Michigan got their yards early in this game. Whatever people think of Rodriguez’s tenure, or the direction of the program, he is a very good offensive mind. Further, Denard Robinson is a very good talent and he was hurting us early. Interestingly, Ohio State shut down the option plays at the very start. I think Michael Shaw had two big runs early, but that was it. Seriously. Where Michigan was hurting us was on the QB power plays: the designed runs for Denard. He got yards early (he’s very good in between tackles) and the offensive line for Michigan run-blocked those plays well. However, those plays require a level of stamina and strength to survive the play’s inherent physicality. Denard was routinely gang-tackled and it hurt Michigan after one quarter. Beyond being sandwiched by multiple tacklers, a hit on Denard by backup defensive end/tackle Adam Bellamy dislocated a few fingers in Denard’s non-throwing hand. Taters came in to make it all better, of course, but Michigan never got back into rhythm. They had the one touchdown drive, to which Jordan Hall housed the ensuing kickoff. Michigan had two drives that picked up at least one first down in the second half.
Offensively,the Buckeyes were stymied by Michigan’s early efforts to stop the run. Jordan Kovacs, Michigan’s leading tickler on their defense, was active around the ball and Kenny Demens made plays as well. And still: Terrelle Pryor was able to throw all over Michigan’s secondary to take a 24-7 lead into halftime. It could have been worse at intermission, if not for a Pryor late throw to the boundary. He found Jordan Kovacs instead of DeVier Posey to end the half.
Even then, a 24-7 lead at intermission should not be treated as safe against the Wolverines. Michigan has shown to be a 3rd quarter team against the likes of Iowa and Wisconsin. They lost both those games, but nevertheless demonstrated an ability to score quickly and force their opponents to put them to bed in the second half. With those fears in mind, Ohio State owned the second half. Michigan began with the ball, and it was Taters who delivered the death knell with a terrible interception to Travis Howard. Ohio State’s Boom Herron, who exploded for over 170 yards running in the second half, scored on the ensuing drive. Michigan’s offense gained no traction thereafter. Michigan’s offensive line struggled to block our defensive line and TFLs, negative plays mounted. Michigan’s wide receivers were blanketed by our secondary. Their perpetual drops did not help either. Ohio State won this one going away.
On Senior Day, it was the outgoing seniors who stole the show. Dane Sanzenbacher had 3 grabs for 71 yards and a TD. Two of those grabs were in the deep middle of Michigan’s defense. Five seniors led the team in tackles for the day. Chimdi Chekwa had 8 solo stops. Ross Homan and Jermale Hines both chipped in 8 tackles (4 solo). Homan forced a fumble and Hines had a key 4th down pass defended. Brian Rolle was an animal all game, but especially in the first half. He set the tone for the defense with his relentless play vis-a-vis Denard. Devon Torrence had 6 tackles (4 solo). Cameron Heyward and Dexter Larimore had quiet days statistically, but were important elements of quality defensive line play all game. Justin Boren, one of two senior starters on the offensive line, is now the only person in his Michigan recruiting class to have a winning record (or a win) in the rivalry. That’s pretty cool.
I doubt Michigan will fire Rodriguez because of this game, but those (mostly disgruntled Michigan fans) fanning those flames made that an important subtext throughout the broadcast and in the wake of the game’s conclusion. In doing so, they accentuated that this game showed that Rodriguez is no closer to beating Ohio State than when he started. These games are always played yearly, but, corroborating that sentiment, Ohio State did hold Michigan to its lowest yardage output and yards per play statistic in any game this season. I imagine that the 83 second half yards are the lowest in any game for Michigan as well. Statistics like that are being used to underscore the disparity between Michigan and conference elite status, as well as a sense of hopelessness.
Ohio State is unlikely to get the Rose Bowl bid, but should be in fantastic shape for an at-large to the Sugar Bowl or the Orange Bowl. Importantly, this year’s class of seniors will go out winners again. The national title opportunity eluded them because of one bad game, but they rebounded to win the Big Ten and beat Michigan as they had done in the previous three years. Always good.