Through sheer luck and with a little bit of aid from a computer, I made it to the final game of the regular season, the showdown with Ohio State. It felt like the reverse version of the classic 2006 battle, but this time with Michigan at the top of the polls. Both teams are awesome, and I expected nothing short of hysteria-laced chaos.
Someone forgot to tell Fake Devin Gardner to rehearse throwing to the correct team, however, based on the first offensive possession of the game. I stopped the Buckeyes on their series, and started moving the ball down the field, until I decided to throw to a scarlet and white jersey to give their defense the first interception on the day. They got all the way down the four yard line when I hit them right back with an interception of my own. Once again, I moved the ball down the field, and on a pass to Fake Devin Funchess, the game informed me he broke Braylon Edwards's single-season receiving record, which, even for a video game, seems improbable.
More time went by without much excitement, and Fake Gardner threw another interception with seven minutes to go in the quarter. Ohio State used that turnover to get the first touchdown of the game and a 7-0 lead, but not without cost: Fake Braxton Miller went down with an injury and was ruled out the rest of the day, and that was after I also injured their starting running back earlier in the quarter. That didn't stop me from committing horrible errors, though, because interception number three gave them field position in my red zone. After a good defensive effort, they threw for a touchdown but had it reversed by the game's officiating crew, which is likely more reliable than actual replay officials.
Ohio State leads 10-0 in the second quarter.
The turnover disasters continued for Michigan, because I fumbled halfway into the quarter, and they pounced on it after they had already gotten another field goal. Just like that I'm in a 20-point hole. It only got worse.
Fake Gardner threw his 4th INT, but nothing became of it, and yet I continued to give the ball away. Ohio State intercepted another pass and ran it all the way back for a score. 27-0 and it wasn't even halftime.
At last I got some good fortune, as my hurry-up offense clicked to get a pass touchdown off a deflect from a Buckeye defender with three minutes to go to make the game less horrible. A defensive stand gave me the ball back with a minute to go. Again the pass game was clicking for me and a long bomb got me to the red zone. With 33 seconds remaining I threw a pass to the back of the end zone, and found myself down 27-14.
Ohio State got the ball to start the half, and even with a backup quarterback and running back, they got straight down the field for a score to make their lead 34-14 even after I stopped them on a 4th and 2 with a short field. I tried my best to make a game out of it, with a quick touchdown drive, but at this point it became ping pong between the teams. It was 41-21 and then 48-21 with 5:37 remaining in the third. Out of desperation I threw two deep bombs down the middle of the field get another score, but never seemed to cut it to below a 20-point hole.
With the deficit at 48-28, I got the ball once more, and -- surprise -- threw a seventh interception at the end of the third quarter. Deciding that this was a bit of a lost endeavor, I resorted to the computer to put me out of my misery and simulate the rest of the game.
The computer didn't seem to want to let me lose.
Ohio State never scored again, and Michigan even got a safety out of them to make it 48-30. The following three possessions went like so:
Touchdown. With a two-point conversion.
Touchdown to take the lead 49-48 with 1:15 left in the game.
The game ended, and suddenly I'm looking at a 12-0 regular season.
Bonus Game: Big Ten Championship Rematch
NCAA '14 also has the distinction of serving as a frozen-in-time moment for the Big Ten's silly divisional alignment. It must have read Jim Delany's mind because it gave me the big rematch against the Buckeyes in Indianapolis for the conference title. This time, Ohio State was not going to be heartbroken.
Fake Braxton Miller was back, and not messing around. Michigan's defense was a little better-prepared to stop him, but still allowed huge quarterback runs and scrambles when he got outside the tackle box. The Buckeyes got a quick three points, followed by a touchdown (off an interception) to make it 10-0, but Fake Devin Gardner came to play too. Moving down the field in minutes, from the four yard line, I called a read option play, not unlike the one the real Gardner called in the second quarter on Saturday. I dove into the end zone untouched to make it 10-7.
Somehow Michigan's goal line defense was a stone wall, and I halted Ohio State at the three yard line on their next drive and was now down 13-7. I punted on my next series, and their return man zipped up to the 50, and it didn't take long for them to hit another field goal (goal line defense saved me again).
16-7 at the start of the second quarter.
I again fooled them with that option read play from the three yard line, and Fake Gardner walked into the end zone to close the gap, 16-14. Ohio State struck back immediately with a touchdown pass down the right sideline, and I ended the half down 23-14.
Much of the second quarter passed without any disasters, but the Buckeye offense was still moving easily. With seven minutes left I was able to get a stop, but Fake Urban Meyer went for the kill, and called a fake punt pass play over the middle, and I was in punt block formation. Their up man ran 50 yards with no one around him and scored to push the lead up to 30-14. The teams exchanged field goals to wind down the quarter and the game was still within reach, at 33-17. Ohio State got the ball after the break, but neither team could do anything with it for several drives. Finally, my secondary guessed right on a pass play and Fake Raymon Taylor intercepted the ball in Buckeye territory. I threw a pass into the left corner of the end zone and scored, cutting their lead to nine with 5:38 to go in the quarter.
With 36 seconds to go in the third, Fake Gardner got intercepted again, but I stopped them. On the next series, another interception, but I again stopped them, allowing only a field goal, and it was 36-24 with 11 minutes remaining in the game.
Two minutes later, another interception by Michigan, after holding the Buckeyes to a punt no less, and they broke through to the end zone at last, to go up 43-24. A strange glitch even played The Victors after Ohio State scored, dumping salt into my many wounds. The unraveling had turned into an implosion.
The game teased me with brief hope, because I caused a fumble and got the ball with four minutes left in the game. I even got a touchdown to make it 43-31, but I could not close the gap any more. The game ended, and Ohio State walked away conference champions.
My consolation: a Rose Bowl match-up with Oregon.