It feels so strange that there will be no more Ohio State football games. Especially after the team finished undefeated. Let’s get to it…
1) Stepping Up. In big games, nobody has been bigger for Ohio State in the last three years than John Simon. Seeing him in street clothes to start the game made me nervous. Extremely nervous about this defense. The first half didn’t do much to calm my nerves.
But give them all the credit in the world. They stepped up in the second half and took care of business. They held Michigan to 61 yards in the second half and 9 for the fourth quarter. Outstanding performance.
Does it help that Michigan abandoned the most efficient and explosive part of their offense for the last three drives? Of course. But Ohio State had bottled up Robinson and the Michigan running game in the third quarter and Hoke was desperate to try something.
Boren was outstanding. And he provided us with the lasting image of the game with his sack of Devin Gardner. (By the way, that easily could have been a taunting penalty.) I may be giving away a bit of my post-season awards here, but I think this team turned a corner when Boren was forced into duty at linebacker. Shazier was very, very good all year. But when Boren started in the middle, I think he made Shazier even better. And Zach adds a toughness to this defense that I don’t think was there before.
Against Michigan Boren was at his best. He was shedding blocks and getting to the ball carrier. His pursuit helped ensure that there were no long cut back runs in the second half. He attacked the line of scrimmage. Just a great performance. (Not bad for a fullback.)
3) So close. Carlos Hyde had 146 yards rushing on 26 carries. The only time in his career he had more carries was against Nebraska this season. He averaged 5.6 yards a carry. And they probably could have rushed him more. Especially in the first half. On Ohio State’s two touchdown drives, Hyde carried the ball 8 times for 58 yards (7.2 yards per carry). More than just those yards though, he opened the door for Devin Smith’s big catch and Corey Brown’s 14 yard TD.
It marked the return of the big rushing performance against Michigan. Last year Braxton Miller just got to 100 yards, but the Buckeyes as a team finished with just 137. 2010- Herron 175 yards. 2009- Herron, Saine and Pryor combine for 250 yards. 2008- Wells runs for 134, and the team goes over 200. 2007- Wells 222 yards. 2006- Pittman 139 yards.
Hyde finished the season just short of 1000 yards, with 970. The good news? He will be back next season. The combo of Miller and Hyde should get more help next year from either Rod Smith or Brionte Dunn or both.
4) We have a kicker. It’s kind of amazing that going into the 12th game of the season Drew Basil had only attempted 6 field goals. He was big in this one, hitting on 4 of 5, including kicks of 41 and 52 yards. That 52 yarder was huge right before the half. Michigan had all the momentum following that abomination of a run by Robinson, and was going to get the ball to start the second half. Hitting that field goal sent the team to the locker room only down one point.
Last season Basil was 11 for 11 on kicks under 40 yards. He is also a junior, which means the Buckeyes should have a reliable, game-tested kicker going into next season.
5) Braxton. Miller’s rushing total for the game was 57 yards officially. That total includes the 51 yards erased on sacks and runs for a loss. He was efficient in the passing game, completing 14 of 18 for 189 yards and the touchdown to Brown. This against a defense that was ranked number one against the pass. Not bad.
I still question many of Miller’s reads in the option running game. And he still tries to make too many plays when the prudent thing would be to go down or throw the ball away. But looking at Miller this year against Michigan compared to last year is quite a jump. He managed the game. He didn’t throw picks. That was good enough Saturday. Next year? There will likely be games where he has to do more to win.
6) Urban. While driving to my game day destination, I had one of those light bulb kind of moments. I was fretting the loss of John Simon. I was panicking a little bit, and then it hit me. We have the better coach.
We have one of those coaches now that you have to instantly give credit to. Tell me Urban Meyer was scratching down notes about how to beat Michigan with Braxton Miller while he was announcing last year’s game. He had an entire season to game plan for this one. Remember the National Championship game against Florida? Ginn takes the opening kick-off to the house and then from there out it was Urban Meyer’s game. We had no answer.
That guy now coaches the Buckeyes. And he’s 1-0 against Michigan.
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