That was a text I sent to my two brothers and my father a half hour before the Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes kicked off the 2018 edition of The Game. I unfortunately was not able to watch with them, but I always make sure to reach out in some way in instances like that.
Nothing was communicated between us until after the game after they responded back with a “Go Blue!” and a “Hail!”
When the clock struck 0:00, I had a gut feeling my dad would be the first one to reach back out and say something about the game, and I was right. He texted our group chat not long after the game ended and summed up everything in just three words:
“That was embarrassing.”
I tried to muster up some words, some sort of explanation as to why Michigan got pounded 62-39 in Columbus. It took me six minutes to think of my response.
That’s all I could come up with. Usually I am not at a loss for words, but I absolutely was yesterday after that beatdown.
After sleeping on it, yesterday was, in fact, an embarrassment. Michigan not only gave up the most amount of points in the rivalry’s history (62) but it gave that up with a Big Ten East Championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff hanging in the balance. Michigan also failed on several occasions to capitalize offensively, whether that was from miscues on the field or play calls from the sideline.
The Buckeyes’ offense, led by Heisman-candidate Dwayne Haskins, picked apart Don Brown’s man-to-man scheme all day long. When adjustments were made by Brown by implementing more zone defense, Haskins worked around it.
Why was it so easy for Haskins and OSU to obliterate Michigan’s then-No. 1 defense? It all starts up front, and Michigan produced zero pass-rush the entire game.
No sacks. No quarterback hurries. Only four tackles for loss. Haskins was virtually untouched yesterday, as evidenced in the photo below.
When you play in a strict man-to-man defense like Brown’s, you have to generate a pass-rush to disrupt the opponent’s offensive flow and force the quarterback to do things he wouldn’t normally do. When no pass-rush is created, you see results like Ohio State’s 567-yard performance. Michigan’s defensive line being manhandled by Ohio State’s offensive line gave the Buckeyes’ room to develop plays and pick apart the defense.
Going into the game, you think Rashan Gary, Chase Winovich and company would have been able to create some pressure on Haskins, but the Buckeyes’ offensive line held strong through all four quarters and did not bend whatsoever.
The lack of pass-rush by Michigan led the Buckeyes’ to playing their best style of football. They didn’t do too much of one thing; it was a well-balanced attack that kept Devin Bush and company on their heels all game long. It was a recipe for disaster for Michigan.
Crossing routes killed Michigan’s defense all season, and that trend continued Saturday. The lack of speed by Michigan cornerback Brandon Watson was on full display because of Ohio State’s well-designed plays that forced Watson to run after receivers instead of covering them one-on-one.
Watson is a great cover corner, but he had his worst day as a Wolverine because Ohio State’s offense was able to scheme around his good qualities and get the matchups they wanted.
Oh, and all of that happened before the injuries to three of the Wolverines’ best defenders — Bush, Gary and David Long.
Needless to say, there were problems and mismatches all across the board for Michigan’s defense.
The Wolverines’ offense also had its share of problems. Tight end Zach Gentry dropped (at least) two passes, one of which would have been a first down and the other would have been a touchdown. He had been reliable most of the season, but was unfortunately a liability yesterday.
The offensive line giving up three sacks and two quarterback hurries also did not help Shea Patterson and company. Offensive line coach Ed Warinner worked magic after the Notre Dame loss and turned it into a good unit. Simply put, it was not a good unit in Columbus. Patterson was under pressure more often than not and eventually suffered an injury because of it, forcing Michigan to turn to Brandon Peters and Joe Milton.
The play-calling was also questionable at times. Karan Higdon only carried the ball 15 times, and he averaged 20.9 carries per game heading into The Game. The run game set up everything else for Michigan all season, so going away from that with Higdon, specifically, was a head-scratcher.
It’s a real bummer guys on the offensive line, Gentry and others had their worst game of the season when Michigan desperately needed big performances from everyone. Michigan got whooped, plain and simple. Ohio State played its best game of the season while Michigan played its worst. Everything was in front of Michigan, and it let it slip away yet again.
Sometimes, it isn’t the loss that hurts, it’s the way your team loses.
After rattling off 10 straight wins after the loss to Notre Dame — including blowouts over Wisconsin and Penn State, a rivalry win over Michigan State and a comeback victory over Big Ten West Champion Northwestern — it stuns me this is the way Michigan loses.
So after all this team has been through this year, when we look back on the 2018 edition of The Game, I think three simple words are all we need to remember it by.
“That was embarrassing.”