The Michigan Wolverines lost to the No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes 56-27 on Saturday afternoon. The game was close early, but the Buckeyes wound up pulling away. Here are takeaways from the loss.
Mental mistakes led to self-inflicted wounds
A Shea Patterson fumble in the red-zone recovered by Ohio State. Khaleke Hudson going off-sides on 4th and 4. Drops by receivers. Blown coverage on Michigan’s D. Carlo Kemp ripping of J.K. Dobbins shoe. Cam McGrone hitting Justin Fields late out of bounds. Over-pursuing and not maintaining gap discipline against the run. These are just a handful examples of the mental errors that occurred today.
Against a team as good as OSU, the amount of self-inflicted wounds the Wolverines committed sealed their fate long before the final whistle. They tried to claw their way back into the game, but each time they gained a little momentum, the Buckeyes offense was able to answer in convincing fashion, landing haymaker after haymaker. The Wolverines needed to play a clean game and they did not.
The game was close at one point despite what the final score says, but all it takes for the trajectory of a game to change mightily is a few miscues, and that’s what happened against the top dogs in the country.
Acknowledge Ohio State’s greatness
Make no mistake, it was a bad loss, another game in which Ohio State ultimately blew Michigan out. There are no moral victories here, there are no silver linings, the loss is what it is. With that said, the Ohio State football program is performing at one of its highest levels in their long and storied history. This isn’t just some so-so Buckeyes team, they’ve been thoroughly impressive each and every week this season.
Head coach Ryan Day may be in his first season at the helm, but the foundation he inherited from Urban Meyer is the equivalent of Rome being built in a day. It’s hard to say what Ohio State’s weakness is, and opposing teams have to basically pitch a figurative shutout in order to even have a chance against them. The Buckeyes are the No. 1 team in the country, we’ll see if it remains that way, but they proved their ranking was warranted against the Wolverines.
The Buckeyes are tough, physical, but can also play fast with finesse. The program is near its peak right now, and it just so happens that the Jim Harbaugh era started during this same time period.
This Buckeyes team could win the National Championship, J.K. Dobbins might be the best back in the NCAA, Justin Fields might be the best quarterback. Heck, this Ohio State team could wind up being not only one of the best teams in the history of their program, they could wind up being one of the best teams in college football history. The stats are on their side, currently. They are as complete of a team as there is.
There are no moral victories or solace getting beat by a phenomenal team, but the loss still needs to be put in perspective, and part of that process is acknowledging that Ohio State is one hell of a team. And no, that is not an excuse for anything that transpired.
"You have to recognize greatness when you see it. This Ohio State offense is a sight to behold. They are without flaw" -- Dan Dierdorf on UM radio just now— angelique (@chengelis) November 30, 2019
Where does Michigan go from here?
Many are going to be harsh towards Don Brown, and he’ll own up to the lackluster performance from the defensive unit. However, what’s the solution? People always ask after games like this what it’s going to take for Michigan to get over the hump. Is it talent or coaching? Is it a bit of both? Does it just boil down to execution? Answer these questions as you wish.
Next year there will be a new quarterback, the defense will have a bit more experience, but there will also be departures from perhaps the likes of Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins, and Josh Uche. Definite departures include Josh Metellus, Khaleke Hudson, Shea Patterson, Sean McKeon, and Lavert Hill. Some of the above mentioned players were considered integral parts of the 2019 team, will the void be filled in a positive or negative way? We just don’t know right now. Each season is different and presents their own challenges, each year is unpredictable.
Surely, through five seasons in the Harbaugh era no one expected Michigan to be 0-5 against Ohio State, and the program realizes this isn’t acceptable. More patience will be needed from the fanbase, otherwise things will continue to be toxic each time Michigan stumbles. It’s just the harsh truth of the matter, whether a level of cynicism is warranted or not.
As Aidan Hutchinson said they gotta dig down next year and see what they got. They can’t allow teams to score over 50 points and they gotta be better. Who can disagree with that? The problem wasn’t with the gameplan on either side of the ball, the issue was execution, according to Hutchinson, and that’s what it appeared to be from my view.
Patterson started hot, but cooled off
Quarterback Shea Patterson started the game 12-of-15, but went 6-of-28 thereafter. Part of Patterson’s problems after his hot start weren’t entirely his fault, the Ohio State pass rush started to get home, receivers did drop some of his throws, but his accuracy became erratic. Further, what didn’t help Patterson any was the fact Michigan trailed by multiple scores for much of the game and the running game couldn’t gain any traction.
While Patterson didn’t throw an interception, a key fumble on a shotgun snap in the red-zone in the first half proved to be a momentum killer. Early on it looked like Patterson would be able to keep Michigan in the game single handedly, but Ohio State adjusted with a stiffer pass-rush as well as tighter coverage in the secondary.
The bowl game matters
Just like the loss to Wisconsin and the loss to Penn State, many are going to say Michigan has nothing left to play for. That just isn’t the case. The bowl game will be Shea Patterson’s last game as a collegiate quarterback, it will be the last time quite a few Wolverines suit up for U-M. The team has endured some really good Saturday’s together, and a few devastating ones.
Even with three losses, don’t expect a bunch of players to sit out the bowl game, don’t expect this team to stop trying to improve. I anticipate the Wolverines winning their bowl game no matter who they play. This team isn’t a group of quitters or whiners, and while some will consider the loss to the Buckeyes a season defining loss, the players cannot allow themselves to have that mentality. They won’t.
What we shouldn’t do (collectively)
It’s one thing to be disappointed with an outcome, but it’s another thing entirely to question the drive of these players and the staff. At Harbaugh’s post-game presser someone asked him if he wants to beat Ohio State... I mean, c’mon. This is the guy who guaranteed a victory against them as a player, someone who has lived the rivalry and seen the good side and bad side of it. Of course Harbaugh wants to win, of course this drives him in every which way. Results don’t reflect determination, and I apply this way of thinking to Harbaugh, his staff, and his players. We can critique what happened on the field, but this game means so much to the program, and no one feels worse in defeat than they do.
As Jack Harbaugh once told me, “you have to report what happened on the field, what happened is what happened, but you don’t have to be mean." Food for thought.