbeaten season is over, and they’ll see Michigan (12-0) play for its second straight Big Ten title, though next weekend’s game is likely more than Ohio State can stomach. The Buckeyes (11-1) may still have a shot at qualifying for the College Football Playoffs, but barring a chance at a rematch against the Wolverines feels hollow for now.
“It wasn’t the result we had in mind,” said Ohio State coach Ryan Day. “I thought we had a really good (week) of preparation. I thought we were working towards playing really well in this game. We played really well in the first half. I felt really good in the second half , and we just didn’t play well enough in the second half.”
Michigan, No. 3 in the CFP rankings, won with a formula few expected. The Wolverines like to bludgeon opponents to the ground, which they did last year when they rushed for 297 yards in Ann Arbor. Star running back Blake Corum started last week after suffering a knee injury but left the team after just two carries. Ohio State, ranked 2nd, kept Michigan’s running game in check in the first half before collapsing in the fourth quarter.
Donovan Edwards delivered the knockout punch with a 75-yard touchdown run for Michigan’s final score and added an 85-yarder to add another offense.
Previously, it was the Wolverines’ ability to exploit OSU’s pass coverage problems for three long scores that allowed the Wolverines to stay tuned and take the lead when it looked like the Buckeyes were gaining the upper hand.
“They tried to take down our identity as football players,” Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy said. “They were trying to stop the run, so they were making passes deep.”
Cornelius Johnson had first-half touchdowns of 69 and 75 yards ahead of McCarthy. Those plays kept Ohio State from having a bigger lead than the 20-17 the Buckeyes had at halftime.
Michigan finally took the lead in another big game to score on their first possession of the second half. The Wolverines headed to OSU 45 when tight end Colston Loveland slipped past safety Lathan Ransom with a 45-yard score to take a 24-20 lead.
Michigan then rushed for 80 yards in 15 games to take a 31-20 lead early in the fourth quarter. Safety Ronnie Hickman was called out for pass interference on a third-down incompletion in the end zone to field a McCarthy 3-yard keeper for the score.
The Ohio State criminal offense failed to respond. The Buckeyes managed just one field goal in the second half when CJ Stroud’s Heisman Trophy bid took a hit. He completed 31 of 48 passes for 349 yards with two interceptions that ended the Buckeyes’ final two drives.
“I think if you look at the first half physically, we played very well up front, especially on defense,” Day said. “Then in the second half it was more the same: too many big games. Watch the game, there were way too many big games.”
The game could not have started better for the state of Ohio.
The Buckeyes took the opening kickoff and drove 81 yards for a touchdown.
But Ohio State only found the end zone once more. A fourth incompletion error at the Michigan 34 ended one drive, and others quickly fizzled out.
The Buckeyes tried a deep pass late in the first half and it paid off. Marvin Harrison Jr., who dropped his first pass of the season early in the half, got behind Michigan’s Gemon Green for a 42-yard touchdown to give Ohio State a 20-17 lead.
Then came the disastrous second half that will begin another long year of regret and soul searching in Columbus.
“Obviously I have to go and see where all the glitches were,” Day said. “But it wasn’t just in one area. Missed a tackle in the first game and then we got hit with a double in the second game. And then there were some missed fits in the running game.”