Entering the second half with a three-point lead, No. 2 Ohio State was bullied and gashed for big plays as No. 3 Michigan imposed its will, unleashing a 28-3 run on a sloppy and undisciplined Buckeyes squad, leading to a convincing 45-23 Wolverines victory in the Shoe.
Having spent the last year seething from the whooping, and then woofing, at the hands and mouths of Michigan the previous season in Ann Arbor, Ohio State was outclassed as the Wolverines posted 530 total yards of offense on the strength of five different touchdown plays covering 45 yards or more.
Quarterback C.J. Stroud tried to keep Ohio State in it with 349 passing yards and two touchdowns (with two interceptions) while fourth-string tailback Chip Trayanum ran for 83 yards on 5.9 per try but Ryan Day's offense laid an egg in the second half.
Not to be outdone, Jim Knowles' defense was even worse, surrendering 242 rushing yards over the final two quarters while repeatedly losing track of receivers on the backend. Lack of execution by the players and oftentimes being too aggressive with scheme cost Ohio State any shot at a victory.
The loss dropped Ryan Day to 1-2 versus Michigan, and by extension Jim Harbaugh, who out-coached him at every possible turn. Day's two-Game losing streak is the program's first since John Cooper's 1999 and 2000 squads couldn't get it done which ushered in the Jim Tressel era.
Moreover, the bigger problem is that it doesn't feel like an overreaction to say Day's program was soft mentally in this one after being soft physically in last year's loss. As a result, Michigan is currently the class of the Big Ten.
With that, let's get to a regular season finale edition of Five Things.
When Michigan wasn't taking it to Ohio State, or hell sometimes even when it was, the Buckeyes were busy shooting themselves in the foot with nine penalties for 91 yards including six for 71 yards in the second half.
Only one flag in the first half was super impactful, courtesy of a Dawand Jones false start that turned a 2nd-and-6 at the Michigan 24 to 2nd-and-11. Now off schedule, Ohio State was forced and two incompletions later, the Buckeyes settled for a Noah Ruggles 47-yard field goal for a 13-10 lead with 5:36 left in the half.
The total lack of discipline came into much sharper focus after halftime.
Down 24-20 but having just forced a 3-and-out on Michigan's second possession of the third quarter, the Buckeye offense set up shop with excellent field position at the Wolverine 48-yard line. Things looked to get even better as Stroud found Trayanum for 24 yards on a first down toss but left guard Donovan Jackson was called for a holding penalty and after the play, tight end Gee Scott Jr. inexplicably head-butted a Michigan player to earn a personal foul. Instead of 1st-and-10 at the Michigan 24, the Buckeyes found themselves in a 1st-and-35 hole from their own 27. Just a gigantic turn of events on totally preventable plays.
Stroud did advance the Buckeyes to a reasonable 4th-and-5 from the Michigan 43 but Day had already started to pucker and opted for a punt that became a touchback.
On Michigan's ensuing possession, Knowles' defense got to 3rd-and-10 from the OSU 13 but quarterback J.J. McCarthy's back foot heave was bailed out as Ronnie Hickman was flagged for a no-brainer pass interference call in the end zone. McCarthy called his own number two plays later with a 3-yard score for a backbreaking 31-20 lead with 7:51 left in regulation.
Ohio State tried to help Michigan on its next possession with Cade Stover flagged for a personal foul on a punt play and Lathan Ransom whistled for pass interference on the next snap but Michigan missed a long field goal a few plays later. Still, Michigan did nothing but watch OSU shoot itself in the foot, moving the ball from what should've been a drive starting at the Michigan 28 to all the way to the Ohio State 42 after one snap.
Just a brutal showcase of failing to maintain composure and self-discipline.
And it came on the heels of the Buckeyes racking up 11 penalties for 97 yards in a tight win against Maryland. Twenty penalties for damn near 200 yards over the final two games is a referendum on both the staff and players.
BLINDED BY THE FLIGHT
A season-long trend, Ohio State's secondary spent a good chunk of the day having no idea where the ball was once it left McCarthy's hand. When guys were aware the ball was coming, they often weren't in position to make a play.
Cornerback Denzel Burke slipped on a 3rd-and-8 snap, allowing Ronnie Bell to get loose for 33 yards. The defense would stiffen from there to allow just a field goal as 33 of the drive's 44 total yards came on one play.
Three possessions later, with Knowles playing Cover 0 on 3rd-and-9 at the Michigan 31, McCarthy found Cornelius Johnson for what should've a simple 7-yard out route but Ohio State cornerback Cameron Brown whiffed badly on a tackle attempt, allowing Johnson to race 69 yards to tie the game at 10 apiece with 7:26 left before halftime.
After an OSU field goal pushed the score to 13-10, Cameron Martinez got caught in the blender, totally spun around on Michigan's first play of the possession, allowing Johnson to again enjoy a clear path to the end zone for a 75-yard touchdown and a 17-13 lead with 5:24 left in the half.
The second half started with more of the same as tight end Colston Loveland got past Lathan Ransom, who seemed at odds with Burke on who was responsible, leading to a 45-yard touchdown catch giving Michigan a 24-20 lead just over three minutes into the third quarter.
Finally, Hickman not identifying the ball in flight and making contact with his man in the back of the end zone on a 3rd-and-10 heave, resulting in the noted pass interference call and touchdown three plays later, essentially iced the game at 31-20 with just under eight minutes left.
Calling it a tough day for the secondary is putting it mildly considering Michigan came in with the nation's 98th-best passing offense. McCarthy threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns on a wild 21.4 yards per completion.
While I'm salty Dallan Hayden only got two damn carries after what he's shown in recent weeks, I was at least happy to see Trayanum make the most of his opportunity after entering The Game with one carry for nine yards this season.
With TreVeyon Henderson out and Miyan Williams playing but not 100%, Day elected to give Trayanum the bulk of the carries and he responded with 83 yards on 5.9 per try, plus a 14-yard reception.
He hit the hole with aggression, something only Hayden had done in recent weeks, and only one of his carries went for negative yardage (-1).
Look, I'm just fishing for a positive within this mess and when Ohio State was actually a threat to win this game, Trayanum was in the mix. He racked up 64 rushing yards on eight yards per carry in the first half as the Buckeyes entered halftime with a 20-17 lead.
He also helped Ohio State stay on schedule, averaging 6.7 yards on nine first down carries.
More often than not, the running back turned linebacker turned running back was finishing runs with physicality and falling forward.
A RELUCTANT TIP OF THE CAP
Say what you will about Ohio State's self-inflicted wounds - those were very, very real - but it can also be true that Michigan came to play and was the better team.
To his credit, head coach Jim Harbaugh had a better game plan again, his players were loose yet ready again and they embraced the chance to win versus playing not to lose... again.
Even as the game was still tight, McCarthy was smiling on the sideline, enjoying the game, seemingly unnerved in a hostile environment. The OSU sideline seemed quite the opposite with tension and frustration permeating even during the first three quarters when it was anyone's game.
After beating Ohio State up physically last year, it seemed like Michigan beat the Buckeyes both mentally and physically yesterday.
Harbaugh and company had an answer for everything Ohio State did and the counter-punching with aggressive play calls against aggressive OSU defensive calls was a masterclass.
After posting zero plays of 70+ yards through 11 games, Michigan had three touchdowns of that length of more yesterday, plus a 69-yard touchdown.
As Ohio State's defense was on its heels in the fourth quarter, Donovan Edwards found seams for a 75-yard touchdown run and an 85-yard touchdown gallop to give the Wolverines 242 rushing yards on 10.1 per carry... in the second half.
Michigan also played clean with zero second half penalties after recording five in the opening 30 minutes.
SEE YOU AT THE CROSSROADS
Obviously many fans are concerned about the program's leadership as Day became the first Ohio State head coach since Cooper to start 1-2 versus Michigan. And with next year's game back in Ann Arbor, 1-3 is a very plausible scenario.
And while I think calls for his dismissal are off the rails at this point, I think there are certainly valid gripes.
First, and I know it was right after the game, but if Stroud's comments about The Game are indicative of the how the totality of the program feels, that's a problem.
C.J. Stroud: I dont think one game defines us. I dont think this game defines our team.— Joey Kaufman (@joeyrkaufman) November 26, 2022
Fact is, this game does define these guys as Ohio State football players. It may not be the only game or thing but it's at the top of the list alongside playing for a national title. That's the gift of coming to play in Columbus, and it really is a gift. Players want fans to give a damn. They want to play in games of historical significance. To downplay it is just odd to me. It sounds like the kind of thing Michigan might say for much of the last 20 years.
Also of concern, Day's whole thing after last year was the defense needed fixed and Ohio State spent $2M in an attempt to address it. The defense was certainly been better than last year over 11 games. Then it gave up 45 points, 530 yards, never looked for a pass in the air, and gave up big play after big play when it mattered most.
Failing to be the physically superior team, particularly in the trenches, has also been a problem at times over the last few years. There's a faction of fans out there that have been calling for improvements in the strength and conditioning program for a couple years now. I'm starting to hear that sentiment more clearly, if I'm being honest.
You could also argue the team threw in the towel late, at home, while being outscored 21-3 in the fourth quarter.
The play calling was again curious at times, raising more questions as to whether Ohio State would be better off with Day focusing more on the totality of the program and not so much in the minutiae of the offense.
Finally, the roster construction just feels off. The quarterback isn't allowed to run, the current tight end has played at a bunch of positions, the tailback yesterday came over from the defense, the offensive line lacks depth and the cornerback situation is a major issue.
I can see the defense continuing to improve as Knowles gets more guys suited to his scheme but until that happens, putting marginal tacklers and ball-awareness guys on an island, for example, isn't great.
I still have confidence in Day to address concerns aggressively, just as he did in acting quickly to first demote, then replace, his previous defensive coordinator (which he brought in, I know). That said, it's hard to believe but it feels like this upcoming offseason could be even more important than last year.
And hey, who knows, maybe Ohio State can still backdoor into the playoffs and make some noise. Stranger things have happened.
- #3 Michigan 45, #2 Ohio State 23
- • Buckeyes Lose Second Straight Rivalry Game
- • Secondary Surrenders Too Many Big Plays
- • 52-Week Quest Ends With Even Worse Result
- • Michigan Plants Flag on Block O
- • Ohio State Postgame • Photos • TBDBITL • Quotebook • Notebook
- • Michigan Postgame • 3 Key Stats • Five Things • Social Reax • Debriefing