Since their first game in their storied 113-game rivalry that started in 1897, not a single game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines has gone to overtime. That all changed Saturday afternoon.
In a double-overtime thriller that featured plenty of defense, offense, and hard-hitting, game-changing plays all over the field from both teams, the Bucks were able to fight off a 10-point deficit late in the third quarter, force overtime with just a second remaining in regulation, and beat the Wolverines in arguably the best rivalry in sport, 30-27.
The first 59 minutes and 59 seconds featuring plenty of big plays from both teams, including two missed field goals from Ohio State’s Tyler Durbin, a pick-six by safety Malik Hooker (his third of the season), plenty of carries by quarterback J.T. Barrett, and a number of other plays that helped determine the final outcome, but, if you didn’t watch the game until there was one second remaining in regulation, you were able to witness one of the best endings in the storied rivalry.
After Michigan’s offense dominated the majority of the first 30 minutes of the game, head coach Urban Meyer and the rest of Ohio State’s coaching staff were able to make crucial halftime adjustments that led to the Buckeyes playing much better on both sides of the ball – especially on offense – in the second half.
Following Durbin’s first made field goal of the game (his third attempt) with just one second remaining in regulation, the game was sent to overtime. Although Ohio State’s offense struggled throughout the game, especially in the first half, before they made halftime adjustments, Barrett and H-back Curtis Samuel were able to lead the Buckeyes to their second offensive touchdown of the game.
Michigan answered right back with a 7-play touchdown drive of their own that ended with a 5-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal. Then, came the Buckeyes chance to win the game in the second overtime after the Wolverines were only able to score a field goal to start off the second overtime.
That’s when a very fun, significant drive for Ohio State took place. On third-and-9, Samuel caught a pass from Barrett behind the line of scrimmage then proceeded to run all the way back to the left side of the field while running backwards, and, while running about 30 or 40 yards total, gained eight yards on the play to make it fourth-and-one for the Buckeyes. That’s when Meyer decided to go for it rather than count on his kicker to tie things up, who had made just one of his first three field goal attempts in the game. Barrett was then able to scramble for a first down on a controversial play that ended with the quarterback landing virtually right on (and just past) the first-down marker. Just two plays later, Samuel took a hand off from Barrett and ran 15 yards for the game-winning touchdown, ending the instant classic in incredible fashion.
Barrett led the offense, completing 15-of-32 passes for 124 yards, but most importantly totaled 30 carries for 125 yards and a touchdown. Samuel (seven carries for 49 yards, one touchdown; four catches for 32 yards), and running back Mike Weber (11 carries, 27 yards, one touchdown) also helped the Buckeyes dominate the ground game.
The Silver Bullets had plenty of standouts, whether it was in the front-seven or defensive backfield. Linebackers Raekwon McMillan (16 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss), Jerome Baker (15 tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, one interception), and Chris Worley (11 tackles) helped the defense dominate in the second half, especially when it mattered most.
With a Playoff spot (most likely) on the line, there was already plenty of hype coming into the game. But, somehow, the 2016 version of The Game had an even better matchup this time around than everyone expected. Not to take away from previous games and participants in the rivalry, but Saturday’s game was most likely one of the best in the storied history between the two teams. It was one that will be talked about forever when referring to The Game, no matter how long from now it is.
Ohio State may have won their fifth-consecutive game in the matchup in front of the world champion Cleveland Cavaliers and an Ohio Stadium record 110,045 spectators, including 12 of the past 13 and 14 of the last 16 dating back to 2001, but as long as The Game features Meyer against Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, it seems as though the best rivalry in sport is officially back. With four teams in the latest top 7 of the Playoff committee’s rankings and The Game’s rivalry appearing to be back, the Big Ten has a lot to look forward to going forward.
With their win on Saturday, the Buckeyes all but secured a spot as one of four teams in the Playoff, even though they will not win their division, let alone the Big Ten.