Coming into the game there wasn't much hope for Michigan's chances against the Ohio State death machine. But this was a rivalry game, and as they are wont to do, things got weird.
One day I am going to write an ode to Devin Gardner's career, and while there will be lots of highs to talk about, big wins and virtuoso plays, those won't be the things I will most remember. It will be this game. After a season of taking shots, getting physically beaten time and time again, I'll remember Devin Gardner on third and long, pump faking a defender, getting the first down, and stumbling because he barely had enough left to get that first down.
This was Devin Gardner's statement game. After a year of questions about the offense, Gardner engineered one of the most impressive offensive displays of the season against one of the best defenses he has faced, and time and again Michigan came up with plays from the very start, going 99 yards on the first drive and stunning an Ohio State team that had just been forced to punt. The Wolverines followed that up with two more 70+ yard drives and that helped Michigan go into the half tied at 21.
The third quarter was rough. Ohio State's running advantage took hold and the Buckeyes seemingly pulled away. But if you want any proof that this offense wasn't going to quit, look at the last four drives:
- 9 plays, 69 yards, fourth down conversion inside red zone no good
- 11 plays, 83 yards, touchdown
- 13 plays, 41 yards, touchdown
- 11 plays, 84 yards, touchdown
Michigan needed scores on all of those drives and came up time and time again with big plays thanks to Devin Gardner's gutsy play and a suddenly competent run game. Michigan's three running backs combined for 137 yards on 24 carries and the offensive line put together one of its best games of the season. Credit also has to go to Al Borges, who has taken a lot of heat this year, but pulled out all the tricks at the right time and called one of his better offensive games while at Michigan.
The defense had issues all day, but that was expected going against one of the best rushing offenses in the country. Still, when the defense needed to make a big play it came up with one, stripping Carlos Hyde and allowing Michigan to score and pull the game within seven points. Giving up almost 400 yards on the ground is rough, but there were some positives from this performance if you get past the raw numbers.
The biggest questions are the two decisions to go for it. Once down one score late in the third quarter Michigan decided to go for it on 4th down instead of try for a field goal with Wile, the backup kicker. The second decision was a ballsy call to go for the win with a two-point conversion try after the final touchdown. I am completely fine with both decisions (you play to win the game) although there is something to be said against the play calls in both situations.
There really isn't much more to say right now. That was one of the best editions of The Game that we will ever witness, and while Michigan came up short, there is no shame in what happened in the Big House today. Michigan gave one of the best teams in the country all it could handle for 60 minutes, and very nearly pulled one of the biggest upsets of the season.
Go Blue, now and forever.