Chase Winovich reached out at the air, grabbing at something that wasn’t quite concrete and had already passed him by.

He spoke in platitudes of just how close the Wolverines were to finally beating Ohio State. Except this time, they weren’t really platitudes at all. Michigan really could touch victory, and actually could taste it.

But in the end, he was left standing in front of the media, holding back tears, forced to reduce a loss to the Buckeyes to the simplest of expressions.

“It’s tough.”

Perhaps it’s even tougher because of Winovich’s own self-admission.

“At the end of the day, it’s on us,” he said. “People love to point fingers at the offense and say this or that. But we had a lead. They don’t score, they don’t win.”

Sometimes it’s that simple. Michigan didn’t have only one lead over the ninth-ranked Buckeyes on Saturday. It had two.

The first, of course, was larger. The Wolverines came out firing, putting 14 points on the board in the first quarter.

The second came later, with just over seven minutes left in the third quarter.

Sandwiched in between were mistakes — ones that are uncharacteristic for this Michigan defense, but ones it is not immune to.

Perhaps the most troubling part, though, is that those mistakes weren’t necessarily forced.

Rashan Gary said that Ohio State didn’t do anything special. He said Michigan didn’t see anything that it hadn’t already seen during practice. And fifth-year senior linebacker Mike McCray echoed that sentiment.

“We didn’t execute,” McCray said. “The touchdown (that) the tight end caught up the middle, it was on us … made a mistake, and they took advantage of it. If we wouldn’t have made a mistake, he wouldn’t have been wide open. Maybe he wouldn’t have scored. Maybe we would’ve held them to a field goal.”

The touchdown McCray is referring to, of course, was Marcus Baugh’s.

With just under six minutes remaining in the second quarter, quarterback J.T. Barrett took the snap on 1st-and-10 from Michigan’s 25-yard line. Sophomore VIPER Khaleke Hudson misread the run-pass option, and Baugh was the beneficiary — catching a pass up the seam to tie the game at 14.

And as for the rest of McCray’s comments, maybe is the operative word — because the game was full of opportunities to use it.

Maybe if Josh Metellus accepted Barrett’s gift of an interception in the second quarter, the Buckeyes would have never sparked a 14-point comeback.

Maybe if the Wolverines kept Mike Weber out of the end zone at the end of the fourth quarter, John O’Korn would have had one final opportunity to redeem his previous interception.

Maybe if Michigan didn’t allow Ohio State to convert eight of its 16 third-down conversions, the result would have been different.

But none of those things happened, and no game can really be reduced to a single play.

Winovich, then, summed it up best. If the Buckeyes don’t score, they don’t win. Instead, they did both.

The result? You could see it all over across the team.

As the fans headed for the exits after Weber’s proverbial dagger, Hudson came off the field and threw his helmet. Then he whipped a towel at the bench, and sat down with his head on his chest.

When Mike McCray was asked what Jim Harbaugh’s message was after the game, he admitted that he didn’t know because he was crying too hard.

Rashan Gary — he was in tears too, watching his fifth-year senior quarterback choke out the admission that he feels responsible for a repeat of this rivalry’s recent history.

And Chase Winovich, he reached out at the air, grabbing at something that wasn’t quite concrete and had already passed him by.

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