It was The Game. It didn’t need any buildup whatsoever, despite Michigan’s putrid 5-6 record, because win-loss records are insignificant when the Buckeyes and Wolverines tangle. It’s the game both teams wait for all year and all the chips are in the middle of the table.
Michigan needed a win to gain bowl eligibility and prolong what might be Brady Hoke’s final season in Ann Arbor. The team couldn’t run or throw or get out of its own way all season, but you knew they’d bring it against Ohio State, as they have since Hoke’s arrival four seasons ago.
Would Ohio State continue its winning ways in this ultimate sports rivalry? Could the offense throw on Michigan’s defense? Would Devin Gardner continue to play like Joe Montana against the Buckeyes? And could he avoid killer turnovers?
Yes, yes, yes, and LOL NO. The Buckeyes won their third straight iteration of The Game since Urban Meyer took over three years ago, by a final of 42-28. J.T. Barrett struggled early with nervous overthrows, but rebounded to go 13/21 for 176 yards and a touchdown, without an interception. Gardner went 22/32 for 233 yards and a pair of scores, but he did set up Ohio State’s first score with an interception and gave away the last buckeye touchdown with a fumble.
Here are your talking points from The Game:
Water Cooler prep (Everything you need to know…in one paragraph)
For the third straight game, the Buckeyes jumped on an opponent early and threatened to run away, before going into a lull. Ohio State led 7-0 early but fell behind 14-7 before the offense woke up just before the half on Barrett’s electric 25-yard touchdown run. The teams traded touchdowns early in the third before Ohio State scored three straight times to assume control. Barrett left with a fractured ankle and is done for the year. He led Ohio State with 89 yards and two touchdowns rushing at the time. Ezekiel Elliott broke the game open with a 44-yard scoring run on fourth down, finishing with 121 yards on 17 carries (7.1 YPA).
Talk before the game
“Be loud today, Ohio Stadium!”
“The day we wait all year for is finally here. Let’s do this!”
It seemed that Michigan’s contingent was less excited about this year’s matchup:
Michigan fans were saying last night that formal travel party to Columbus was canceled. Not too much maize and blue in seats at Shoe.— Travis Haney (@TravHaneyESPN) November 29, 2014
Even Brutus was fired up.
Talk in the aftermath
Patrick had your tweet of sadness:
Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett out for the season after breaking his right ankle; scheduled for surgery tomorrow http://t.co/dNUc0xt4It— Patrick Maks (@maksimuspatrick) November 29, 2014
Some people told themselves everything would be OK.
I believe in Cardale Jones. I believe in Cardale Jones. I believe in Cardale Jones. I believe in Cardale Jones. I believe in Jack Danie— Ramzy Nasrallah (@ramzy) November 29, 2014
And the man in the spotlight now?
On a good note, HOW ABOUT THEM BUCKEYES!!! Way to send the Sr Class out right with a win over #TUN but the journey continues— Cardale Jones (@CJ12_) November 29, 2014
Give that man a buckeye leaf (Player of the game)
Barrett and Elliott both deserve consideration here, but I’m going with Darron Lee. The redshirt freshman posted a career-high nine tackles, including a sack in the first quarter that was a candidate for slobber knocker of the game (but was eclipsed later; see below), two tackles for loss, and a 33-yard fumble return for a touchdown after a Joey Bosa strip sack. Lee has made big plays all season and he saved maybe his best game of the year for The Game. The defense had its issues at times, but Lee played a very solid game.
Did you see that?! (Play of the game)
Ohio State trailed 14-7 as time wound down in the second quarter. After the first drive, the offense had struggled to move the football and drive down the field. But in the final minute, Barrett got his team on the move with runs of 11 and 12 yards and a pair of 16-yard strikes to Michael Thomas and Corey Smith (no, really!). With seconds remaining in the half, Barrett scrambled 25 yards through traffic and into the end zone, tying the game. It was a huge play because it built confidence and changed momentum entering the half, as Ohio State got the ball first after the break. Here is how the play sounded and this is what it looked like:
Slobber Knocker of the Game
Late in the third quarter, Ohio State and Michigan were tied at 21. Curtis Samuel returned a Michigan kickoff only to the OSU 19, where Barrett and company took over. The Buckeye offense kept clicking, quickly moving down to the Michigan 44, where it was first-and-10. Barrett dropped back and hit Nick Vannett in the right flat. Vannett chugged up field and got an absolutely crushing block from Corey Smith on safety Jarrod Wilson, springing the tight end for a 22-yard gain. Ohio State would take the lead for good six plays later on Elliott’s two-yard run.
Jim Tressel's Least Favorite Moment of the game
Ohio State led 7-0 and had great field position on its second possession at the Michigan 41 as Tressel soaked in his hot tub, eating a big plate of nachos. (Do not judge The Vest for this until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.) The Buckeyes drove to the Wolverines’ 27, but a five-yard loss on second and a third-down incompletion made it fourth-and-15 at the 32. Tressel chewed and nodded in approval as Urban Meyer eschewed a long field goal attempt and took a delay of game penalty to give punter Cameron Johnston more room. Johnston sailed his kick into the end zone and Tressel dropped his nachos into the tub. Dripping wet, he stormed off to get a strainer.
When you sank into your chair (The moment Buckeye football disgraced your family)
Early in the fourth quarter, Barrett sustained his season-ending injury on second-and-1. Cardale Jones came on and came up short on his third down run, forcing a punt. Johnston crushed a 67 yarder that barely squeaked into the end zone for a touchback (causing another mess at Casa de Tressel). It was on the defense now to win the game for Ohio State. The Buckeye defense quickly threw De’Veon Smith for a loss of one and allowed Gardner just four yards on second down. On third-and-seven, the swarming Buckeyes dropped Gardner after just two yards but Bosa ripped off the quarterback’s helmet, giving Michigan a free first down. The defense did manage a stop eventually, but that unnecessary penalty allowed the Wolverines to drive down to the OSU 35.
What you texted your friend at the end of each quarter
First: “The weekly doldrums came early this week. Only up 7 instead of 14 when we stopped playing.”
Second: “Everything is terrible today. Everything. And yet we’re tied.”
Third: “Is the tide turning, finally? Please?”
Fourth: “YEAH! We beat Michagain! Now, let’s get Cardale ready for next week!”
It was over when
Ohio State faced a fourth-and-1 at the Michigan 44 with about five minutes to play, clinging to a 28-21 lead. Ohio State appeared to try to draw Michigan offsides and called timeout. After the stoppage, the Buckeyes again lined up to go and Jones handed to Elliott over the left side. The sophomore running back hit a wide open hole between Taylor Decker and Billy Price, made Jake Ryan miss and went 44 yards to seal the deal. The Buckeyes tacked on Lee’s fumble return score after that and Michigan got a garbage time touchdown.
Next up is the Big Ten Championship Game. Ohio State’s struggling run defense will have to stop Heisman candidate Melvin Gordon and Wisconsin in Indianapolis. The Badgers defeated Nebraska and Minnesota in back-to-back weeks to capture the B1G West crown. Yesterday, they came from behind to topple the Golden Gophers, 34-24.
With no J.T. Barrett, this will be a huge task for the Buckeyes if they want to punch a ticket into the first ever College Football Playoffs.