The Michigan Wolverines put up 21 points on the Ohio State Buckeyes in the first half of their matchup against their arch-rival on Saturday. Then, they put up none in the second half in Columbus.
It was a tale of two different halves if ever there was one.
Sure, going into the half with a one-point lead should have made Brady Hoke content, considering the Wolverines were out-gained on both the ground and through the air. But his play-calling in the second half was just as bad as the turnovers that handed the Buckeyes excellent field position.
Still, despite the turnovers, Urban Meyer continued to call a conservative game plan of his own, slowing down the tempo of the game and lulling the Wolverines into a deep sleep. The Buckeyes managed just three field goals as a result of three Michigan turnovers in their own territory.
It appears Meyer’s conservative shift happened to work.
Hoke wasn’t totally conservative, though, deciding to go for it on 4th-and-3 from its own 48-yard line. The play call, not the decision, is what I have the biggest problem with.
Denard Robinson had been running the read-option to perfection at that point in the game. It was the team’s first drive of the second half. Hoke’s staff then dialed up a play-action draw into the heart of the Buckeyes defense.
At that point, Denard Robinson had not thrown a pass. Lining the injured Robinson up at quarterback was a sign of what the Wolverines were planning to do.
Choosing to run it up the middle against the stout Buckeyes defense was the biggest mistake, especially considering their success when getting the ball around the edges in the first half. It was a mistake the Wolverines continued to attempt again and again in the second half.
Michigan couldn’t get any push up front on that fourth down and turned it over on downs. They couldn’t get much push throughout the rest of the game, either.
They kept on trying to test the Buckeyes’ defensive line and failed to win the battle at the point of attack.
I’ve always thought: If something’s not broke, don’t fix it.
With the game on the line, in the biggest matchup of the season, playing conservatively and afraid to lose isn’t the way to earn respect or to win football games. That's especially true when playing in a hostile environment like the Horseshoe.
Urban Meyer may have done the same with his play-calling, but they didn’t need to take many shots. After all, Michigan handed them the game, literally, and did nothing offensively to try to take it back.