The No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes kept their College Football Playoff and Big Ten title hopes alive Saturday, scoring a come-from-behind 30-27 double-overtime victory against the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.
After Ohio State converted on 4th-and-1 from the Michigan 16-yard line in double overtime, junior running back Curtis Samuel scored on a 15-yard run to secure the win in the first edition of "The Game" to reach overtime.
The Buckeyes improved to 11-1, while the Wolverines fell to 10-2, and according to ESPN Stats & Info, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer continued his dominance against Michigan:
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell was among those who were blown away by the drama and physicality of The Game:
that Ohio State/Michigan game was the game of the YEAR! GREAT GAME & GREAT effort by both teams! as a college football fan I LOVED that game— Le'Veon Bell (@L_Bell26) November 26, 2016
Wolverines quarterback Wilton Speight missed last week's game against Indiana with a shoulder injury, but he started Saturday. Michigan's first drive stalled just inside Ohio State territory, but it set the stage for a field-position battle that the Wolverines won in the first half.
Punter Kenny Allen and the Wolverines pinned the Buckeyes back at their own 8-yard line, but junior quarterback J.T. Barrett nearly made it a moot point, marching Ohio State down the field primarily with his legs, including this 19-yard scamper, courtesy of the Ohio State Buckeyes on Twitter:
Kicker Tyler Durbin missed a 37-yard field goal, though, and Michigan was back in business.
The Wolverines faltered near midfield but again forced Ohio State to start deep in its own territory, and after a three-and-out, Michigan scored the first points of the game.
The Wolverines did so with a 12-play drive that chewed up nearly five minutes, but the Buckeyes stiffened and stopped junior Jabrill Peppers on 3rd-and-goal from the 5, as seen in this Vine courtesy of College GameDay:
Both defenses hunkered down and forced five straight punts, including a 60-yarder by Ohio State's Cameron Johnston, which was downed at the Michigan 6-yard line with 4:10 to play in the opening half.
That proved to be the Buckeyes' best offense. On the next play, Speight was hit on a pass attempt from the end zone, and sophomore safety Malik Hooker intercepted the ball, returning it 16 yards for a touchdown to help put Ohio State on top 7-3:
Per ESPN Stats & Info, it marked the continuation of the Buckeyes' knack for making their opponents pay when they get their hands on the football:
Ohio State now has 7 interceptions returned for a TD this season, most in FBS (no other team entering today has more than 4)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 26, 2016
Following a 44-yard kickoff return by Peppers, Speight led Michigan on an 11-play, 55-yard drive, and senior fullback Khalid Hill scored from one yard out with six seconds remaining in the half:
ESPN's Danny Kanell credited Speight with bouncing back from the pick-six:
Always love to judge QBs based on how they respond to adversity...like after a pick 6. Speight just showed some serious stones that drive.— Danny Kanell (@dannykanell) November 26, 2016
Though it needed a late score to do it, Michigan went into the locker room with the lead, and the stats were in its favor as well, according to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press:
Michigan leads 10-7 at the half, leads 172-81 in yards, 18:53 to 11:07 in time of possession, 5-10 on third down vs. OSU's 1-of-7— Mark Snyder (@Mark__Snyder) November 26, 2016
Ohio State got the ball first in the third quarter, but Barrett continued to struggle throwing the ball.
A high toss glanced off his receiver's hands, and Peppers made the first interception of his collegiate career to set the Wolverines up at the Buckeyes' 42-yard line:
As Mike Sullivan of 97.1 The Ticket pointed out, Barrett was seemingly unable to find a rhythm against Michigan's suffocating defense:
Jabrill Peppers with his first career interception. JT Barrett looks bad today. Really bad.— Mike Sullivan (@MikeSullivan) November 26, 2016
The Wolverines quickly moved the ball to Ohio State's goal line and seemed poised to take a two-score lead, but Speight had trouble with an exchange under center, and freshman Davon Hamilton jumped on the ball for the Buckeyes:
With Ohio State unable to get anything going offensively, Meyer took a huge risk on 4th-and-6 from the Buckeyes' own 19-yard line. Ohio State ran a fake punt, but Johnston was tackled after he picked up only three yards.
While it looked like an awful decision because of the result, former Buckeyes defensive back Chimdi Chekwa suggested execution was the bigger problem:
Fake punt wasn't that bad of a call. It was the perfect play. Hubbard needs to hold the smaller player. First down or holding penalty.— Chimdi Chekwa (@ChimChek) November 26, 2016
Regardless of who was to blame, the decision came back to haunt Ohio State, as Hill scored again on an eight-yard pass from Speight to help make it 17-7:
The good version of Speight showed up on that touchdown drive, but the shaky version was present just a couple of series later.
With Michigan facing 2nd-and-14 at its own 26-yard line, Speight was intercepted by sophomore linebacker Jerome Baker, who returned the ball to the 13-yard line:
Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports suggested Speight's up-and-down play was the only thing keeping the Buckeyes in the game:
Michigan has thoroughly outplayed Ohio State. Except for three disastrous turnovers by Wilton Speight. Hang on.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) November 26, 2016
Ohio State took advantage of the short field with a one-yard touchdown run by freshman Mike Weber:
The teams then traded a trio of punts before the Buckeyes went on a 10-play, 61-yard drive.
The biggest play came when Barrett scampered 41 yards to get inside Michigan's 25-yard line:
Ohio State moved the ball to the 2-yard line with the help of a four-yard Weber run on 4th-and-1 from the 13, but Durbin missed his second field goal of the day when his 21-yard attempt was wide left.
It was a shocking development considering Durbin's success inside 40 yards prior to Saturday's contest:
Tyler Durbin was 14-of-14 from inside 40 yards before today, has missed twice from that range today.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 26, 2016
The Buckeyes defense forced a three-and-out, but the Wolverines' Allen booted a 56-yard punt with just 5:36 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Ohio State moved the ball down the field but again sputtered in a goal-to-go situation, which gave Durbin a chance at redemption. The senior came through on his third attempt of the day by making a 23-yard field goal to tie the game at 17.
The Buckeyes wasted little time in the extra session. Samuel gained 18 yards on a first-down run, and then Barrett scored on a seven-yard rush. Durbin's extra point put Ohio State on top 24-17 and shifted the pressure back to Michigan:
The Wolverines picked up one first down before facing a 4th-and-goal at the 5-yard line. They came through with the game on the line, as Speight found senior wide receiver Amara Darboh in the back of the end zone:
Michigan couldn't find the end zone in the second overtime, picking up six yards on three plays, but Allen converted a 37-yard field goal to give the Wolverines the lead at 27-24.
When the Buckeyes took over, Michigan senior linebacker Ben Gedeon sacked Barrett to force a 3rd-and-9 from the 24. Samuel took the handoff and reversed course after running into trouble, racing all the way across the field and nearly losing yardage before coming within one yard of a first down. Meyer rolled the dice again on 4th-and-1, and Barrett picked up a first down by inches on a keeper.
On the next play, Samuel took the ball to the house from 15 yards out to end the game and potentially put Ohio State in the CFP, as the Big Ten Network shared:
The (Ball)Game.— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) November 26, 2016
What an unbelievable game. https://t.co/AIthwL9kKh
The Buckeyes await the result of the Penn State-Michigan State game to determine if they will play for the Big Ten title.
The Nittany Lions would knock Ohio State out of that game with a victory, but the Buckeyes could still make the playoff, and ESPN's Mike Greenberg believes they should despite a spotty effort Saturday:
Ohio State resume is second to none. They deserve to make the final four. But they weren't the better team today. #UMvsOSU— Mike Greenberg (@Espngreeny) November 26, 2016
The Wolverines' best chance to make the playoff may be a Penn State loss followed by an Ohio State victory against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Those hopes are tenuous, but Michigan pushed its rival to the limit on the road and has an impressive enough resume to remain in contention.
Saturday's contest was a game to remember, and as expected, it did plenty to shake up the national title picture.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh was not happy with the officiating, according to Nicole Auerbach of USA Today:
Harbaugh:" I'm bitterly disappointed with the officiating today." Mentions the PI calls.— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) November 26, 2016
Angelique Chengelis of the Detroit News passed along video of Harbaugh's comments:
Harbaugh "bitterly disappointed with the officiating " pic.twitter.com/dAfSeulW6A— angelique (@chengelis) November 26, 2016
Per Nick Baumgardner of MLive Media Group, Harbaugh also took issue with Barrett's fourth-down run in the second overtime being ruled a first down:
Harbaugh 'Outrageous calls, including the one that would have ended the game.'— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) November 26, 2016
The Wolverines may now have an uphill climb to reach the playoff, but Speight said he and his teammates believe they're among the nation's four best teams:
Wilton Speight asked if he thinks Michigan deserves a playoff spot: "Yes. We definitely believe that."— Mike Sullivan (@MikeSullivan) November 26, 2016
Meyer offered major praise for the Wolverines:
Urban Meyer: "This game was an instant classic with two very good teams. That's one of the best defenses I've ever went against."— Mike Sullivan (@MikeSullivan) November 26, 2016
He also talked about Barrett and the quarterback's ability to make big plays in the game's most important moments:
🏈🗣@OSUCoachMeyer on JT: He's one of the best I have ever been around. It is good to have the ball in his hands in at the end of the game.— Ohio State Buckeyes (@OhioStAthletics) November 26, 2016
Barrett said the Buckeyes deserve a spot in the playoff, per Tim Shoemaker of ElevenWarriors.com:
Barrett: "It's out of our hands now, but I think we're one of the top-four teams in the country, personally."— Tim Shoemaker (@TimShoemaker) November 26, 2016
Though Ohio State is far from a lock, it put itself in great position to vie for the national championship by persevering against one of the country's best teams.
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