MICHIGAN FOOTBALL 2017: THE GAME IS LOST AGAIN 20-31

Another contingent of self-important, and self-assured Buckeyes fans piled into Michigan Stadium in full bray regarding great deeds of their talented Buckeyes this season (nobody mentions Oklahoma), and their certainty of an addition to the string of wins they have had against Jim Harbaugh and his Wolverines.

There was also some rightful crowing regarding their domination of predecessor Michigan teams and coaches, back to and after disgraced Ohio Coach Jim Tressel. The Buckeyes posted their 6th straight win against the Wolverines, and have won 13 of the last 14.  On last Saturday they owned the rushing statistics 226-yards to 100. M owned the passing stats 195-yards to 124.

Besides their winning streak versus the Wolverines, the Buckeyes had demolished PSU and MSU this season, feats which eluded the Wolverines.  

Six straight M losses to the Ohio State horde has not lessened the aggravation for the losing team, and could not have elated the winning team more.

That Michigan took this loss hard, was readily evident in the post-game interviews.  They were incensed, and disappointed their valiant effort fell short of a win. The Wolverines fought hard.

This tally of Ohio wins has unarguably become more than a simple aggravation, and is a thorn in the side (and other regions) of Michigan fans everywhere.

While it is never fun to give the devil his due, Ohio State played hard and very well Saturday, even if they couldn’t seal their win until the last two minutes of play.

These results have had some M fans again recalling with relish the John Cooper days as head football Coach at the Ohio State University, but don’t step to the ledge.

During the Ten Year’s War, and later through the John Cooper Ohio coaching era, M prevailed more often than not. The pendulum will swing the Wolverines way again. 

It is certain that next year won’t be too soon for Coach Harbaugh, and Wolverine fans.

Harbaugh owns a dismal record against teams with a winning record this season.

He is now one and five against the likes of OSU and MSU in his M career.  Also against other better teams in the Big Ten this season, his team has not prevailed. PSU was an outright embarrassment. These are conditions are overripe, and must be remedied.  

This season a Wolverine win was of course wanted, needed, and at the same time highly unlikely.  The Wolverines were solid underdogs, and were uncertain as to which QB would be available for the nod to play. Of necessity, their third string QB got that nod, as John O’Korn started.  Brandon Peters continued to show effects of injury all week according to Harbaugh afterwards.

Many of the games have been razor’s edge close against the horde, even at the Shoe, and this year’s tilt in M Stadium was no exception.

Last year the festivities came down to two overtimes. It seemed to Michigan fans that last year’s game turned on a faulty late game spot in ball placement in favor of the Buckeyes, which aided in turning an apparent chance of success into failure. 

Urban himself was so stunned with the win he dropped to the turf, flat on his belly in astonishment and glee at the victory.

M QB JOHN O’KORN KEPT THE WOLVERINE’S OFFENSE IN THE GAME UNTIL ABOUT THE 2 MINUTE MARK OF THE FOURTH QUARTER DESPITE PRIOR ERRORS.

John had his struggles against a very good OSU defense.  He overthrew three receivers in the first half alone.  Others were missed during the course of the game. He was sacked five times, and that was not all on John.  The OL, and backs share some of that blame. Still, in at least 3 of the five sacks, he did not seem capable of getting rid of the ball quickly enough to avoid the sack. In another instance, he got his feet tangled with center Pat Kugler, and fell down on a critical series.  The error that will be remembered for years happened with about two minutes left. 

Finally, at about the two minute mark of the fourth quarter, O’Korn tossed an interception fatal to Ms winning ambitions. A drive to victory was deceased. Dead as a door nail.  There were receivers open, but he tossed an errant ball to the Bucks because he misread the coverage.

His description of it was something like this in the post-game presser.  Its thrown, and you can see its no good. You can’t get it back. Nobody feels worse about it than John O’Korn.

We as fans think we are really invested in winning, but the players give it their all, mentally and physically.  John’s emotions of frustration and regret welled up in the presser. Losing hits the players harder than us.

John did not have a totally bad day, but on a day when perfection was required, the errors were too many, regardless of the fact he had not played for weeks.

He hit 17 of 32 for 1 TD and 1 interception.  His short TD pass was laser perfect.  Despite everything, all their errors, the Wolverines were in it to the last. Again.

OFFENSE SCORING MORE THAN TEN WAS NOT ENOUGH, BUT AN IMPROVEMENT:  Kahlid Hill, Sean McKeon and Higdon scored TDs.  Chris Evans lead the M rushers with 57 net yards for an average of 6.1 yards, and a long of 24.  He also nabbed 5 passes for 34-yards, with a long of 13.  Karan Higdon had 55-yards rushing, a TD, and a long of 22. Sean McKeon caught a TD pass, and Kekoa Crawford led the receivers I yardage with 57-yards, and a spectacular catch and run for 43 -yards which led to a score.

THE GOOD AND BAD OF THE DEFENSE: Much of what kept the Wolverines in the game was the defense.  It was amazingly effective, wildly successful at times, but it was also sometimes causing a “what the hell happened there” reaction in observers, as the Michigan defense gave up quarterback runs to the second-string JT Barrett replacement quarterback, Dwayne Haskins, as well as to Barrett, and could not protect leads.

Part of that might be attributed to a lack of DL depth.  Constant blitzing is demanding. They will accrue more depth with time, and they have improved over the course of the season. 

Mike McCray had ten total tackles with 8 solo.  He caused 2 TFLs.  Rashan Gary, dinged before and during the game, also had ten total tackles, with 5 solo.  He had 2 sacks and 3 TFLs. Chase Winovich had 9 total tackles, with 3 solo.  He had 1 sack and 1.5 TFLs.

As good as they did at times, they allowed 228-yards rushing, a total of 350-yards, and they made stops on  only 8 of 16 third downs.

They were dominate for periods of time, stifling the OSU offense.  They allowed only a negative 6-yards gained in the first quarter.

HOW THEY SCORED: The Wolverines had the first offensive possession and were stopped defensively, and their defense returned the favor to the Buckeyes on their first possession.

In about the middle of the 1st. the Wolverine’s Chris Evan’s scampered for 24-yards.  Later Zach Gentry nabbed a 27-yard heave on third and eight, and took it to OSU 14.  After a penalty, another toss to Gentry, this time a five yarder, took it to the two. Kahlid Hill took it in from there for a tough two-yard TD. This 13 play, 77-yard drive enables a score of M-7, OSU zip.

The Bucks had a three-play drive that lost eight yards, and then one that lost 10-yards. 

The Buckeyes called a time out at 2 seconds left in the first quarter.  They punted from their own 7.

Donovon Peoples-Jones gathered in the punt.  Zig-zagging and breaking tackles, he ran down the sidelines 46-yards to the OSU eleven-yard line. DPJ is beginning to show his stuff, and drew praise from Harbaugh after the game. A half the distance holding call advanced the ball six-yards to the five.   Higdon ran it to the two, and the quarter was finished with the Wolverines threatening and a TD ahead. M-7, OSU-0.

O’Korn’s TD pass to Sean McKeon for three-yards put it into the end zone.  M was up 14-zip to start the second quarter.  It was a two play five-yard drive.

The Wolverines failed to contain JT Barrett, and the Bucks marched 11-plays and 75-yards.  Barrett got the TD on a 21-yard scramble.  M-14, OSU-7.  On the prior play Josh Metellus was hit in the hands, and dropped an errant OSU pass that would have killed the OSU scoring drive, and perhaps jump started an M victory.

On their next possession the Bucks did it again.  This time it was a 3 play, fifty-yard drive, after holding the Wolverines.

Again, it was Barrett. This time he performed a 26-yard jaunt, and  then a TD pass for 25-yards.  It was 14 up at the half.  It was mind boggling that a credible and known threat like Barrett was allowed to scamper.

The Bucks received to start the third quarter, and they were held by the Wolverines to a 3-play nine-yard drive before punting.

M couldn’t move offensively, and the Bucks were then held to 3 plays and minus one-yards. 

The Wolverines struck first in the quarter, but not often enough.  It was their last score of the day.

O’Korn hit a 43-yard completion to Kekoa Crawford to the OSU 8-yard line. It was a memorable play for Crawford. OSU helped by getting hit for half the distance to the goal for holding.  Karan Higdon ran for a tough one-yard, and then a tough two-yards for the score to make it M-20, OSU-14.

The fourth quarter held no charm for the Wolverines as the Buckeyes struck early, putting together a ten play, forty seven-yard drive, that resulted in six.

OSU reserve QB Dwayne Haskins had replaced the injured JT Barrett and tossed a 29-yard pass amid many runs by Weber. A forty four-yard field goal made it 24-20.  The earlier extra point miss by the Wolverines put it out of reach of field goal tie.  The Wolverines now needed more that than one score to tie or win.

John O’Korn threw his game changing interception and the die was cast.  The Bucks laid on one more TD for good measure with under two minutes left on the clock, as Ohio’s Mike Weber ran for a twenty-five- yard TD.  The final was 20-31.

TAKE AWAY:  All season long we have wanted the Wolverines to be more special than they turned out to be.  They turned out to be a very solid eight and four team.

Their lack of depth at the quarterback position, the lack of development of consistent timing between QBs and receivers hurt chances, the lack of development of consistent run and pass blocking, and significant injuries, all led the Wolverines to not achieve at the level they wanted to.  Yes, lack of experienced depth due to losses from last year’s team also provided a barrier to our hopes, and their goals.

The defense mostly played at a level superior to that of the offense, and at times were outstanding, but they too had their problems.  Big plays for example, and not protecting leads.  Even without Maurice Hurst, they should be better next year, or at best, by bowl time.    

It should be known where they will be Bowling soon.

No matter where they go, or how they do, they deserve credit for all the hard work, scrapes, nicks, and bumps that they have taken on behalf of our team this season. They gave fantastic effort to their team.

Go Blue!

About Andy Andersen

Andy Andersen, Senior Football Writer andyandersen@wowway.com Andy is a Michigan graduate and long time Michigan Football fan, having attended games during the tenures of Fritz Crisler, Bennie Oosterbaan, Bump Elliot, Bo Schembechler, Gary Moeller, Lloyd Carr, Rich Rodriguez, and Brady Hoke. He attempts to present articles consistent with the concerns and interests of Michigan Fans.