Buckeyes Complete Perfect Season with Fitting Win over Michigan
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There will be no Big Ten championships, no Heisman Trophies and no BCS bowl games for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes. This team won’t have a chance to prove whether it truly belongs among the best in college football, but it has one thing no one, not even the NCAA, can take away.
For just the sixth time in school history – and fourth time in the last 60 years – Ohio State will finish the season unbeaten, unblemished and untied following a 26-21 victory over archrival Michigan on Saturday.
“It really hasn't sunk in yet,” Urban Meyer said after the game.
“I want to make sure they're properly recognized as one of the great groups of seniors in the history of this program, however we're going to do that. Maybe we'll get 19 bronze statues somewhere, raise some money.”
The OSU football program should be flush with cash as long as Meyer is walking the sidelines. He has reignited a fanbase that was feeling disenchanted after all the drama and agony of the last year.
He did it his way. He did it for Ohio. He did it for those seniors. He did it for guys like John Simon and Zach Boren. For Etienne Sabino and Nathan Williams and Travis Howard. For Ben Buchanan and Reid Fragel.
But most importantly, he did it because it’s what he does. In one year, Urban Meyer transformed a fatally flawed 6-7 football team into an undefeated football team. It wasn’t a perfect football team, and it certainly wasn’t a perfect win on Saturday.
The Buckeyes committed nine penalties for 74 yards. They muffed a punt, they allowed 21 points in the first half, they struggled in the red zone and they gave the Michigan Wolverines every opportunity to win the game.
Like they have done all year, these Buckeyes simply found a way to win.
“This team is tough all the way from the seniors to the freshman and extends to the coaching staff,” said senior Zach Boren, who led the Buckeyes with nine tackles on Saturday.
“The way we train, how the coaches drill us, it all comes from turning the little things into big things.”
Even without senior captain John Simon, the Buckeyes overcame a 21-20 halftime deficit at home by shutting out the Wolverines in the second half. After allowing 219 yards of offense in the first half, including a 67-yard touchdown run by Denard Robinson in the final minute, Ohio State’s defense held Michigan to 60 total yards on 21 plays in the second half.
“We made adjustments in the locker room,” said safety Christian Bryant, who knocked down a few big passes on Michigan’s final drive.
“The defensive coaches told us that we needed to stop No. 16 (Robinson) because we knew he wasn’t going to throw the ball because of his wrist.”
Robinson had torched the OSU defense for 124 yards on just six carries in the first half, but Ohio State started crashing its safeties when Robinson was in the game. It forced the Wolverines to go away from their gameplan and resulted in just four carries for the team’s most dynamic player in the second half.
As a result, the Buckeyes were able to control the line of scrimmage, and the clock, with a power rushing attack that was spearheaded by junior tailback Carlos Hyde.
“He's developing into one of the best backs in the country,” Meyer said of Hyde, who finished with 146 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.
“He's a powerful guy. He's come a long way.”
The Buckeyes wanted to get Hyde the ball early and often this week, something they failed to do against Wisconsin up in Madison. He scored the first touchdown of the game on a 3-yard run over the right side, but Michigan responded with a 75-yard touchdown pass from Devin Gardner to Roy Roundtree.
The Wolverines took a 14-10 lead on Gardner’s 2-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, but Braxton Miller found wideout Corey Brown on a 14-yard touchdown pass with 1:30 to play in the first half.
Robinson scored his touchdown on a play where he was hit simultaneously by safety Christian Bryant and cornerback Travis Howard. It allowed him to bounce through on his way for the long touchdown.
Ohio State was able to respond with a field goal just before the half, and as it turns out, neither team would find the end zone again in this game.
The Buckeyes had the football for nearly 37 minutes in the game, but had to settle for four Drew Basil field goals when their drives stalled in the red zone. That allowed Michigan to stay in the game in the second half, but the Wolverines turned the ball over at costly times.
“We had too many turnovers,” Robinson said after the game.
“That’s why we lost. In order to win this game, you have to have control of the ball. Unfortunately, we did not have much success running the ball in the second half.”
The first turnover came on a gutsy call by Brady Hoke to go for it on 4th-and-3 on the Michigan side of the 50-yard line. The Wolverines still had a 1-point lead, but Robinson was stuffed on the keeper by linebackers Ryan Shazier and Etienne Sabino.
The Buckeyes were able to cash in with a Basil field goal to make it 23-21, and Robinson would give the ball right back on Michigan’s next possession. Christian Bryant popped the ball loose and Nathan Williams fell on it, but Basil missed from 39 yards on his next attempt.
Ohio State managed one more Basil field goal, a 25-yarder in the fourth quarter, but it was Devin Gardner who sealed the victory for the Buckeyes with two late turnovers. His first was a fumble forced by Johnathan Hankins, but the one that locked it up for the Buckeyes was the intercepted pass to C.J. Barnett with less than five minutes to play.
“I kind of lost it on the sideline there,” said Meyer, who was dowsed with Gatorade by his players after the victory.
“Gotta keep more composure, I guess, in the coaching manual, I think it's chapter 13, it says keep cool. I lost it there for a couple of minutes. And then we kneeled on it to win the game after that last first down.”
Meyer wouldn’t make a case for his team to win the AP National Championship after the game, but he called this win about as good as any he has had as a college football coach.
“Obviously this is the state I grew up in,” he said.
“This is the state I made a comment on last November that our objective is to make the great state of Ohio proud. I imagine tonight there's a lot of people in this great state very proud of what their football – no one else's, this is the state of Ohio's football team – accomplished.”
After all, that was the mission from the start.
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