clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Takeaways from Michigan’s 31-20 loss to Ohio State

The quarterback had to make plays and couldn’t do it.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan Football fell to 8-4 on the season after a 31-20 loss at the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes, their 13th-such win in the last 14 attempts in this rivalry.

No need to butter this one up. Let’s get right to it.

QB Play Costs Michigan

John O’Korn is a stand-up guy and took the questions thrown his way during the postgame press conference like a champ despite being visibly rattled emotionally.

This sucks for him and he is crushed, but the film shows that his play was the biggest hindrance from a Michigan victory against the Buckeyes on Saturday.

That is the cold-hard truth, and he knows it.

O’Korn routinely missed wide open receivers on simple throws and threw a back-breaking interception intended for nobody with minutes remaining on Saturday that sealed the game for the Buckeyes.

He also missed Chris Evans on a 4th and 4 late in the game on the OSU side of the field. O’Korn would finish the game 17-for-32 for 195 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

People are going to curse Harbaugh out for his lack of development, but the book has been out on him for awhile now. He has not played well since his freshman year at Houston, he could not beat out Wilton Speight for the job last year or this year, and he lost his job to a redshirt freshman in a game against Rutgers.

He is what he is. Quarterback development is not exactly linear. Just because Jake Rudock developed into an NFL QB doesn’t necessarily mean it can happen to every player.

You either have it or you don’t sometimes. He didn’t on Saturday, and hasn’t all year long. But injuries left Michigan with no other options.

Alex Malzone came into the game as the No. 2 QB, but let’s be honest here. He is probably Michigan’s fifth-string quarterback at full-strength.

We’ll delve more into the quarterback situation as we unwind from the season, but we knew over a month ago that this is what O’Korn is. When Brandon Peters went down last week, we knew what he was probably going to give you in this game if he was inserted back into the lineup.

In that regard, Michigan lived up to expectations for one of the rare times this season.

Defense Has Issues After Strong Start

Michigan’s defense gave them a chance to win this game for almost 60 minutes, but a few plays let OSU back into the contest and swing momentum throughout.

Michigan, up 14-0 at the start of the second quarter, saw its defense have one of its better efforts of the season until Rashan Gary went down momentarily to injury. From that point forward, the wind was let out of the sails just enough to let them back into the game.

J.T. Barrett took over the game with his legs before being injured, and then Dwayne Haskins came in and picked up where he left off. He deserves credit for coming into the game and performing, which is the difference between a program like OSU’s and Michigan’s right now.

Yes, it was the backup, but Haskins is a big-time talent who got his chance to shine a bit earlier than expected. Michigan does not have that guy on the bench yet, or at least he was not dressed in pads on Saturday.

If you want to blame Don Brown, that’s fine. This defense has been put in a spot all year where they have to be flawless or damn near pitch a shutout to give the Wolverines a chance to win. Most of them will be back next year and the ceiling of that unit is still extremely high.

Heat on Harbaugh

At the end of the day, Michigan is now 1-5 in rivalry games under Harbaugh and that is a pretty telling stat. Only one of those games was a blowout, while the others come with key mistakes that cost the team late.

The win was a nine-point victory over a 3-9 Michigan State team.

Despite that, a coaching staff’s job is to put your players in a position to succeed and win. Michigan did that with its gameplan on both sides of the ball on Saturday afternoon.

Offensively, they made an effort to get the ball to guys like Chris Evans in space and attack with their tight ends, which is what cost OSU in their game against Iowa. For reasons that were already discussed above, they were not able to cash in offensively.

Everyone is tired of “wait until next year,” and quite frankly I’m tired of writing about it. But 2018 will tell you what this program is going to be moving forward. The excuses are out the window.

They are either going to take the next step, or fall in line with being a three-or-four loss team annually. Which is what they have now been for 17 of the last 20 seasons.

But for now, it’s another season with no shortage of questions and “what if’s” all over the field.

Michigan needs to look itself in the mirror and figure this out, and it should probably come in the form of a self-generated hype-less offseason.