COLUMBUS — The Michigan-Ohio State game doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You can’t throw the records out the window. Not everything changes once the two teams square off.
The Wolverines have been outmatched all year, and perhaps no more than in Saturday’s 42-7 loss to the Buckeyes.
Michigan lost its fifth straight for the first time in the rivalry, and it was the series’ largest margin of victory since the Buckeyes’ 50-14 win in 1968 — the last game before Bo Schembechler became head coach in Ann Arbor.
The same problems that caused his team to struggle throughout Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez’s first season led to the Wolverines’ demise at Ohio Stadium.
It developed slowly at first, then picked up, hurtling toward the end of one of the worst years in Michigan football’s 129 seasons.
The Wolverines held Ohio State scoreless on its first four possessions, and junior running back Brandon Minor’s one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter made it a one-touchdown game at the half.
But the second half was a lot more of the same.
What allowed Ohio State (7-1 Big Ten, 10-2 overall) to pull away from the Wolverines was no different than what has allowed other teams to separate themselves from Michigan — big plays.
The Buckeyes scored three touchdowns on plays of more than 40 yards. That makes 11 of those long-distance scores given up by the Wolverines all season.
“If you watch their films, the teams they play did not run four yards, five yards, four yards, five yards,” Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said of Michigan’s defense. “They either ran minus-one or hit big ones.”
The problem snowballed for the Michigan as, once again, it couldn’t respond. The Buckeyes finished the game with 28 straight points. It’s the sixth time the Wolverines have allowed at least 21 unanswered points this year.
Throughout the season, Michigan’s offense hasn’t shown an ability to come back. If it were to have any chance in this game, the defense had to keep the score low. It didn’t.
This team set a school record for most points allowed. The old mark was 23.8 per game in 1962. This team gave up nearly 29 per game.
On offense, Michigan (2-6 Big Ten, 3-9 overall) didn’t have the talent to make a comeback. The team had negative offensive yards in the first quarter, didn’t pick up a first down until midway through the second and converted just one third-down attempt in the game.
“Like usual, you know, there’s always one group of guys doing like the whole executing well,” Minor said. “And then somebody else is just, you know, not doing it.”
Michigan threw for less than 100 yards for the fourth time this season and completed fewer than half its passes for the fifth time.
Redshirt sophomore Nick Sheridan, a former walk-on, started at quarterback because redshirt freshman Steven Threet injured his shoulder. Michigan’s backup quarterback, freshman Justin Feagin, is a slot receiver.
Ohio State freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor was the nation’s top recruit last year and named Michigan as a finalist in his highly publicized recruitment.
Pryor played with enough poise to become the first starting true freshman quarterback to win a game in the rivalry. And Ohio State redshirt freshman Dan “Boom” Herron averaged 10 yards per carry and scored two touchdowns.
The Buckeyes had first-year players step up in their biggest game of the year.
The same couldn’t be said for the Wolverines.