Sun & Bluesday: The Big One

By Johnny Ginter on December 3, 2013 at 11:15a
FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT oh no wait not literally guys

At some point I am going to have to learn that rivalry games are called that for a reason. No amount of critical analysis or film deconstruction or objective observation can really prepare anyone for what might happen in Ohio State/Michigan.

I had watched almost every Michigan game this season from start to finish, and nothing, NOTHING, prepared me for what happened last Saturday. A team that had no offensive identity, a lackluster defense in many areas, and a seemingly clueless head coach and offensive coordinator somehow turned in an incredible gameplan and execution of said gameplan. The Wolverines nearly turned the entire Ohio State season on its head, and it was only by going way off the script that they were able to do that.

This is how Ohio State/Michigan should be. I obviously wouldn't be writing this if it had turned out badly for the Buckeyes, but this might've been the best game between the two teams in the last 25 plus years, and yes that includes 2006. That year I never had any doubt that Ohio State was eventually going to pull off the victory. That was not the case a few days ago.

Once again, Ace from MGoBlog joins me to help break this thing down to the distilled insanity that once more was The Game.

Quarter 1

The obvious story of this quarter was Michigan taking the lead twice on frankly dominant looking touchdown drives. Jeremy Gallon got 84 of his receiving yards on one play; he might've been run down by Bradley Roby but the feeling of dread creeping over me felt real. On the other hand, it was becoming readily apparent that the Ohio State rushing game was never going to be stopped, which would end up being the difference kind of. 14-14.

Johnny: Is there any explanation whatsoever for the complete 180 that occurred in terms of both scheme in execution for the Michigan offense in this thing? Because I wrote like 4 thousandish words about the Michigan game last week and I more or less immediately looked like a dumbass.

Ace: Johnny, you certainly weren't alone there—and I'll put forth that nobody felt more like dumbasses than the legions of Michigan ticket-holders who sold their seat at The Game on Stubhub, but that's neither here nor there. I didn't see that coming, either.

As for an explanation, it appeared that Al Borges saved all of his constraint plays for one game, and that game happened to be the last one of the season, so Michigan's offense limped along like a wounded deer for months before becoming a SECONDARY-TORCHING DRAGON for, well, one game. This doesn't seem like a good season-long strategy, but I'm no offensive coordinator, as many people have told me over the last several weeks.

Quarter 2

FIIGGHHTTT! People might forget that in the rigmarole that was going on that Michigan had just scored a TD to put them up seven. For me, this was the low point of the game, especially as Braxton tossed an interception and Ohio State punted on their next possession. But a brilliant two minute drill by the Buckeyes tied the game near the end of the half, and I spent halftime staring into space and frowning. 21-21.

My immediate postgame reactionBE THANKFUL

Johnny: So, the fight. What was your take on how it played out, and was that not one of the best double birds you've ever seen in your lifetime?

Ace: I just finished an hour on Twitter of defending the decision not to suspend Marcus Hall from a legion of idiots who watch FOOTBALL and are somehow deeply offended by the raising of two fingers, so you can guess my take on this: It was great. I haven't gone back and watched the fight like I'm looking at the Zapruder film, so this was just my initial impression—the refs appeared to catch the players who threw punches (or helmets) and did what they had to do, and otherwise they rightfully allowed a rivalry-fueled scrum to play itself out and move on. And yes, the double birds were magnificent. Mr. Hall, you're on my list of Buckeyes I Can Tolerate, and it isn't exactly the longest list out there.

Quarter 3

I thought this was game over. Michigan got absolutely nothing done in the third quarter, Ohio State put up two touchdowns, and I assumed that Michigan was going to fold like a house of cheap cards. I assumed incorrectly. 35-21 Buckeyes.

Johnny: I would be remiss if I didn't ask about your impression of how Devin played. That dude turned in one of the toughest performances I've ever seen from a QB, and I think he kind of deserves all the props in the world for tearing apart a horrible secondary in just a sort of incredible way. (I'm conflicted about this praise you see)

Ace: It wasn't just a tough performance, it was flat-out one of the best performances I've seen a quarterback have in this rivalry from either side, win or lose—and that's before taking into account the fact that his ribs have been pounded into a fine dust for the last month and he showed up to the postgame presser in a walking boot. As it turns out, when Gardner is given time to throw he's actually pretty good at it—not flawless, but definitely good—and even when he's banged up and barely able to move around he somehow finds a way to make his legs a real factor. We saw this in multiple games last year and a few this season—especially Notre Dame and Indiana, though the Hoosier defense probably shouldn't count—and it's been a major reason why there's been so much discontent directed at Borges as opposed to Gardner; when the right plays are being dialed up, Gardner looks like one of the best quarterbacks in college football, period. He can elude one stray pass-rusher and still make plays, sometimes even two; it's when the cavalry arrives that things go wrong.

I hope that fans from both sides remember this as one of the great performances we've seen in this rivalry; if it's Shane Morris in there, we're talking about how this game played out exactly to expectations, and that's not a knock on Morris—he is, after all, a true freshman at the most difficult position to play as a true freshman.

Quarter 4

Michigan scored touchdowns on all three drives in the 4th quarter. ALL OF THEM. I dunno. As an Ohio State fan watching this, the phrase "tearing your hair out" became literal as Gallon and Funchess and Dileo tore up the Ohio State secondary repeatedly. The Buckeyes added a touchdown to keep pace, but man. Thank you Tyvis Powell. 42-41 Ohio State. Thank you God.

Johnny: He has to go for two, right? El Guapo was about to turn into Manimal and literally eat every single defensive player for Michigan alive, OT was almost an assured loss. Can't imagine Hoke kicking there.

Ace: Absolutely. For one, OSU's offense is much better-suited to churning out touchdowns on short fields than Michigan's, and it was clear at the end of the game that the defense was completely worn out. Then there's the fact that Brendan Gibbons was injured during practice last week and couldn't play, so kicking meant hoping nothing goes wrong with the backup kicker out there. Also, it meant Michigan could win or lose the game on their terms, and just being in that position was so far ahead of anyone's reasonable expectation that it would've felt downright cowardly not to try—what did they have to lose except a game everyone expected them to lose?

I loved the call to go for it, and while many have questioned the playcall, Borges has certainly done worse—at least he didn't call a play-action waggle or that quarterback sweep he calls far too often in just that type of situation. They tried a rub route, OSU sniffed it out, and it didn't work. So it goes.


Johnny: During the last, oh, ten minutes of this game, I sat on my couch holding my head in my hands and tearing at my hair, occasionally punctuating successful Michigan third down conversions with a guttural groan.

That was not the emotional response that I expected to have. I had been hoping that by the third quarter I could shift my focus to making increasingly elaborate puns on Twitter about Carlos Hyde, but instead I was watching the Ohio State defense choose the absolute worst time to turn in their most pathetic performance of the season while the Michigan offense was choosing the best time to turn in their most inspired.

Like all really awesome games, it was incredibly painful and awful to watch until the very last second, whereupon it became fun as hell. Hoke and Borges and especially Devin Gardner pulled one hell of a rabbit out of their hats on Saturday, and yeah, who knows why they didn't try some of that stuff in the previous weeks, but they did on Saturday and gave Ohio State all they could handle.

I respect that. It was wild, stupid, and ultimately maybe the best Ohio State/Michigan game in a very, very long time. We've got a week to fret about Ohio State looking like twice baked ass defensively, but for now I just want to bask in the glow of something pretty dang cool.

Ace, maybe you don't believe in moral victories, but for you guys I think this is about as close as they come.

Ace: I sat in the press box with my insides tied in knots, hoping that nobody noticed how often I needed to dab the sweat off my forehead, and it was wonderful. I went to the Big House expecting a massacre and witnessed a classic; anybody who discounts how enjoyable that was because Michigan came up one point short should reevaluate why they watch sports.

Am I happy that Michigan lost? No. Am I happy that the program is in such a state that we're taking solace in just being competitive in The Game? No. Am I happy that I got to witness that game? Abso-[double-bird]-lutely.

On that note, I'd like to thank you, Johnny, for allowing me this forum to analyze or attempt to explain or just plain vent about this completely bizarre Michigan team, and also to those of you who've read along—I've really enjoyed interacting with the good people here and hope I get to do so even more in the future. A hearty "Go Blue!" to you all! (Sorry, I had to.)

And obviously a huge thanks to Ace for doing this all season with us. It was a big help and a lot of fun, and hopefully we'll see him again once the bowl season rolls around.



zbd's picture

I agree with most everything you wrote. Thanks for not being just a cheerleader like a lot of people.

gwalther's picture

No troll comments from you in this thread ZBD? You've been on quite a roll the past week. Your comment history is LOL fantastic, as is your negative 36 helmet stickers. 
Keep trolling, good buddy.

Class of 2008

Baroclinicity's picture

Really look forward to seeing this again next year. 

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

NoVA Buckeye's picture

As for an explanation, it appeared that Al Borges saved all of his constraint plays for one game, and that game happened to be the last one of the season, so Michigan's offense limped along like a wounded deer for months before becoming a SECONDARY-TORCHING DRAGON for, well, one game. This doesn't seem like a good season-long strategy, but I'm no offensive coordinator, as many people have told me over the last several weeks.

The offseason begins when your season ends. Even then there are no days off.

yrro's picture

I swear, it was as if they played the entire season just to set up one of those screen passes in the OSU game.

RunEddieRun1983's picture

Couldn't it have had more to do with our secondary just not being that good?  And our secondary playing down to our opposition?  I hate to be glass half empty, but it's not like it's the first time our DB's have been worked over like a hooker in the back of a VW.

I don't always downvote, but I do always downvote a Michigan fan trolling the Buckeye boards.

Shaun OSU's picture

It's probably some of both. Our pass defense has been pretty poor this year, but they weren't killing us on deep balls, they were picking apart the underneath coverage and then killing us with screens.
I've watched almost every game Michigan played this year and read their offensive breakdowns on mgoblog. I can assure you that Borges called more screens and misdirections in the first half of the OSU game than the rest of their games combined (possibly excepting the ND game).
They used the aggressiveness of our front 7 against us and they attacked our weakness of underneath zone coverage. Combine that with a defense that missed numerous tackles in the backfield and Funchess being a big matchup nightmare, and you get 41 points.

RunEddieRun1983's picture

The thing that kills me, and puts me on the side of the "fire fickell" people is that, this whole season that has been the case, the secondary gets burnt underneath and no adjustments are made game to game.  However, they will make adjustments at halftime to combat what the opposing offense is doing, but then the next game for the first half it's the same exact story.  It drives me CRAZY!

I don't always downvote, but I do always downvote a Michigan fan trolling the Buckeye boards.

niblick's picture

I still say there's no way Ace can actually be affiliated in any way with Michigan, professionally or personally.  WAAAAAAAAAAAAY too much common sense and just too straight forward, too much logic.  If he isn't here next year contributing, I'm gonna throw a hissy fit like a 4 yr old.  I'd also love to follow his work next year, where ever he may be writing.

GoBlue91's picture

The respect goes both ways - on this week's MGoPodcast, Ace said that he spent last week commenting on ElevenWarriors because it was the only place to talk rationally about Michigan football.   (He and Brian blame themselves, well, Brian, for breaking the up/downvoting system and for not banning enough people this year.)
Personally, I come here because when there's nothing left to read on MGoBlog, there's often great stuff - I actually started coming for Ginter's off-season reviews of the B1G state flowers, mottoes, etc., but there are some really solid commenters too.   I don't want to weaking the hate too much, but I do appreciate the thoughtful responses you guys have given over the season to people like me and M-Man. 
I'd love to see MGoBlog have Johnny over for a weekly OSU wrap-up too.  

Jack Fu's picture

I heard that MGo podcast as well. I read all of the content over there, but I never really wade into the comments or forums. I was shocked to hear that it had gotten that unreasonable. I did see some of the personal insults Brian was getting on twitter, and if large swaths of their fanbase are behaving like that... yeesh. (Sidenote: holy shit, is the theme music for the MGoPodcast awesome. I could listen to that all day.)
I also would like to extend a hearty "thank you" to Ace for his contributions here. This was an enjoyable series and I hope it continues.

Larryp713's picture

That is great to read, GB91.  I think having Johnny and Ace doing both of these series on each other's blogs would be awesome. I know Ace and Johnny have elevated the conversation on 11W, which is already very good. Thanks for sharing, and great game.



Hello_Heisman's picture

Yeah, I have to say that I've been a very big fan of this weekly segment and it would be great to get some 11W commentary on MGoBlog.  Ace produces some really solid, quality work for MGoBlog on a regular basis, so I'm glad you guys got to experience it this year on this site.  The fact that The Game ended up being such an unexpected classic made for a really good final column.  Hopefully, Michigan can step its game up in future years so that there's a lot more intriguing stuff to talk about on the Maize and Blue front during the other 11 weeks of the season. 

60% of the time it works.....every time

BeijingBucks's picture

I still hate your affiliation. the colors. the mascot. and the freshman-hunting gang of kick-off thugs.
but the way Ace gave props to the two gun salute... I had to pause to add a 'respectfully' hate in there.
I'm so glad UM brought the rivalry back. (almost too far back) and now am eagerly looking forward to the next year's tilt.  Hate hate hate!



None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

MichiganBuckeye222's picture

Thanks ace for popping over here.  While I have lost my posting privileges at mgoblog, I respect what you do, even if you don't root for the good guys.

Representing the Buckeyes in the Mitten State since 1987.


jedkat's picture

Ace, and I mean this with all the sincerity a buckeye fan can to a wolverine: I sa-{double bird}-lute you!

"Can we please stop the message board fighting? I really can't stand the message board fighting..."

"No. You're an idiot, and your posts are terrible."

Earle's picture

Can't we just rename that particular gesture the "Marcus Hall"?

Your Noble Savage is a Straw Yeti.

gumtape's picture

Stone Cold Steve Austin made it famous.

High and tight boo boo

Jabba the Hoke's picture

No Stone Cold's are more straight up in the air. Hall was clearly trying to make the H in O-H-I-O.

Earle's picture

Austin might have made it famous, but Hall made it Buckeye.

Your Noble Savage is a Straw Yeti.

RedStorm45's picture

Great ending to this series...unless of course Ace comes back for the BWW Bowl breakdown.

WC Buckeye's picture

Thanks for the great breakdowns, good natured give-and-take, and your confounding (but much appreciated) class, Ace. We're going to enjoy them all for a long time, I hope.

The only thing that's new in the world is the history that we have forgotten.

Haybucks's picture

What torques my birds is that M1ch!g@n didn't show any of this emotion or concentration all year. Screw you Blue for sandbagging the season just to win the Big One!

If the world comes to an end, I want to be in Cincinnati. Everything comes there ten years later. -  Mark Twain


00Buck's picture

How so true your statement is......... SANDBAGGING in college football should be classified a class 1 felony  and I for one think the hokey-pokey kid should serve a minimum of 30 days and be granted shock probation, what that team has endured this year was incredible.... and I for one want nothing but the best for the Team Up North for I always root BIG, and a balanced "The Game"  nuff said    GO BUCKS..SPANK SPARTY

Upon this Rock, I build my house....and Let no man put asunder

whobdis's picture

I'm just glad they didn't have Gardner roll out on the 2pt try..and throw back to the other side of the field. The way our D was biting on everything I'm sure someone would have been wide open. That being said..the way our offense was rolling I still think we would have got into field goal territory if they made it. That would have made it even more tough on the old heart.


During the last, oh, ten minutes of this game, I sat on my couch holding my head in my hands and tearing at my hair, occasionally punctuating successful Michigan third down conversions with a guttural groan.

I did almost this exact same thing (I'm bald so I was trying to rip my hoodie off the top of my head instead) when watching this game at my old man's house. He thought I was going to have a seizure.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

nm_buck's picture

I didn't have much hair left after the first eleven.  Twelve qualified me for Yule Brenner status.

"The future is bright at Ohio State."  - Urban Meyer 1/1/15

Doc's picture

Ace, thanks for taking this season in stride and giving us a great article to read every week.  I hope to see you do the same thing next season.  Go Bucks!  Right back at ya.

I'm hiding baby and I'm dreaming
I'm riding down your moonlight mile

IBleedSandG's picture

Ace is definitely a class act. I thoroughly enjoyed this column every week. Thanks Johnny and Ace!


deskpoet's picture

Great stuff. Thanks.
And, yes, Gardener was amazing that day. When people play like that--with the pain obvious, but the will untamed--they usually win. People have been bleeding all over about how bad the OSU defense is--and they certainly weren't good, but when someone plays like the way Gardener did, you just have to tip your hat and congratulate them. 
Only in this case, OSU got to keep the win.

southernstatesbuckeye's picture

Excellent year of reviews, Ace! 
Things like this type of cooperation between fan bases are what makes the Ohio State-M*chigan rivalry absolutely the best rivalry in all of sportsdom.

Not a Cereal Downvoter.  But I will downvote the Serial Trolls who lurk under our bridge.

MN Buckeye's picture

Thank you both, Ace and Johnny. These columns have been a highlight this season, and you guys have done a great job managing perspective with a bit of homerism on the side. The best thing to me was how you respectfully interact with each other, hearing each other rather than bashing anything the other has to say. Well done. And I hope we see more from ACE here down the road.

BuckeyeFreak4844's picture

Loved these all year!  Kudos to both of you guys!

Michigan Sucks!

Haybucks's picture

Bizzaro World arrived last Saturday.  Ace is having similar emotions as many Buckeye fans, including myself, did watching the 1992 Buckeyes fight for a 13-13 tie in the 'Shoe.  President Gee was in total relief as he said, "This tie is one of our greatest wins ever".  Certainly Coach Cooper felt the same way.  Cooper had been under constant fire for his poor performance in the Big Game.  The tie gave him a 0-4-1 record against ttun and probably saved his job. 
The Bucks pulled even with the sixth-ranked Wolverines on Kirk Herbstreit's 5-yard touchdown pass to Greg Beatty with over 4 minutes remaining in the game.  Unlike Hoke, Cooper decided against a two-point conversion and kicked the PAT instead.
However, I think it would have been an easy decision for Coop to go for 2 if OT had been an option in '92. Grbac was out with an injury (bruised kidney) which prevented him from signal calling (thanks to our loud crowd; No Stub Hub to sell our tickets to back then!).  Our Buckeyes had effectively shut down ttun during the 4th quarter as the Wolverines final score came with 1:30 remaining in the 3rd.
Looking back on the '92 game I understand Herbstreit's comment, "It feels like a loss to me. I haven't beaten Michigan yet, and now I'll never be on a team that beats them."  I imagine Kalis will feel the same way in a couple of years.   


If the world comes to an end, I want to be in Cincinnati. Everything comes there ten years later. -  Mark Twain