Michigan Debriefing: Curtis Samuel Goes Full Techmo Bowl, Jerome Baker Was Everywhere & Noah Brown Deletes a Man

By Kevin Harrish on November 27, 2016 at 9:15 am
Buckeyes were ready.

Without doubt, Saturday's version of The Game was the greatest sporting event I've ever witnessed.

Sadly, I tend to find Buckeye football games a bit soulless at times, watching them purely objectively with no real soul or emotional involvement in the outcome.

Saturday, that all went out the window. The greatest rivalry in all of sport was an emotional roller coaster, and I couldn't help but ride it. I wanted nothing more than for my Ohio State Buckeyes to beat that team. Nothing.

For the first time in a long time, I had a pit in my stomach when I thought about the very realistic prospect of a Michigan win and was absolutely jubilant when I imagined a Buckeye comeback.

Of course, we know what happened. Ohio State fought back from a 17-7 deficit and won in double-overtime.

The students rushed the field, I sang Carmen, Ohio arm-in-arm with a walk-on because I couldn't find my friends and Luke Fickell hugged me, for some reason. 

It was perfect. Ohio State beat Michigan. Urban Meyer beat Jim Harbaugh. Everything was perfect.

It was an instant classic, a game for the ages. It was The Game.

Let's debrief.

The Short Story

The Game was all it was hyped up to be and more. In a low scoring clash between two elite defenses, every point mattered. Michigan took an early 3-0 lead after Ohio State missed a field goal, and remained in front until Malik Hooker put the Buckeyes in front 7-3. The Wolverines scored the next 14 points, leaving Ohio State down 17-7 without a single offensive score. The Buckeyes then took over, shutting down the Michigan offense and scoring twice to force overtime. It took two overtime periods, but Ohio State came away with a 30-27 victory over the Wolverines after a 15-yard Curtis Samuel touchdown run.

Who Earned a Buckeye Leaf?

Offense: J.T. Barrett

Let's get this straight right off the bat – J.T. Barrett won this game.

After the offense struggled almost the entire game, particularly with dropped passes, missed blocks and a failure to get open in the passing game, Barrett just put the team on his back in the fourth quarter and will the Buckeyes to victory.

Barrett led all players with 125 yards rushing, 41 of which came on a clutch scamper where he ran right past Michigan star Jabrill Peppers into Michigan territory.

Barrett wasn't perfect, but he made clutch play after clutch play late in the game, including an overtime touchdown and a game-saving fourth down conversion.

Ohio State needed him, and he delivered.

Barrett finished with 125 yards rushing and a touchdown on 30 carries and went 15-32 for 124 yards and an interception through the air. He improves to 3-0 in his career against Michigan.

Defense: Jerome Baker

At one point in the game, I remember thinking aloud, "Jerome Baker is going to have 50 tackles today."

He didn't quite get to 50; he finished with 15 – just one behind Raekwon McMillan for the team lead.

But it wasn't just the numbers; Baker was wreaking havoc on the Wolverine offense wherever he number was called. He was swarming ball carriers, hopping in passing lanes, getting pressure on the quarterback and locking people down in coverage. In a game of do-it-all players, he did it all for the Ohio State defense.

Oh, also he did this:

Baker finished the game with 15 tackles, a tackle for a loss, a sack and an interception.

Remember when he wasn't going to start?

Plays of the Game


The play of the game came from Curtis Samuel, but it wasn't the game-winning touchdown – it came two plays before.

Down by three in double-overtime with an unreliable placekicker, Ohio State desperately needed yards to make a kick or a fourth down conversion attempt more manageable. To get them, they just tossed the ball to Samuel and let him do the rest.

As soon as he catches the swing pass, things look bleak. Samuel appears to be bottled up for no gain, but he switched directions a few times and eventually weaved his way through the defense just shy of the first down marker.

The next play, J.T. Barrett got the first down on a quarterback keeper.

“I gotta go back and look at that one. I had to go and make a play for my team and it happened,” Samuel said after the game.

“Coaches give me the ball to make plays,” Samuel said. “They don’t give me the ball to go three yards, four yards, two yards. The give me the ball to score."

Two plays later, Samuel did just that.


He really didn't do much to earn this one besides being in the right place at the right time, but Malik Hooker nabbed is third career pick-six when the Buckeyes desperately needed points.

I have never in my life seen the stadium jump for joy like it did when Hooker crossed the goal line. The pick-six brought Columbus, Ohio back to life.

Much of the credit here goes to Raekwon McMillan for pressuring Wilton Speight and forcing a duck of a pass.

Malik Hooker is a ball magnet, man.

Biggest Surprise

Ohio State's receivers were actually fairly successful getting open. Most, myself included, expected zone-6 to be almost completely shut down by perhaps the best secondary in the country, but that wasn't really the case. The Buckeyes were getting separation.

Now, did they catch the ball when it was thrown to them? Not quite. One thing at a time, folks. One thing at a time.

Jim Tressel's Least Favorite Moment

After sleeping in until 6:30 a.m., Jim Tressel readied himself for one of the biggest Ohio State—Michigan games ever.

Tressel was especially excited to watch the game with a few of his closest friends as his bonsai tree club agreed to meet at his house to watch along with him.

Tressel was elated with the gameplan. Cameron Johnston punted six times for 276 yards and was legitimately the team's offensive MVP in the first half. In the second half, the Buckeyes punted less but ran the ball more, much to Tressel's pleasure.

The former coach found no fault with the playcall or the gameplan of the current, more aggressive head coach. Even the fake punt, Tressel understood, having fallen into that trap himself on occasion.

One thing, however, haunted him – the missed field goals. He was terrified Urban Meyer would no longer trust his kicker and would go for it on a crucial fourth down instead of playing it safe with three points.

His suspicions were correct. In the second overtime, Ohio State had a fourth and one situation with the game on the line. Instead of kicking the short field goal, the Buckeyes went for the first down.

After an incredibly close play and a vital review, Ohio State was awarded the first down. Meyer's reckless playcall had miraculously been successful yet again. While Tressel was thrilled with the win, he was still bitter about how it happened.

"I would have kicked it," Tressel said aloud to nobody in particular.

"We know," replied the bonsai club in unison.

Biggest Blunder

There were a few, for sure. The obvious are the two missed field goals by Tyler Durbin. If he makes one, Ohio State wins the game in regulation.

However, I'm not here to critique the ability of a first-year kicker, especially one that knocked through a game-tying field goal in the waning seconds of the biggest game of his life.

Instead, I'm going to focus on something completely avoidable: the fake punt call.

Deep in its own territory, facing a fourth-and-10 with a punter who was probably the team's offensive MVP the first half in terms of yardage responsible for (you'll just have to do some digging to figure out exactly what it was) and immediately after being given a gift possession with a Michigan fumble, Ohio State did exactly what you'd expect –  run a fake punt!

To be clear, this was not something pulled out of thin air. It was designed well ahead of time, and had been in the gameplan all along. We were always going to see this on Saturday, but the timing could not have been worse. Cameron Johnston had to get a full 10 yards to to move the sticks, and if he didn't, Michigan took over deep in Buckeye territory.

The call itself, and the play design was actually a pretty good one. It relied on Sam Hubbard making a big block on the outside to spring Johnston. With Hubbard being a former tight end, a nice block is certainly not out of the realm of possibility, and if he gets it Johnston almost surely gets the first down and more.

The fake punt itself was not the issue, the call coming in that situation was.

Spectator Quote-Book

First Quarter
  • "Quick cals are Urban Meyer's only real failure at Ohio State."
  • "I love how LeBron James just told his teammates they're Ohio State fans now."
Second Quarter
  • "If a company does a promotion right now, I will boycott that company eternally. I would pay a substantial amount of money if I could guarantee there would not be an advertisement.
  • "Oh, it's the one play we ever run from under center. Neat."
  • "Is this what teams felt like when Ohio State put Braxton Miller at quarterback last year? Because when Peppers is back there, it seems like a loss of a down."
Third Quarter
  • "We're down 17-7 in a game where our offense hasn't scored a point."
  • "There's a Big Ten north, east, south and west," explained a sorority girl to her friend. "Wisconsin won the west, Michigan is going to win the north, Penn State is going to win the east and Ohio State is in the lead for the south." (I can only assume she is a time traveler speaking of the inevitable Big Ten Playoff).
Fourth Quarter
  • "Oh, Michigan is going to blow this, aren't they?"
  • "Noah Brown just deleted that guy. He no longer exists. He used to before that play, but he's gone now."

Underrated Things

Harbaugh Goes Nuts

When Jim Harbaugh threw his cards onto the field and earned an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, I immediately thought it might have been a game-changing momentum swing.

I may have been right.

Michigan gained exactly 4 yards in the fourth quarter while Ohio State scored 10 unanswered points and drove the ball the length of the field twice with the game on the line.

Noah Brown Kills a Man

Weekly reminder that Noah Brown is a violent blocker.

That poor soul just got deleted. He existed, then Brown made him not exist anymore.

Meyer Had Enough

The game ended not a minute two soon for Urban Meyer who collapsed on the field in apparent exhaustion after one of the closest, more intense games not only in his career, but in the history of the Ohio State—Michigan rivalry.

Blood on the Field

Kyle Kalis is now 0-5 in his career against Ohio State after making his infamous "blood on the field" comments.

During that time, he's been a revolving door to a bevy of Buckeye defensive linemen. Saturday, Nick Bosa was the latest to abuse the former Ohio State commit.

It Was Over When

Curtis Samuel knifed 15 yards through the Wolverine defense on his way to the end zone in double-overtime to give Ohio State the go-ahead touchdown in one of the greatest episodes in the greatest rivalry in all of sport.

Biggest Question Going Forward

Ohio State's regular season is over, and it is not playing for a Big Ten Title. Will the Buckeyes still make the college football playoff despite not earning a conference title?

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