COLUMBUS— Michigan had the chance to end the playoff dreams for The Ohio State Buckeyes, but fell short of the task. Maybe it was because Ohio’s governor stole all the wind from Jim Harbaugh’s khaki-pleated sails.
…Or because the Wolverines could not stop the run in this 42-13 rout by the Buckeyes.
“That might have been the best win I’ve ever seen,” said Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer. “to come back from that kick in the stomach we got last week, then come out and navigate a storm against an excellent team.”
Ohio State is coming into this matchup the fallen giant of the Big Ten conference, dropping five spots after their loss to Michigan State in week 12. The Buckeyes started the year as the nations de facto No. 1 and are now fighting for a relevant bowl game with the College Football Playoffs seemingly out of reach.
The Wolverine-Buckeye rivalry is older than the NCAA itself, with the inaugural matchup kicking off in 1897. The Wolverines lead this 118-year-old conflict with a record of 58-46-6, but the Buckeyes have defeated the Wolverines in their last three meetings.
The Buckeyes were prepared to extend their streak.
Both teams traded defensive blows in the first quarter forcing two punts each. Michigan had the edge on position when the Buckeyes were backed into their own end zone for the punt. The Buckeye’s were bailed out of their three-and-out when Michigan’s Tyree Kinnel ran into punter Cameron Johnston drawing the penalty. A few plays later Ezekiel Elliot jetted out a 66-yard rush into Wolverine territory. Quarterback J.T. Barrett capped off the drive with a seven-yard keeper touchdown; his ninth rushing touchdown of the year.
The Wolverines sit atop the nation to the No. 2 defense holding teams to an average 14.9 points a game. In three games this year, Harbaugh’s defense held opponents to zero points. Today the defense looked suspect.
The Wolverines answered with a 6:40 14-play drive going 72 yards down the field. Michigan’s redshirt senior quarterback Jake Rudock went 5-of-8 passes for 69 yards, but the offense was unable to finish the drive and settled for a field goal.
The story of Ohio State’s offense heading into the game was the misuse of Heisman running back candidate Elliot in week 12 against the Spartans. He was held to just 12 carries for 33 yards.
Coach Meyer’s staff sought to that error early feeding Elliot the ball ten times before the end of the first half. Elliot capped off the Buckeyes second quarter drive with a five-yard run going untouched into the end zone.
Elliot and the offense already surpassed last week’s abysmal rushing attack.
With less than six minutes left in the half the Wolverines were staring in the face of a silent home crowd, on the verge of being stunned by their Ohio betters.
Harbaugh ordered an 11-play 92-yard drive that lasted 4:01 before the end of the half. Rudock tossed an easy five-yard touchdown to tight end Jehu Chesson. The
Wolverines came within four points proving to be worthy opponents for the big bad Buckeyes.
The game looked like an even contest moving forward, but nobody could stop Ezekiel Elliot.
Elliot started the third quarter averaging 15 yards per carry with 45 rushing yards. The Buckeye offense gashed the Wolverine defense repeatedly in the third quarter running any direction they wanted except backwards. They ran the ball 17 times complemented by seven pass plays. Barrett iced the Wolverine defense with a beautifully placed pass over the head of Wolverine linebacker Taco Charlton to receiver Jailin Marshall on a 25-yard seam route.
The beating continued at the line of scrimmage and the Wolverines could not effectively run the ball. Their offense was unable to finish big drives off the shoulders of Rudock. Rudock left the game three minutes into the fourth quarter with an apparent shoulder injury after a big sack from junior defensive end Joey Bosa.
Bosa later tipped backup quarterback Wilton Speight’s pass up in the air and intercepted it taking it to the Wolverine 10-yard line. Salt-in-the-wound.
Ohio State closed out the win in the Big House gaining 369 yards and four touchdowns on the ground with 113 yards through the air and one touchdown thrown by Barrett; shaming the Wolverine’s elite defensive status.
This game has revived Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliot’s Heisman candidacy. He rushed for 214 yards on 30 carries averaging 7.1 yards per carry. So far this year Elliot has 1,672 rush yards on 262 carries. This puts him within 125 yards of leading Heisman candidate, Derrick Henry, the Alabama running back who has 30 more carries than Elliot and only three more touchdowns (22).
Coach Meyer brought it up both on the field post-game and in the press conference afterwards.
“I think—I don’t lobby, or maybe I do, but he should be in New York; he’s one of the best players in America, he should be a Heisman guy. I don’t know if he should win it, I don’t know the other players, but I’ve been fortunate to be around [Elliot], he’s as good a player as I have ever been around.”
These powerful words come from the same man who coached the 2007 Heisman trophy winner, Tim Tebow. Elliot surpassed Eddie George in this game to become the No. 2 leading rusher all-time for The Ohio State Buckeyes behind Archie Griffin. That is good company.
This is Coach Meyer’s fourth straight win against the Wolverine’s sporting zero losses since his tenure in Columbus began. Ohio State will move up in the rankings with this win, but need the Spartans to lose in order to secure the Big Ten championship against Iowa.