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Buckeyes Buckeye Archive The Game is a Classic - Buckeyes Move to 12-0
Written by Dan Wismar

Dan Wismar

Smith UM13aUrban Meyer called it “an instant classic.”  Brady Hoke said “We played the game to win.”  In the end, it was Hoke’s call to go for the win in regulation rather than send The Game into overtime that proved decisive in Ohio State’s 42-41 victory Saturday in Ann Arbor. Buckeye safety Tyvis Powell stepped in front of Devin Gardner’s pass on a two-point conversion attempt at the goal line with 30 seconds to play, his interception preserving a perfect 12-0 regular season for the Buckeyes, and their 9th win in the last 10 meetings with their rivals to the north.

Ohio State had secured a berth in the Big Ten title game even before this one kicked off, but as usual, emotions were running high, and a 2nd quarter brawl marred the spectacle, resulting in the ejections of two OSU players and one from Michigan. Freshman back Dontre Wilson and senior guard Marcus Hall threw punches in the melee, and backup Wolverines linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone was tossed for ripping off Wilson’s helmet, among other violations.

When the last-minute onsides kick attempt by the Wolverines failed, and victory was assured, the Buckeyes knew their hopes for a shot at the national championship were still alive. Three hours later, when No. 1 Alabama fell to Auburn, the erstwhile No. 3 Buckeyes found themselves in the driver’s seat for a berth in the January 6th title game. After all the angst about multiple unbeatens and who’s jumping whom, the moral of the story turns out to all your games, and the rest will take care of itself.

Defense Rests

Hyde UM13aMichigan’s Gardner played his best game ever at quarterback, throwing for 451 yards and four touchdowns, and running for a fifth, but the Wolverines’ defense had no answer for the Ohio State rushing attack. Carlos Hyde ran for a Michigan game record 226 yards, and averaged 8.4 yards per carry, while Braxton Miller was carving up the Michigan defense for another 153 yards, with three rushing touchdowns.

Miller threw the ball just 15 times in the game, completing 6 for 133 yards, but he connected for a 53-yard TD to Devin Smith for the first OSU score, and then hit tight end Jeff Heuerman from 22 yards out to put them up two scores late in the 3rd quarter. There was no need to throw the ball more than that, because the running game was clicking for 8.5 yards per carry, and the Buckeyes faced only eight 3rd downs the entire game. But about that defense…

The Michigan offense didn’t resemble anything we had seen to was as if Wolverines’ coordinator Al Borges had been saving all his bullets for the big fight. Michigan scored a touchdown on their first possession of the game after a bubble screen worked to perfection for 84 yards, and most everything that came after that worked as well. Each time the Wolverines would score though, Ohio State would answer, and the game was tied at 7, at 14, and then at 21 at the half.

Even the much maligned Michigan running game was effective as Gardner moved the offense up and down the field in the first half. Luke Fickell’s Ohio State defense came into the game thinking they had righted the ship after their early season struggles, but they seemed slow to react and they tackled poorly. Miller kept the Buckeyes in it with two first half touchdown runs and the long TD pass to Smith, but Michigan clearly outplayed the nation’s No. 3 team in the early going, and the Bucks had to feel fortunate to be tied at the break.


No Lead Safe

Miller UM13aThe Buckeye faithful must have felt as if things had returned to normalcy as Ohio State asserted itself in the 3rd quarter, scoring twice to go up 35-21. But Devin Gardner had more in the tank, even though he was limping noticeably on a sore ankle by the 4th quarter. Gardner drove the Wolverines 83 yards in 11 plays to draw within one score, and then Carlos Hyde made his only mistake of the game, fumbling the ball away on the second play after the kickoff, and Michigan was in position to tie it at 35. A 2-yard TD pass from Gardner to tight end Jake Butt drew them even once again, and it was back to the Carlos Hyde Show from there.

After not having led in the first half, the Buckeyes never trailed in the second, but the defense couldn’t hold the lead for them, even after Hyde atoned for the fumble with the go-ahead touchdown at the 2:20 mark of the 4th quarter. Miller got them in position for the final touchdown with a weaving 32-yard run on the first play, to set them up at the UM 33-yard line.

Michigan hurt the Buckeyes all day long with misdirection plays, especially throwback screens, and they connected on a 29-yarder to Fitzgerald Toussaint to convert a big 3rd-and-8 from the OSU 31, down to the 2-yard line. Two plays later, the Wolverines were within a point, and Brady Hoke was holding up two fat fingers to try to end it right there.


Scouting Pays Off

Heuerman UM13aMeyer called a timeout to allow his coaches to set up the defense, and during the break, OSU cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs successfully predicted what Michigan would call on the two-point try. That’s why Tyvis Powell was ready when the intended receiver Drew Dileo came in motion and set up as the third man in the “stack” of receivers on the offensive right side. Powell and linebacker Josh Perry exchanged a knowing glance, and Perry blitzed off the edge, confident that Powell would be ready.

If Tyvis Powell makes no further contribution to OSU football in his career, he will forever be remembered for that one Jim Laughlin...and Todd Bell...and Maurice Clarett...and Beanie Wells...and Antonio Pittman...and Tony Gonzalez, and dozens of others before him...because he made a play in The Game that contributed to an Ohio State win.

This wasn’t the most artistic of victories for the Buckeyes...certainly not on defense, where the real questions about the championship caliber of this team have been, and where they remain. But it was dramatic, and compelling to watch, contributing to what some were calling the best day of college football they had ever seen. And after the heart-stopping finish to Auburn-Alabama later in the day, the 12-0 Buckeyes find themselves one game away from a return to the BCS Championship Game.

You could take away the outside the national championship opportunity...and the undefeated season...and the team record winning streak. Take away all of it, and you wouldn’t diminish what went on at the Big House on Saturday. What made this an instant classic was the intensity of the competition between two great programs, writing a new chapter in the greatest rivalry in all of sport.

It’s why we love The Game.


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photo credits: Andrew Weber - USAToday Sports (Smith, Heuerman) - Rick Osentoski - USAToday Sports (Miller, Hyde)


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