Michigan Debriefing: The Defense Got Gashed, The Offense Wasn't Itself, and Ohio State Lost The Game

By Kevin Harrish on November 28, 2021 at 10:05 am
Miyan Williams gets tackled
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Well, that certainly wasn't fun.

Buckeye fans haven't felt this feeling in a decade, and that probably makes the sting of defeat against the bitter rivals to the North even worse.

Truly, Ohio State was beaten soundly on Saturday. There was no change in officiating, no one single play that could have changed things, and no single player or unit to scapegoat the loss onto.

It was a complete role reversal. Michigan did all of the things the Buckeyes usually do in this game; the Wolverines owned the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, overcame a red zone turnover, scored touchdowns on five consecutive drives, abused Ohio State's pass protection, 

Now, Michigan has earned the chance to do the other things Ohio State usually does at this time of year – play for a Big Ten Championship and punch its ticket to the College Football Playoff.

Meanwhile, the Buckeyes will do what the Wolverines have done around this time every other season for the past decade – sit at home, accept a consolation bowl game appearance, and dream of next year.

It sucks. Never forget it.

TL;DR: Just the Facts, Ma'am

Ohio State lost the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, but mostly on defense. Michigan ran the ball at will and scored at will and there wasn't a damn thing the Buckeyes could do to stop it.

On offense, Ohio State moved the ball through the air, but couldn't reliably run the ball, averaging just 2.1 yards per carry on the game. The Buckeyes had more penalty yardage (66) than rushing yards (64), which is not ideal when you're trying to win a football game in the snow.

How It Went Down


On one hand, Ohio State gained 458 yards on offense – only 29 fewer yards than the team that won by two scores. On the other hand, it wasn't exactly anything close to a clean offensive performance.

From the start, it felt like the Buckeyes were chasing. Ohio State was never able to dictate and control the game with its offense the way it usually does. Penalty after penalty set the Buckeyes off schedule and the score and a lack of push up front meant throwing the ball much more than they should have had to. And that's not even mentioning the four Michigan sacks.

While C.J. Stroud and the wide receivers were a nice safety net, nothing we saw on Saturday was what you would expect of a healthy, offensive-line-driven offense.

Helmet Stickers:
  • Ohio State's wide receivers: I shudder to think about what this game would have looked like without them. From the clutch fourth downs to accounting for more than half of the team's total yardage, the receivers were one of the only reasons Ohio State was in the game.
  • C.J. Stroud: Ohio State lost The Game and is eliminated from playoff contention, but Stroud may very well still win the Heisman Trophy. He did everything he could on Saturday afternoon, going 34-for-49 through the air for 349 yards and two touchdowns. He even used his legs for what should have been a 15-yard rushing touchdown.


You watched the game. You know.

Ohio State could not stop Michigan on the ground, despite knowing damn well the Wolverines were going to be running the ball. The Wolverines rushed for 297 yards on 7.2 yards per carry, and running back Hassan Haskins set a new rivalry game record with six rushing touchdowns.

The defensive line got pushed around, the linebackers weren't filling, and Michigan gashed Ohio State play after play. There really isn't that much more to say.

Helmet Stickers
  • Uh, Bryson Shaw? I guess? It's tough to give out a helmet sticker to a unit that allowed Michigan to score its most points in The Game since 1946, but it probably would have been even worse if Shaw didn't take points off the board with a red zone interception.

Jim Tressel's Least Favorite Moment of the Game

Saturday is Jim Tressel's favorite holiday.

Ever since he helped flip the script on the rivalry, the famed Wolverine slayer has always enjoyed watching his successors take up the torch and in many cases, perform even better against That Team than he ever did.

So at 11:59, Tressel finished crafting himself a delicious sandwich from his leftover turkey (with some cranberries for good measure) and settled in for what he hoped would be a three-hour celebration of Buckeye football.

The first half could have gone better, but that's what halftime adjustments are for. "Those two field goals really kept them in it," Tressel thought, proud of the impact player the placekicker had become in this offense.

But the second half didn't get better. In fact, it got much worse. Our retired Wolverine slayer watched in dismay as the Wolverines ran over, through and around the Buckeyes over, and over, and over, and over again.

With every Buckeye penalty, he grew less confident. With every Michigan first down, he could feel it even more.

Midway through the fourth quarter, his loving wife entered the living room, regretting that she had been running errands and missed most of yet another Buckeye win over Michigan. But when she saw her beloved's dejected demeanor, she knew something was not quite right.

"What's wrong," Ellen asked, eyes full of concern.

"Everything's wrong," Tressel said, eyes staring blankly at the television. "Everything is wrong."

 It Was Over When

Ohio State failed to stop the Wolverine rushing attack after pulling within one score with just under five minutes remaining on the clock. The Buckeyes needed just one second-half stop to give their offense a chance to tie the game with a touchdown and a two-point conversion but they couldn't get it. Instead, Michigan went 63 yards in five plays and scored to put the game out of reach.

You know times are bad when you go from desperately needing a stop to letting your opponent score a touchdown to give yourself a chance in five plays – especially when you know damn well they're going to run the ball.

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