There’s really no other way to describe this game than to use the old cliché about a couple of heavyweight fighters going toe-to-toe and just smashing each other in the face. For most of the game, it was Ohio State taking more blows than it landed. But as the old guy in a dirty corduroy jacket will tell you, it only matters who lands the knockout blow. The Buckeyes and Curtis Samuel did exactly that in the second overtime.
Early on in The Game, you could tell that this wasn’t going to be an easy victory for either team. Tied at zero after a slugfest of a first quarter (thanks to a missed 37 yard field goal by Tyler Durbin), it looked like this one would come down to the very end.
Michigan finished off a 12 play, 53 yard drive with a 28 yard field goal to break the scoreless tie and take a 3-0 lead to start off the second quarter. The quarter continued with more of the same strong defense from both teams until Malik Hooker decided it was time to change it up. Raekwon McMillan blitzed straight up the middle and tipped Wilton Speight’s pass. The wobbling ball went right to Hooker and he ran the 16 yards to the end zone for the first Buckeyes touchdown. I’m not sure what the play registered on the OSU Geology Department’s sensors that were placed around Ohio Stadium but it was easily one of the loudest roars in The Shoe’s history. The Buckeyes had a 7-3 lead for less than four minutes as Michigan drove on the next posession and took a 10-7 lead into the lockerroom.
The second half started off with the rivals exchanging turnovers. J.T. Barrett had a pass tipped and Jabril Peppers was able to snatch it out the air. The Wolverines marched down to the Ohio State one yard line before Wilton Speight fumbled and the Buckeyes recovered.
In one of the many face-palm inducing moments from the game, Ohio State ran a fake punt on fourth and six from their own 19 yard line. Johnston picked up only three of the six needed and Michigan took over on downs. They promptly scored a touchdown to take a 17-7 lead.
It looked like it was going to be more of the same until Jerome Baker snatched a Speight pass out of the air and returned it to the Michigan 13. This was the exact moment when you could see the Wolverines start to unravel. The first play from scrimmage, Michigan’s Maurice Hurst jumped into the neutral zone and was penalized for offsides. Jim Harbaugh seemed displeased with a very elementary call and went, for lack of a better term, nuts. He launched his play sheet onto the field and slammed his headset down, all while hurling a flurry of profanities at the officials. The referees hit him with an Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty and his headset was broken. The two penalties moved the ball down to the Michigan four and Ohio State scored two plays later.
Ohio State had a chance to tie the game with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter after a nice drive but Tyler Durbin missed his second field goal of the day. The drive included a beautiful 41 yard run by Barrett and a converted fourth down. In what seemed to be the theme of the day, the drive stalled in the red zone and Urban Meyer chose to attempt the field goal. Luckily the Wolverines went three plays and out after getting the all at their own 20 yard line.
The Buckeyes got the ball at their 18 after a Michigan punt and promptly allowed Barrett to get sacked for a loss of six. Luckily they were able to string together a nice drive before again struggling in the red zone. Buckeye Nation held their collective breath as Tyler Durbin came out to attempt to push the game to overtime. This time, he didn’t miss and for the first time ever, The Game was headed to overtime.
Ohio State took the field on offense first in overtime. They left little doubt that they were going to go quietly after fighting back in the second half. Two plays and the Buckeyes had a 24-17 lead. Michigan then converted on fourth and goal from the five yard line to send the game to a second overtime.
The Wolverines started the second overtime on offense. This time, they were unable to get a first down and had to settle for a field goal to take a 27-24 lead. Ohio State took the field knowing that they had to score a touchdown to win the game. The offense picked up only nine yards on their first three plays, leaving themselves with a fourth down and one yard for the first. Whether it was from a lack of trust in his kicker or complete trust in his quarterback, Urban made the decision to go for the first down. After a Michigan timeout, J.T. Barrett ran the ball to the left side for an extremely close first down. The play was reviewed, and despite Jim Harbaugh’s vehement objections, the call of a first down was allowed to stand. Curtis Samuel then ran a sweep to the same left side that was blocked perfectly and Ohio State had finally won The Game.
There is a lot of things that could be said about this game. It included some questionable decision by both coaching staffs and the referees. The losers of a game as hard fought as this will always want to blame someone besides themselves. They won’t want to admit that they let a game get away from them when it appeared that it was won. Certain types will then want to put the responsibility for the loss on the only thing they couldn’t control, the officials. Despite the incessant yelling and pleading throughout the game, the referees wouldn’t allow one coach to decide this game. Left with the loss and frustration, all some can do is whine.
It’s hard for the winners to hear that though with the loud celebratory roar of a fourth straight win in The Game.