Being born in 1999, I wasn’t even able to talk the last time the Michigan Wolverines won at Ohio State, and I nearly had that much-exercised faculty taken away from me on Saturday. This was an out-and-out masterpiece and no game I’ve ever witnessed as a Michigan fan embodied the mantra THE TEAM, THE TEAM, THE TEAM quite like this one did.
Let’s hand out some grades.
We all knew it was a matter of time before J.J. McCarthy would burst onto the scene and live up to the hype, but I don’t think even the most optimistic of fans expected to see the greatest passing performance by a Wolverine in Columbus out of him this year.
McCarthy out-played, out-smarted and out-toughed C.J. Stroud. He was the one who played the Heisman favorite, not Stroud. That was the stuff of legends — just watch the tape. His ascension could be the difference between winning the Big Ten and winning the whole shebang. Keep on being a warrior in the gardens of victory.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: A+
This much-maligned fleet of pass-catchers flipped the script on all the critics — including me. Throw out all of my criticisms about the wideouts being unable to get open because they did that and some against Ohio State.
Ronnie Bell had a solid three-catch, 46-yard performance, and Colston Loveland’s sole catch was a massive 45-yard touchdown reception that set the tone for a dominant second half. But the hero of this group has to be Cornelius Johnson, who erupted for 160 yards and two massive touchdowns.
Running Backs: A+
For most of the game, it looked like Ohio State had finally bottled up Michigan’s elite running attack. Blake Corum couldn’t play, the Buckeyes were getting penetration at will and Wolverine tailbacks weren’t making the cuts they usually make.
Donovan Edwards had other plans, however. The Don finished the day with 216 yards, averaging 9.8 yards a pop, and ripped off two 75+ yard house calls. Just take a look at this (and note the celly):
Offensive Line: A
Ohio State threw everything it had at this group and still couldn’t muster a consistent pass rush — largely thanks to the big men up front. Outmuscled in the first half, Michigan’s offense line regrouped, reenergized and put on a free, nationally-televised clinic to close out the game.
Front 7: A
Ryan Day’s offensive plan was predicated on getting the ball out to the perimeter as quickly as possible — he was afraid of what Mike Morris, Mazi Smith, Mike Barrett, Kris Jenkins, Taylor Upshaw and company would do to his prized quarterback. While not generating consistent pressure largely due to the opposition’s game plan, these guys came to eat. When called upon to make tackles, they did so with force and gave Stroud enough trouble to cause several key misfires.
Michigan’s secondary surrendered one yard shy of 350 through the air and still played their best game of the season.
Will Johnson is a defensive superstar in the making; DJ Turner balled out. But the unsung heroes of this game are the safeties. Rod Moore, R.J. Moten and Makari Page kept a lid on Ohio State’s air raid passing attack. From deep balls to short crossing routes, these dudes had them covered.
I haven’t even gotten to the best defensive performance of the day. Mike Sainristil’s switch to defense was a stroke of unmitigated genius by the coaching staff. Sainristil has become Michigan’s best overall defender. From covering slot receivers and tight ends to blitzing and rush defense, he can quite literally do it all. And when it mattered most, Sainristil came through with the greatest pass breakup I have ever seen.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME, MIKE SAINRISTIL?— Due# (@JDue51) November 27, 2022
Special Teams: A
It was a nice change of pace to have the special teams take a back seat en route to victory. Jake Moody made a smooth 49-yard field goal to give Michigan its first points of the day and missed a ridiculously long 59-yard attempt. Surprisingly, Brad Robbins punted five times, averaging a respectable 40.6 yards a punt. A.J. Henning was limited to one return for six yards. The punt and kick defense shut down any hopes of explosivity from the Buckeyes, preventing Ohio State from registering a punt return and holding their kick returner to a mediocre 19-yard average.
Michigan’s Deportment: A++
Let’s keep this section short and sweet. Michigan won in Columbus for the first time since 2000, handed Ohio State its worst home loss against the Wolverines since 1976 and slapped the Buckeyes with their first Big Ten home loss since 2015. Wow. Just wow.
But as nearly every Wolverine interviewed after the game noted, the job isn’t done yet.