Michigan Notebook: 29 Lead, Ohio State's Defensive Sparks, the Fake Punt and More

By Tim Shoemaker on November 27, 2016 at 10:30 am
J.T. Barrett dives for a first down against Michigan.

Curtis Samuel leaped into the end zone and, simultaneously, into Ohio State lore.

The Buckeyes' do-everything offensive dynamo scored the game-winning touchdown in Saturday's 30-27 double-overtime thriller against Michigan. He took a handoff from quarterback J.T. Barrett at the 15-yard line, swept across the formation and then cut up the left side. Samuel wasn't touched on the play before he was mobbed by his teammates in the end zone.

"29 lead was the call," head coach Urban Meyer said afterward. "Curtis went to the left and he scored."

It's a play that will be shown forever now in montages for The Game, and it's one Samuel will remember for the rest of his life.

"My team, we fought, man, we fought," Samuel said. "It was a long game, it was a hard game. Great blocking by the running backs, great blocking by the linemen, the receivers, everybody. And without them, the play wouldn't have happened."

Defensive Jump Starts

For most of Saturday's game, Ohio State's offense was sputtering.

The Buckeyes needed something, anything to get them going. If not, it was going to be a long afternoon at Ohio Stadium as Michigan was, by most accounts, dominating.

The first spark came from Malik Hooker, who intercepted a pass from Wilton Speight after Speight was hit by linebacker Raekwon McMillan. Hooker did what he does best and turned that interception into points, going 16 yards to the end zone to give Ohio State a 7-3 lead.

But that didn't last long as the Wolverines scored on their ensuing drive. Then, after another touchdown gave Michigan a 10-point advantage, Ohio State looked to be in real trouble for the first time.

Again, the defense rose to the occasion. This time it was Jerome Baker who picked off Speight to set up Ohio State in good field position. After a couple of Michigan penalties, the Buckeyes found the end zone two plays later and it was suddenly 17-14.

Ohio State's defense kept it in the game long enough to have a shot to win.

"Our defense kept hanging in there, hanging in there, and they provided sparks," Meyer said. "And the offense kind of took over in the fourth quarter and overtime."


Michigan ran the ball 43 times for 91 yards against Ohio State on Saturday. That's an average of just 2.1 yards per carry. The Buckeyes certainly made some adjustments just one week after being gashed a bit by Michigan State's L.J. Scott.

A big reason why Ohio State defended the run so well was the play of its linebackers. Raekwon McMillan, Jerome Baker and Chris Worley combined to make 42 tackles on the afternoon. McMillan led the way with 16, Baker recorded 15 (and an interception) and Worley had 11. The Buckeyes went to four-linebacker packages at times, too, with Joe Burger entering the game on certain situations. 

Michigan's longest run of the day was a 16-yard gain by De'Veon Smith. The Wolverines didn't have many other big plays in the run game on the day, and it was largely due to the play of McMillan, Baker and Worley.

"That's probably my most favorite win and game of all time, that I've ever been a part of," McMillan said. "Win a national championship, Sugar Bowl, beating Penn State on the road, my freshman year—this is the best game I've ever been in."

The Fake Punt

Urban Meyer really did not want to discuss the situation, but he had to at some point.

"I called it," he said.

'It' was in reference to the fake punt Ohio State dialed up with the ball deep in its own territory in the third quarter. The Buckeyes were faced with a 4th-and-6 at their own 19-yard line when Cameron Johnston took the snap and sprinted left.

Ohio State's senior punter only gained three yards, however, before Michigan's Jordan Glasgow brought him to the turf. Five plays later, the Wolverines were in the end zone with a 10-point lead and the Buckeyes were in big trouble.

Ohio State came away victorious after a double-overtime thriller so Meyer's gamble didn't wind up costing the Buckeyes. He admitted afterward he was looking for something to jump start his team, which had been struggling most of the day.

"That's why you run a fake punt," Meyer said. "That's why we were trying to get the ball downfield and we just weren't hitting them. And, yeah, we were trying — we needed sparks, you're right."

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