On the excitement scale, the 106th edition of The Game probably left a little bit to be desired. The Buckeyes jumped out to a quick lead, were ahead 14-3 at the half and then traded second half touchdowns with the Wolverines on their way to a 21-10 victory. But on the satisfaction scale, Tressel's 8th win in nine tries against Michigan delivered that same euphoric rush fans of the program are becoming all too familiar with this decade.
In front of very scarlet Big House, the defense, as they have so often this season, got things rolling first. After a Jon Thoma punt pinned the Wolverines on their own seven for their first drive of the game, the Wolverines quickly ran into a 3rd and 8. Dropping back to pass, freshman quarterback Tate Forcier fumbled the ball while eluding the rush and it was promptly pounced on by Cam Heyward to put the Buckeyes up 7-0.
Thanks to a 36 yard Darryl Stonum return on the ensuing kickoff, Michigan was able to flip the field and after the teams traded three-and-outs, took over on their own 40. After some nice throws by Forcier and a couple of decent runs from change of pace quarterback Denard Robinson, the Wolverines quickly found themselves with a 1st and 10 at the OSU 12. The Ohio State defense stiffened and forced a 24 yard field goal attempt -- which Jason Olesnavage promptly missed, preserving the 7-0 Buckeye lead.
The two teams would trade punts a couple more times before Michigan took over at their own 22 with 11:21 remaining in the second quarter. Again, Forcier strung some nice passes together, including completions of 11 and 12 yards to Greg Mathews and 12 and 22 yards to Roy Roundtree before stalling at the Ohio State 28. This time, Olesnavage was good, connecting for a 46 yard field goal to cut the lead to 7-3.
This only served to wake up the Buckeye offense. On the next series, Brandon Saine ripped off a 14 yard run on first down. Terrelle Pryor followed with a scramble for 9 yards and after two more Saine carries, ripped off a 25 yard run off left tackle to move the ball to the Michigan 29. On the next play, Ohio State executed the read counter they had shown against the Illini and the play ended with the same result as Saine took the rock untouched to the endzone to put OSU up 14-3. Six plays, 80 yards and all on the ground.
Michigan tried to answer and lined up Robinson at wide receiver on their very next play. Being the burner he is, he ran a deep out along the right sideline and Forcier attempted to hit him in stride, but the pass was intercepted by Kurt Coleman and all was well in Buckeyeland. Tressel tried to take advantage of the turnover and dialed up a bomb to Posey on the ensuing play, but Pryor overthrew him. After two more incompletions, the Buckeyes were forced to punt and were unable to capitalize on the turnover. The teams would trade punts a few more times before heading to the locker room.
After the OSU defense forced a three-and-out to start the second half, Pryor and the offense took over at their own 40 intent on putting the game away. Facing a 3rd and 4, Pryor attempted to thread a tight pass into DeVier Posey on a slant, but the ball was deflected and linebacker Jonas Mouton brought it down for Michigan. Taking over at the Ohio State 49, Michigan quickly moved the ball down to the Ohio State 18 before setting up a 3rd and 5. Forcier took the snap in the shotgun, felt pressure, rolled to his left and then fired a pass back to a wide open Vincent Smith on the right side. After juking Chimdi Chekwa at the four, Smith scampered into the endzone to cut the lead to 14-10. All of a sudden, momentum had swung back in Michigan's favor and a lifeless crowd had reason to get back into the game.
What came next was about as decisive of an answer as you're going to get. Taking over at their own 11, the OSU offensive line began clearing out holes to the point where it looked as if it were the first team offense taking on the scout team. Pryor for 13. Saine for 17. Boom Herron for 13. Pryor again for 12. Herron again for 23. 10 straight runs and the team was facing a 3rd and goal from the Michigan 12. While Tressel was on the sideline frantically trying to get a timeout, Pryor took the snap and stared down a jailbreak blitz before buying time and perfectly floating a screen to Herron that led to him going untouched to put Ohio State up 21-10.
That would be all the points either team would muster, but Little Man Tate and the Wolverines put a bit of a scare into the Buckeyes by twice moving the ball deep before intercptions derailed the drives. On the first one, with about 12 minutes left in the game, Forcier tried to go over top from the OSU 35, but safety Kurt Coleman was able to come down with a sick one-handed interception that was ruled an incomplete pass until the review crew took a look at it. On their next possession, Forcier moved the Wolverines into a 2nd and 5 situation from the OSU six, but his cross-field throwing heroics came to an end when Devon Torrence intercepted the ball in the endzone and raced it out to the 19 before being tackled.
Forcier would be in for one more series, but again, an interception ended things for the Wolverines. Thaddeus Gibson was the beneficiary of this one, Tate's 3rd of the quarter and 4th of the day and that was all we saw of him as Robinson came out for Michigan's final, comedy-filled drive (as in getting whistled for five guys in the backfield on 4th and 21 to end things).
All that was left was for Pryor to take a knee and this win, the 8th over Michigan this decade, became another chapter in the Tressel's ongoing crusade to help us overcome the struggles of the Cooper years.
- The rushing game started slow (as in 0 first quarter yards slow), but found their way, topping 200 yards on the ground for the 8th time this season -- the most in the Tressel era. This is nothing short of amazing when you consider the trouble the team had running the ball in the first three games of the season.
- Pryor was an efficient 9/17 for 67 through the air and added 74 more yards on 19 rushes. The screen to Boom was a thing of beauty and the interception was just a football play. Some of those you get and some you don't. Overall, he's done an awesome job of taking care of the ball since Purdue Harbor. He's missed some open bombs the last few weeks that could have broken games open, but I suppose if you're going to miss those, miss them deep so there's no chance of a turnover.
- One thing that really impresses me about Saine is his ability to move the pile. He's known as a burner, but his inside running has been really impressive this season. Equally impressive is Bryant Browning's vigor for blocking downfield and moving the pile. He's taken a lot of heat around these parts, but I love his enthusiasm.
- Heyward, Homan, Rolle, Gibson, Coleman. The names we've heard on defense most often this season showed up against the Wolverines. Coleman, of course, had the two huge interceptions
- Michigan did a good job of neutralizing the Buckeye rush with the hurry-up offense. For the most part, I thought their offensive play selection was solid and effective. They were able to move the ball most of the afternoon, but couldn't convert when it counted. Saying that, Forcier is going to be a thorn in our side for the next few years. He's undersized, but clearly has a football head on his shoulders.
- The kick coverage sputtered at times again, most notably Stonum's 36 yard return to help setup the Wolverines' first points, but Sabino killed someone out there, I think.
- Michigan fans showed some class by batting around an inflatable penis with "TRESSEL" and "PRYOR" written on it. And I thought we were the hicks.
- The new uniforms looked okay. The red stripes in the pants kind of gave off a pink vibe on television, but OSU got the "W" and the world did not end.
- Thank you, eligibility, for running out on Brandon Graham. Dude is a beast and one of the few Wolverines I'd love to have on our side.
- Winning the Big Ten is always nice. But winning it outright is that much sweeter. The Buckeyes now have three outright crowns as part of their five year run (2006, 2007 and 2009).