Michigan's defense shredded in historic defeat
COLUMBUS — Nearly four hours after kickoff, the sun shined down on Ohio Stadium for the first time.
If it was a sign, it wasn’t for Michigan.
The scoreboard read 55-32 and would finish 62-39 in favor of the Buckeyes. The 62 points allowed by the No. 1 defense in the country were the most ever scored on the Wolverines in a regulation game, surpassing 56 points allowed over a century ago to Cornell. Where Michigan made all the wrong history, it now finds itself absent again from a Big Ten Championship and potential national title hopes.
This wasn’t supposed to happen to his team, nothing remotely close, especially this season. Jim Harbaugh knew that Ohio State had never even eclipsed 50 points in the rivalry game. On an afternoon of unfettered domination, that stat was the only thing Harbaugh had an answer for.
“They had several successful plays, no question about it,” Harbaugh said. “They got some real speed plays, crossing routes. Threw the ball downfield well, I thought their protection was really good. We didn’t get the pressure on the quarterback that we wanted to.”
The list could read like its own history book. Buckeyes quarterback Dwayne Haskins throttled Michigan for 318 passing yards and five touchdowns to become the single-season, all-time Big Ten leader in both categories.
Haskins didn’t just have answers, he had lessons.
“We seen a lot of man coverage, lot of one high, so we knew that we could get a lot of one-on-one matchups and crossing routes on them,” Haskins said. “And made some plays when it mattered the most.
“I was licking my chops, I see the one-high covers and that’s a quarterback’s dream. The biggest responsibility for me all week was to be able to pick up blitzes and protection, because we saw a lot of different fronts and excotic looks. I spent hours in the film room just trying to figure out how we can pick the blitzes up.
“And once we picked it up, receivers make plays, and I’m going to put it there.”
The Wolverines had no response to the multitude of crossing patterns over the middle, let alone everything else thrown their way. Fifty-one yards and a score came off crossing routes on Ohio State’s first drive — a 24-yarder to Chris Olave. It had three more on its second touchdown of the day, a 27-yard encore from Olave. Rinse, repeat.
“We try to stay upbeat throughout the whole game and trust each other and stay in the fight, but I don’t remember a point where it just got out of hand,” said senior safety Tyree Kinnel. “It slowly devastated us throughout the game, and knowing all the yards they were putting up, it was tough, extremely tough.”
Even in man-to-man press coverage that had rarely failed Michigan the previous 11 games, it simply got burned — Ohio State had 16 plays with double-digit yardage, including a 78-yard rush by Parris Campbell.
It may have been consistent with the defense’s day-long malaise. But it certainly was a byproduct of a pass rush that finished with zero sacks and quarterback pressures, leaving the secondary to cover for longer than it has all year.
“A-plus job,” Haskins said of his offensive line. “Zero sacks. I have to take them out to dinner. … I really had all day in the pocket.”
After trailing just 24-19 after the first half, the defensive woes looked mendable. The Wolverines had surrendered just 10 third quarter points all year prior to Saturday. But if the non-stop, first half punches were any indication, this was not going to be like any Saturday.
Junior cornerback David Long left the game from a hip flexor on the first series of the second half. On the second series, Rashan Gary and Devin Bush needed medical attention on back-to-back plays. When help was needed most, there was nowhere to look.
“We made adjustments at halftime, addressed the issues we had in the first half,” Kinnel said. “And they came out and beat us with something else in the second half. … They completely beat us today.”
Unprepared, confused, sluggish. No one word encapsulates the otherworldly hurt that the Buckeyes inflicted. For defensive coordinator Don Brown, the onslaught pushed him past anger, and into a simple gratitude for coaching.
“He just went and talked to every guy individually and said that he was proud of us, we’re a great unit, he loved to coach us,” Kinnel said of Brown. “They were pretty all positive in the locker room, but everyone’s down right now.
“They completely beat us everywhere. Run game, pass game — everyone’s to blame.”
With the sun continuing to beat down on the field that Michigan couldn’t compete on, the game clock struck zero and the Wolverines were put out of their misery. Fans rushed the field.
Ohio State beat Michigan at it’s own game.