Well, I certainly hope that all of you Buckeye fans who want Michigan to be good again "for the sake of the rivalry" are happy with yesterday's game. Personally, I'd like to see the last Saturday in November be a guaranteed win, just like it was during the RichRod Era. But if suffering through four hours of gut-wrenching emotions is worth extra-salty Wolverine tears, then bon appetit!
1. Michigan still leads the overall series, 58-49-6, but that is largely due to their dominance during the leather helmet days. In the first sixteen games of the series (1897 to 1919), Michigan compiled a record of 13-1-2, for an .875 winning percentage. In the last sixteen games (2001 to 2016), Ohio State has compiled a record of 14-2, for an .875 winning percentage. I'll take current success over ancient history any day.
2. Curtis Samuel continued his outstanding season yesterday, with 7 rushes for 54 yards (7.7 average) and a touchdown; and 4 receptions for 32 yards (8.0 average). In other words, Samuel had 11 touches for 86 yards, for an average of 7.8 yards per touch, which was slightly below his season average (see below).
3. For the season, Samuel now has 91 rushes for 704 yards (7.7 average) and 8 touchdowns; and 65 receptions for 822 yards (12.6 average) and 7 touchdowns. In other words, he has 156 touches for 1526 yards (9.8 average) and 15 touchdowns.
4. Samuel did not have much of an impact on The Game until the fourth quarter. In his first seven touches, Samuel had only 29 yards, for an average of just 4.1 yards per touch. In his final four touches, Samuel had a 16-yard reception, an 18-yard run to set up the first overtime touchdown, an 8-yard reception that led to the infamous 4th-and-1 play, and the 15-yard game winning touchdown.
5. Going into the 2016 season, we all knew that the Buckeyes' national title hopes rested on the shoulders of J.T. Barrett. Like Curtis Samuel, the Buckeye quarterback looked pedestrian through most of The Game but came through in the clutch with 134 of his 249 total yards (53.8%) in the fourth quarter and overtime. Barrett also scored his lone touchdown in the first overtime period on a 7-yard run to give Ohio State a brief 7-point lead.
6. Ohio State had only one explosive play (20+ yards) on the day, that being Barrett's seemingly improvised quarterback draw that netted 41 yards in the fourth quarter. The Buckeye's next longest play from scrimmage was Curtis Samuel's 18-yard run in the first overtime period. Of course, Samuel's 15-yard game winning score could have gone for 1,500 yards if the field were long enough - no one was catching Samuel on that play.
7. The defense played outstanding yesterday. Although Michigan scored three touchdowns, the combined length of their three drives was 102 yards, with the longest being an 11-play, 55-yard drive right before halftime that was set up by a long kick-off return. The Wolverines second touchdown drive was only 5 plays and 22 yards after a failed fake punt. The third was 7 plays and 25 yards in overtime.
8. Raekwon McMillan had a Spielman-esque game with 16 tackles, and on a strong pass rush he deflected a pass that was subsequently intercepted and returned for a score (see below). Even so, fellow linebacker Jerome Baker might have been the player of the game on defense. After getting routinely abused by Michigan State's power running attack last week, Baker totaled 15 tackles, had a huge 10-yard sack, and intercepted a pass with Michigan up 10 points and looking to ice the ballgame. Baker returned his interception to the Michigan 13-yard line and thereafter the Wolverines began to melt down. An offsides penalty followed by an unsportsmanlike conduct call gave the Buckeyes first-and-goal and the offense was able to quickly punch the ball in and cut the deficit to three points. After Baker's pick, the Michigan offense went into turtle mode: The Wolverines ran 20 plays for a grand total of 47 yards (2.35 yards per play), with a long play of 9 yards and half of their plays going for zero or negative yards; Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight was 3 for 9 for 22 yards and touchdown (in overtime) and a sack.
9. Safety Malik Hooker had another pick six yesterday, his third of the season. Hooker's three pick sixes is not only a Buckeye single-season record (besting Neal Colzie's two in 1973), but it is also a Buckeye career record (Colzie and seven other players each had a pair). Hooker had a fourth pick six called back (against Indiana) due to an illegal block during his return. Hooker has six total interceptions on the season for 181 yards, his yardage total currently being the second best single season in Buckeye history (Derek Ross had seven picks for 194 yards in 2001).
10. Place kicker Tyler Durbin did his best Mike "Wide Left" Lantry impersonation yesterday, hooking two short field goals for his first true misses of the season (a third miss was blocked by Penn State). However, Durbin recovered in the clutch, knocking through a 23-yard attempt to tie the game at 17 with just six seconds remaining in regulation.
11. Michigan played a great game yesterday, especially on defense and special teams, and they earned a modicum of respect from me. But that respect certainly does not extend to the Wolverines' head coach, Jim Harbaugh. During the game, Harbaugh was his typical out-of-control, frothing-at-the-mouth lunatic on the sidelines, making a pure spectacle of himself and earning an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for his egregious conduct. After Harbaugh's epic meltdown, which included berating officials, breaking his headset, and throwing his play sheets, his team was outscored 23 to 10 and outgained 200 yards to 47 yards. Perhaps not coincidentally, two crucial third down penalty calls subsequently went against Michigan: A pass interference that was called on Wolverine defensive back Delano Hill that allowed Ohio State to convert a 3rd-and-7, and a pass interference call that was not called on Buckeye defensive back Gareon Conley that stalled Michigan's drive in the second overtime period and forced a field goal instead of a touchdown.
12. True to form, Harbaugh continued his whining during his postgame press conference, calling out the officials for numerous alleged bad calls, and implying that the game was somehow fixed in Ohio State's favor. Harbaugh mentioned several penalties that were called against Michigan and several more that were not called against Ohio State, but his biggest gripe was the spot on the Buckeyes' 4th-and-1 play in the second overtime. Even though the officials were in perfect position on the play, and even though an overhead view showed that Barrett obtained the necessary yardage, Harbaugh insisted that Barrett had come up a yard short. Of course, Harbaugh is entitled to be a jackass (so long as he is willing to pay for the privilege), but his tantrums do not reflect well upon his team. Instead of congratulating the Buckeyes and being gracious in defeat, Harbaugh's classless and incessant whining and borderline conspiracy theories diminished his own team's prodigious efforts to such an extent that they were rendered a footnote in The Game. The Michigan fan base, deranged and delusional after repeated beatings at the hands of their erstwhile rivals, undoubtedly love Harbaugh's Defender of the Faith schtick, but are serious-minded recruits really going to want to play for a guy who has less self-control than a half-drunk slob throwing his remote control at the TV set after every questionable call?
13. There's a reason that the San Francisco 49ers completely fell apart after their Super Bowl season - Harbaugh the tactician was able to make them great for a while, but then Harbaugh the lunatic tore his own team apart. Let's make no mistake - yesterday was Harbaugh's Super Bowl, it was the best team that he'll ever have at Michigan and his best chance to win the Big Ten title and make the playoffs. He had 43 seniors this year, a huge experience advantage over the Buckeyes, who were the youngest Power5 team. Next year will be a major rebuilding year, and then Harbaugh has to try to overcome Urban Meyer's decided recruiting advantage for several years thereafter. The odds are that Harbaugh will implode, and burn down the Michigan program in his self-immolation, before he will get the Wolverines "back" to whatever level they think they are supposed to occupy. The Ten Year War 2.0 ended yesterday. Harbaugh will be long gone before 2024 rolls around, if not in a padded cell then on the sidelines of some struggling NFL team that is willing to light a fire with napalm.
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