COLUMBUS — Shea Patterson took a few steps back, cocked his arm and let the football roll off his fingers. It was a dime of a pass, flying directly through the air towards senior tight end Zach Gentry, who was open for the catch in the endzone. He outstretched his arms, just barely grabbing the ball.
But there was no touchdown.
Instead, the ball fell to the ground, slipping through Gentry’s fingers and bouncing on the scarlet turf. In that instant, with Ohio State leading 7-3 early in the second quarter, a touchdown would have given Michigan the lead for the first time during Saturday’s game in Columbus.
Instead, freshman kicker Jake Moody made his way onto the field to make the most of a fourth-down, 31-yard field goal opportunity. With the swipe of his leg, he secured Michigan three points for the second time during that game, keeping the Wolverines close at 7-6 — but still without the lead.
Even with Moody’s six-point contribution through the first two quarters, common lapses in the offense throughout Saturday’s game were complemented by a defense that struggled to stall the Buckeyes’ offensive onslaught. In a game with Big Ten Championship, College Football Playoff implications on the line, and a rivalry game with Ohio State, no less, those collective struggles contributed to the Wolverines’ 62-39 loss.
“This is why everybody comes to Michigan, to play in this game,” Patterson said. “That’s one of the reasons why I came here. As a child, I dreamed of playing in this game. You know, I’m the quarterback, and I have the ball in my hand every snap, and I take full responsibility for our faults on offense.”
The offense, in some moments, provided flashes of optimism. Late in the second quarter, Patterson connected with sophomore wide receiver Nico Collins on a 23-yard catch for Michigan’s first touchdown of the game. Six seconds on the clock later, after junior wide receiver Nate Schoenle recovered an Ohio State fumble, the Wolverines scored again courtesy of a nine-yard pass from Patterson to junior running back Chris Evans.
But, for every bright spot, there was another miscue. Another dropped ball, a penalty drawn, a missed opportunity to move the ball forward. Another reason Michigan was never able to establish that lead over the Buckeyes.
Late in the third period, the Wolverines struggled to close a 34-19 gap. After senior running back Karan Higdon was tackled for a loss of two yards when rushing the ball, and Gentry missed a potential first-down catch off a hit that triggered a concussion, Patterson found himself facing pressure in the pocket.
Once again, he cocked his arm back and threw it, directed at the sideline — but this time, it landed directly in the hands of Ohio State safety Jordan Fuller, who ran it four yards before junior tight end Sean McKeon ended the drive.
“Sometimes you get desperate in those types of situations,” Patterson said. “I 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.”
Between quarterback Dwayne Haskins and running back Mike Weber, the interception soon turned into a touchdown to put the Buckeyes up, 41-19. Another interception from freshman quarterback Joe Milton resulted in Ohio State’s final touchdown, a 62-point total by the end of the game.
In a day in which nothing went right for Michigan, the offense sputtered when it needed to seize control. The Wolverines ended up with 39 points, but it was the ones they left on the field that they will remember.