Michigan Debriefing: Dwayne Haskins Comes in Clutch, Denzel Ward Flies Around the Field & Jim Harbaugh Goes 0-3

By Kevin Harrish on November 26, 2017 at 8:05 am
Denzel Ward was Ohio State's defensive MVP on Saturday.

I must confess: for a brief amount of time, I considered the fact that Michigan might beat Ohio State.

Can you blame me? Michigan was up 14-0 and the Buckeyes had -6 total yards. I thought a dude named John O'Korn, Michigan's third-best option at quarterback, was on the verge of handing Urban Meyer his first loss to the Wolverines as an Ohio State head coach.

But then I learned an important lesson – there are no storybook endings for the Michigan faithful.

The Buckeyes came back, even after they lost their greatest statistical quarterback in team history to a leg injury and had to insert a freshman with the game on the line.

It was bad, but then it was good.

Let's debrief.

Quick Breakdowns


Ohio State had its worst offensive quarter of the season as Michigan held the Buckeyes to -6 total yards in the first, but then things started clicking. J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber combined for 158 yards and J.T. Barrett added 67 of his own rushing yards before his injury.

Dwayne Haskins was the hero once Barrett left the game. He came in down 20-14 and went 6-for-7 for 94 yards to lead the Buckeyes back to a 31-20, turning in arguably the best passing performance by an Ohio State quarterback against Michigan since 2014.


The Buckeyes did allow a fairly lethargic Michigan offense to score 20 points – more than it did against Penn State, Michigan State or Iowa – but they really locked down in the fourth quarter, holding the Wolverines scoreless on all four of their fourth-quarter drives.

Buckeye Leafs

Offense: Dwayne Haskins

It's impossible not to pick Dwayne Haskins after his clutch performance on Saturday.

When J.T. Barrett went down in the third quarter, the Buckeyes called on the redshirt freshman backup to pull off a comeback victory, and he delivered. Haskins went 6-for-7 for 94 for yards and also rushed three times for 24 yards, including a 22-yard scramble.

Defense: Denzel Ward

Denzel Ward played perhaps the best game of his Buckeye career on Saturday and was undeniably the team's defensive MVP.

Ward was all over the field on Saturday, leading the team in total tackles with eight, solo tackles with seven, and pass breakups with two. He also showed off his quickness on special teams, blocking a Michigan extra point after the Wolverines' final touchdown.

Here's a sample of some of the plays he made on Saturday:


Plays of the Game


After J.T. Barrett went down with an injury, Dwayne Haskins entered the game cold, down 20-14 to Ohio State's arch-rival with the game and season on the line.

It was a tough situation for a freshman playing his first meaningful snaps, and the situation got a little worse, as back-to-back false start penalties forced Haskins to try to convert a crucial third-and-long.

No problem.

Haskins put the ball right where it needed to be and Austin Mack pulled down a tough catch while getting drilled.

A few plays later, Haskins added a 22-yard scramble to keep the drive going and J.K. Dobbins capped it off with a go-ahead touchdown, giving the Buckeyes a lead they never surrendered.


This is nowhere near the most impressive play the Buckeye defense made on Saturday, mostly because they didn't really have to do anything, but it's hilarious so this is my defensive play of the game.

With his team trailing its bitter rival which it hadn't beaten in five-straight seasons by just four points with just over two minutes to go in the game, John O'Korn stepped back and confidently released a deep ball, which landed perfectly into the hands of a wide open Jordan Fuller.

Honestly, it just seemed like it was only a matter of time before O'Korn made a colossally terrible, game-changing mistake, and that was exactly the case. He'll never buy drinks in Columbus ever again.

Biggest Surprise

Michigan outscored Ohio State 14-0 early in the game and the Buckeyes managed -6 yards in the first quarter. The Wolverine offense looked shockingly competent at the start of the game and it took the Ohio State defense a while (three quarters or so) to start to dominate.

Jim Tressel's Least Favorite Moment

Jim Tressel was up early on Saturday morning in anticipation of the only game that matters. He's never been able to sleep with ease before this game, and this time was no different.

After years of marriage, his wife, Ellen, was prepared for this. She, too, was up early, and had something planned to keep her beloved husband's mind off things before the big game. She decided to take her husband to Dayton to the National Museum of the United States Air Force, knowing how much her husband appreciates the military.

Jim was ecstatic when she told him – it was the perfect thing to do before the game.

On the ride there, he was reminded of one of his favorite quotes from Vietnam War General Creighton W. Abrams, which he shared on his Twitter account:

The pair enjoyed the morning at the museum, then went to a local diner to watch the game. Jim ordered a tall glass of milk and a slice of pecan pie – comfort food for the game to come.

Jim was excited to see how the punt team – the team's strength this season – would perform in the biggest game of the season. The team, led by game-changer Drue Chrisman, had only allowed one punt return all year, and it resulted in a fumble.

When Chrisman stepped back to punt for the first time, Jim cracked a smile.

"Watch this," he said to the waitress as she refilled his milk. "They aren't even going to let the kid return it."

Chrisman booted it, and Donovan Peoples-Jones caught it at the nine yard-line, and promptly took it 14 yards downfield.

The waitress gave Jim a forgiving smile, then walked away.

A while later, Chrisman was back to punt yet again, and Jim made sure the waitress was paying attention.

Peoples-Jones fielded this one too, shook no less than five would-be Buckeye tacklers, and took the punt 42 yards deep into Ohio State territory.

"We'll take the check now," Ellen said, sensing her husband's frustration.

The waitress brought the bill to the table, as well as a to-go cup of milk for Jim.

Biggest Blunder

The Buckeyes were punting deep in their own territory hoping for a deep boot from Drue Chrisman to flip the field position. The punt itself was fine, but everything else was not great. Jonathon Cooper, in particular, had a rough play.

Cooper, one of the up men on the punt team, was called for a hold near the end zone. He then ran upfield to make the tackle on Donovan Peoples-Jones and didn't wrap up, instead trying to push the returner out of bounds.

It didn't work. Peoples-Jones spun off the "tackle" and got another 20 yards on the return.

To be fair, Cooper was not the only one to make a mistake on this play. Terry McLaurin not only whiffed on his tackle, he took out fellow gunner Jeffrey Okudah in the process. Other missed tackles included Jerome Baker, Elijaah Goins, Zach Turnure and Tuf Borland and Liam McCullough.

In short, seven of 11 players neglected to make a tackle on that play, which is not great.

Michigan went on to score, because it would have been nearly impossible for them not to, given the field position.

Underrated Things

Stadium O-H-I-O

You know what's better than hearing that "O-H-I-O" chant going around on the 'Shoe on a fall Saturday? Hearing that same chant go around The Big House as the Buckeyes lock up a(nother) victory in Ann Arbor.


Sweet, sweet victory.

Harbaugh is Bad, Actually

Remember when Jim Harbaugh was the savior of Michigan football?

Three games in, the prince of khakis is 0-3 against Ohio State, 1-5 against Ohio State and Michigan State and 1-7 against top-10 teams.

Folks, that's not great.

Life Comes at You Fast

Mike Weber was once committed to Michigan. On Saturday, he sealed Ohio State's sixth-straight victory over the Wolverines with a game-icing touchdown run.


Shit happens, bum juice.

It Was Over When...

John O'Korn threw up an arm punt that landed right in the arms of Jordan Fuller. The Wolverines had a chance to win the game with just over two minutes to play, and they blew it.

Biggest Question Going Forward

With a win next Saturday against Wisconsin, can the Buckeyes find their way into the college football playoff? Ohio State's chances got a solid boost on Friday night with Miami falling to Pittsburgh, but then they took a hit when Alabama lost to Auburn.

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