Ohio State overcomes early deficit, beats Michigan, 31-20

(Getty Images)

In the 114th version of “The Game” Ohio State held on in a tight second half to beat Michigan 31-20. Inside a packed and loud Michigan Stadium, Ohio State was able to overcome losing starting Quarterback J.T. Barrett in the third quarter, and rallied to win their sixth straight against the Wolverines, and 13 of the last 14 in the rivalry.

Quick Recap

From the moment the game started, Ohio State seemed to be lethargic and a second slow. Michigan jumped out to a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter, largely through a rushing attack featuring Chris Evans and Karan Higdon. The Wolverines again scored to kick off the second quarter on a John O’Korn play-action fake 3 yard touchdown pass to tight end Sean McKeon. In the first quarter, Ohio State failed to move the ball offensively, going backward for minus six yards of offense.

In the second quarter, the script flipped. Barrett got it going through both the air and the ground, as he capped off an 11 play, 75 yard drive with a 21 yard touchdown to pull the Buckeyes deficit to 14-7 with 9:50 remaining in the second quarter. After a Michigan punt, Barrett again led the Buckeyes on a scoring drive, this time much quicker – hitting tight end Marcus Baugh for a 25 yard touchdown strike to cap off a three play drive. Both teams would trade punts before going into the half all square at 14-14.

The Turning Point

Midway through the third quarter with Ohio State trailing 20-14, Barrett went down with a knee injury and was replaced with Redshirt Freshman Dwayne Haskins. Haskins–who finished 6-7 for 97 yards–came in to lead a long drive including a beautiful 27 yard completion down the right sideline to convert a key third down to Austin Mack. Following a 22 yard Haskins run to the Michigan one yard line, J.K. Dobbins plunged in from one yard out to give Ohio State a 21-20 lead that they would never relinquish. Mike Weber tacked on a 25 yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

Dobbins finished with 101 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries while Weber finished with 12 carries for 57 yards a touchdown as well. Barrett, who finished his career in the “The Game” as the only starting quarterback to win all four starts against Michigan, went 3-8 for 30 yards a touchdown through the air, and 15 carries for 67 yards with a touchdown on the ground before leaving the game with the knee injury. K.J. Hill led all receivers with two catches for 53 yards. Defensively Ohio State held Michigan to 290 total yard and only allowed O’Korn to throw for 185 yards passing with one touchdown and one interception,


Haskins Key Drive

Barrett to Baugh Touchdown

On to the next one

Ohio State’s playoff pursuit marches on! The Buckeyes will travel to Indianapolis to take on Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game next Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.

  • Saggy

    Ohio State lost a record amount of guys two years ago yet played in the playoffs. No excuses.

  • Saggy

    Josh Jackson has the Hokies in the top-25. he’s a freshman, too.

  • Saggy

    Personally, I would never have punted that ball.

    Run for 2 yards and kill the game. Or just run a sweep and take up the whole clock. MSU had 0 timeouts. A FG would not have been possible from 70+ yards so a hail mary is the only thing that would have beaten Michigan – and that’s ONLY if they didn’t pick up 2 yards and a first down.

  • Steve

    Plausible results are nowhere near equivalent to expected results. Sure, Harbaugh could go 0-10 against each team for the next 10 years. It’s plausible. It’s also plausible that Harbaugh decides he’s going to put a helmet on for the bowl game if Peters isn’t healthy either.

    “which means there should be some regression coming.”

    This also falls under the most recent result being the next predicted one error. Michigan’s results from this year, with O’Korn at their most important position, while tell us little about next year’s performance. When we go back to the whole roster having turned over, and then decades and decades of change? No, there is no expected regression looking forward. We have much better ways to predict future performance.


    Running for two yards wouldn’t have killed enough clock. There were 10 seconds left and it was fourth down. What play are you running guaranteed to kill 10 seconds? The only play that would be long enough is a…

    wait for it…


  • Steve

    Coming in after the NFL season ended his first year certainly put him behind the eight ball. Checking the calenders, it looks like Meyer came in November and experienced the full contact period that offseason, Harbaugh, on the other hand, missed it entirely. He didn’t pick his QB until the next year in Peters, who seemed perfectly adequate for a redshirt freshman until he got hurt.

    And, as I demonstrated above, Michigan didn’t have the kind of upperclass talent that top programs usually do. If Peters got to work with Ohio St’s weapons and Haskins was behind Michigan’s o-line this year, I’d expect each to perform similarly to what the other did.

  • Steve

    I have a hard time giving him grief for the QB play so far, considering he didn’t get much to work with, and he’s got two guys who were highly rated as prospects coming in. That Peters wasn’t a star as a RS FR seems like a pretty darn high bar to set.

    I find way more fault with him in the o-line. RGB mentioned above that there were some issues with this position under Hoke, but Michigan’s o-line was ranked 118th in adjusted sack rate this year, just edging out UConn. Their run game seemed to come around later in the season, but they had way too many issues protecting the QB for a team with their kind of expectations.


    I mean, you understand how recruiting works, right? That OSU’s cache with recruits–having been a NC contender for most of the past 15 years–makes it a little easier to get the blue chippers? I mean, I, too, am shocked that Harbaugh didn’t immediately grab the highest 5-star pro-style QB the minute he got hired to take over a team that was under .500 the previous seven seasons.

    Peters was clearly talented enough, as he started three games and played in a fourth (at which time the offense IMMEDIATELY looked better). He would have started this game if healthy, and all other things being the same Michigan probably wins with him at QB.

    What many of us are saying is that depth matters. OSU has it. Clearly. You’re talking in absolutes. “Well, this one program that’s been humming along for a decade plays a RS freshman and does [x] so the fact that Michigan didn’t means HARBAUGH BAD.”

    He’s effectively had two recruiting classes, and as I noted 10 of those guys started on Saturday. Peters would have been 11. And while “next man up” sounds great in theory, there are times where it simply doesn’t work on the field in year three of a complete rebuild and the next man up is John O’Korn. That’s life.

  • Saggy

    Expected results are that Michigan continues to lose to Ohio State and Michigan State. It’s also plausible. And when people say, “they can’t beat …” they don’t mean they never beat them, just that they don’t usually. John Cooper beat Michigan but we say he couldn’t beat Michigan.

    I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone else reading this discussion that the argument is that Harbaugh will have trouble beating OSU for many reasons – but mainly because he’s not a good enough coach and he hasn’t recruited well enough.

    And it is NOT plausible that Harbaugh suits up to play. That’s just stupid and impossible, and doesn’t advance your argument.

  • mgbode

    But no, no result prior to today has any real effect on his future as head coach at Michigan.

    OK, so if he had gone 14-0 for three straight seasons and won NC’s each year, then he goes 8-4 next year, it wouldn’t have an affect? Previous seasons always affect the overall perception of a head coach, which is what affects job stability.

    We aren’t that far off. I think he has done a good enough job. I just also understand that not getting fortunate bounces and going 1-5 in those important games also means that if he struggles for a year or two now that he will find himself Sumlin’d. Again, I agree it’s not fair. I agree that the admin isn’t looking at replacing him. But, they don’t care about the S&P+ rank if they don’t beat those teams.

  • mgbode

    Michigan backers here don’t believe he has any reason to worry. That’s fine. I do hope he ends up being their Cooper, no idea if that is what happens or not.

  • Steve

    “Expected results are that Michigan continues to lose to Ohio State and Michigan State”

    The only evidence to this seems to be that they previously have. That’s not close to good enough. Michigan has more talent than MSU coming through the pipeline, and just about as much as OSU. Harbaugh has been outcoached yes, but rarely. The talent on the team this year doesn’t seem lile it will be indicative in any way to future teams.

    And there is a vast difference between saying Cooper couldn’t (all past results, no more future games) and they can’t now. Past vs future.

    “Harbaugh will have trouble beating OSU for many reasons – but mainly because he’s not a good enough coach and he hasn’t recruited well enough.”

    Mainly because OSU is very good. I don’t see any way one could argue that he wasn’t the better coach on Saturday, and he has good enough recruits going forward.

  • mgbode

    Those last items were specifically noted somewhere along this thread. I said that it was wholly unfair to Harbaugh that he hasn’t gotten the fortunate plays, but that also it is now part of his legacy.


    Urban’s system is very QB centric and they have JT Barrett, who isn’t very good.

    It’s very RUNNING QB centric, and at that Barrett is QUITE good. That OSU fans think he’s trash continues to boggle my mind.


    (not sure what the sarcasm font is, here, so keep that in mind)

    I mean, what kind of football operation would set unrealistic expectations and then just keep cleaning house every two years when they’re not met?

  • Steve

    “OK, so if he had gone 14-0 for three straight seasons and won NC’s each year, then he goes 8-4 next year, it wouldn’t have an affect?”

    Maybe, and maybe if he never won more than seven games these three year, it would have an effect too. I will agree that at the extreme ends, attitudes might change. But no, his actual results, and not hypothetical ones, haven’t moved the needle.

    “if he struggles for a year or two now that he will find himself Sumlin’d.”

    Sumlin has just put up four straight five loss seasons. And thats four of six total. If Harbaugh goes four straight seasons with five losses, sure, he might find himself with some issues.


    They’re 110th in passing down sack rate. I, too, expected much worse from OSU’s d-line.

  • CBiscuit

    Bucks started winning battles at the line of scrimmage and by the second half with the pass protection, wore down Michigan’s O line. The Bucks’ D line depth is pretty strong. I remember being impressed by #74 (quite a few times) and #52 (at times)

  • RGB

    #52 is Mason Cole. UM’s best lineman. He should be playing center, but played LT this year because there was nobody else. He graduates.
    #74 is Ben Bredeson. UM’s second best lineman. A big road-grading OG. He’s a true sophomore.

  • mgbode

    Only the best ones!

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    “John Cooper was 2-10-1 against Michigan. He won 15.4% of his games against Michigan.”

    Cooper was 111-43-4 at OSU. So, the question is: was he a “bad coach” or a “failure” at OSU? If so, was it simply because there was one game on his schedule–against a team perennially good/ranked as well–that he couldn’t win? Or was it because going undefeated and winning a championship is really, really freaking hard? By my recollection, Cooper was fired because his 1999 and 2000 teams–coming off that 1998 juggernaut–went 14-10 and looked listless, not because “he couldn’t beat Michigan”. That he’d managed to gather all that talent over the years and not win a championship was ancillary hindsight. He’d showed as recently as 1998 that he could craft a #1-level team AND beat a good, ranked Michigan. Had there been a B1G championship game and/or CFPO in 1998, the Buckeyes were there (they finished 4th in the BCS). Just like Urban in ’14.

    It would seem that the whole Michigan thing for Cooper was centered around the 93, 95-97 years when he had highly ranked teams and couldn’t beat Michigan. Never mind that in 95-97 Michigan was a ranked team as well (including #1 in 97) and played at home in two of those three years. Cooper lost to a ranked Michigan team on the road and STILL would have made the B1G championship game and/or the CFPO (#4 in both polls) depending on the outcome.

    I remember hearing that Cooper “didn’t ‘get’ the importance of the rivalry,” which I think is horsepucky. He was there for 13 years. If he didn’t “get” it by then… Harbaugh clearly “gets” it. He played for Bo. Again, would I love for Harbaugh to be 3-0 against OSU? Of course. Sometimes, though, the other team actually has a say in it. OSU is pretty damned tough to beat, rivalry or not.

    Ever since the 1v2 in ’06, it’s been tough watching Michigan bleed out from self-inflicted wounds. The salt in those wounds was watching OSU become a yearly national title contender (pay no attention to the alleged violations behind the curtain).