The Michigan Wolverines made just a handful of errors Saturday against the Ohio State Buckeyes, but those mistakes provided Ohio State the opportunities it needed to hang around.
And, as a result, Jim Harbaugh's team is no longer looking at a College Football Playoff berth.
Wolverines quarterback Wilton Speight , who injured his left shoulder area Nov. 12 vs. Iowa, made a surprise start, but the offense wasted a tremendous 60-minute defensive effort.
Speight mishandled a snap at the goal line—which was the first red-zone turnover of the Harbaugh era—with 11:12 left in the third quarter. And his two interceptions turned into 14 points—including seven on a pick-six by Malik Hooker, the safety's third defensive touchdown of the year.
"I feel like I let the defense down, the game that they played," Speight said, per Nicole Auerbach of USA Today. "It stinks."
Speight's three main errors played a significant role in the outcome, and he missed Amara Darboh on a 3rd-and-4 slant with less than six minutes remaining in regulation. Plus, once again, the offensive line failed to help its quarterback in a clutch spot.
After picking up a first down on the final snap of the third quarter, the Wolverines ran nine plays on three possessions during the final frame. They managed five total yards.
Clock-killing drives have been a problem in 2016. Michigan State made it interesting Oct. 29, then both Iowa and Ohio State had one final possession—and capitalized. Saturday, that chance turned into a five-minute, 36-second drive that ended in an overtime-forcing field goal from OSU's Tyler Durbin.
During the extra session, a defensive lapse handed Ohio State a quick score. Whether it was miscommunication or a pair of overaggressive decisions, the Wolverines vacated the middle of the field on J.T. Barrett's seven-yard touchdown run. The scamper came on the Buckeyes' second play from scrimmage in the extra frame, giving them a 24-17 lead after the ensuing extra point:
It seems as if Jabrill Peppers (No. 5) and Dymonte Thomas (No. 25) both left their responsibilities. Mike McCray (No. 9) appeared to be in man coverage with the running back, but they chased Curtis Samuel (No. 4) anyway.
During the fourth quarter, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit noted Ohio State's tempo was starting to create pre-snap issues for the Wolverines defense, fueling the idea that Michigan failed to communicate properly. Those errors weren't obvious while the Wolverines dominated.
Until the final regulation frame, the Buckeyes mustered a meager 153 total yards, or three yards per snap, per Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com.
Then the Wolverines offense faltered over the three-drive stretch.
One final element affected Michigan: Nick Baumgardner of MLive noted Harbaugh was displeased with the officials:
Harbaugh also livid about the DPIs called on UM, believes OSU did the same. 'Bitterly disappointed in the officiating.'— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) November 26, 2016
In a few cases—specifically an uncalled pass interference on OSU's Marshon Lattimore and holding on the Buckeyes' Gareon Conley that would've extended drives—Harbaugh had a legitimate gripe.
But a pass interference on Michigan's Delano Hill and a late ball spot were the right calls.
Samuel won it with a 15-yard touchdown run at the end of double overtime. The largest problem, however, was the Wolverines themselves.
Knowing their largest goal was on the line, that—despite spectacular defense and a game-tying touchdown from Speight to Darboh on 4th-and-goal in overtime—will be the toughest part for the Wolverines to bear while watching the CFP from home.