COLUMBUS — The No. 4 Michigan football team was just hanging on.
Even when the Wolverines went down two touchdowns in the first half, and even when momentum favored Ohio State to begin the second half, they hung perilously within reaching distance.
But with just under five minutes left in the third quarter, the floodgates broke open.
It came on a punt, just after Michigan had gone down, 27-19, on a Buckeye field goal. Ohio State receiver Chris Olave took a free run at junior punter Will Hart and blocked Hart’s kick.
The ball deflected high into the air and directly into the outstretched arms of Buckeye cornerback Sevyn Banks, who took it untouched to the house.
The Wolverines had finally wilted, like they have against Ohio State in 14 of the teams’ last 15 matchups, and from there they could do nothing right, losing, 62-39.
“It was tough,” said senior safety Tyree Kinnel. “We try to stay upbeat throughout the whole game and trust each other and stay in the fight. But I remember a point where it just got out of hand. Slowly devastated us throughout the game. All the yards they were putting up, how easily they were scoring, it was tough. Extremely tough.”
The out-of-hand point may have been the punt, or really any point after that, but the sings of impending trouble were present from the beginning.
Michigan started the game with the ball and a three-and-out, and the Buckeyes promptly drove 43 yards for a score immediately afterward, finishing it off with a touchdown to Olave.
Olave, who entered the game with four catches all season, tacked on another score with 9:08 left in the second quarter, and Ohio State threatened to break the game open when wide receiver Johnnie Dixon III caught a wide-open touchdown to extend the Buckeye lead to 21-6 minutes later.
To these opening blows, the Wolverines had answers.
They scored back with a fade-route touchdown from sophomore wide receiver Nico Collins. Then, on the ensuing kickoff, Ohio State kick returner Demario McCall simply dropped the ball and Michigan recovered on the Buckeyes’ nine-yard line. Junior running back Chris Evans caught a wheel route for a touchdown on the next snap, and despite failing to convert on the two-point conversion attempt, the Wolverines were suddenly down just two.
Ohio State drove down to Michigan’s two-yard line twice in its next three offensive possessions, but had to settle for field goals both times.
“We had our opportunities offensively, and you know, the defense started the second half good and held them to a field goal and got a stop, and we had a chance,” Patterson said.
That’s when Olave broke through the Wolverines’ punt protection, and Banks went dancing into the endzone.
Junior quarterback Shea Patterson threw an interception three plays later, and the Buckeyes scored two snaps after that.
As Kinnel put it, things were out of hand.
“You know, sometimes you get desperate in those types of situations,” Patterson said of his interception. “Wasn’t really trying to force it, I was actually trying to throw the ball out of bounds. Whoever made that play made a good play and hit my elbow.”
One last time, Michigan drove down the field in an effort to battle back, and Collins secured another fade route to chop the deficit back to two scores.
And then Ohio State wide receiver Parris Campell Jr., took the first play on the Buckeyes’ next drive 78 yards to the endzone.
In the end, the statistics are hideous for the Wolverines. They gave up the most points of any regulation game in program history. Ever. They allowed the most yards (567) since coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Don Brown have taken over. They gave it all up in their biggest game of the year.
After Campbell’s run, the metaphorical floodgates were completely obliterated.
Ohio State spent the rest of the game scoring and breaking records offensively, while pumping up the crowd and dancing on graves defensively.