If this is indeed the last game of the Brady Hoke era, the head coach’s players aren’t going to let him go down without a fight.
Playing an inspired brand of football that can only come in a rivalry game, unranked Michigan shook off a rough start in The Game to head into the locker room tied at 14-all with Ohio State after two quarters of play. UM’s defense, one of the few consistent bright spots for the team this season, limited the high-powered OSU offense to just 93 yards prior to an 83-yard drive to end the half; the Buckeyes’ came into Week 14 averaging a shade over 511 yards per game.
The way The Game began, however, you never would’ve thought UM would’ve even been within shouting distance of its hosts.
On the second play from scrimmage, Devin Gardner tossed a horrendous interception that the Buckeyes turned into a touchdown. On their next series, Gardner was sacked twice in the span of three plays and the Wolverines were forced to punt. From then on the OSU defense could do little to stop UM’s offense as they rolled up 203 yards on their last three possessions of the half.
After that interception, Gardner completed 11-of-14 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown. Gardner’s counterpart, Heisman contender J.T. Barrett, struggled with accuracy throughout the half as he completed half of his 14 passes for just 65 yards, although he did score on a 25-yard touchdown run with :07 left in the second quarter to knot the score at 14-all.
Barrett’s touchdown pass in the the first quarter to put OSU up 7-0 was the 43rd touchdown he’s been responsible for this season, breaking the Big Ten record of 42 held by Purdue’s Drew Brees.
To go along with being in a dogfight, OSU is giving additional ammunition to their detractors who argue they don’t belong in the College Football Playoff discussion. Of course, struggling against a bad team, even if it’s an archrival, is something that no team in the playoff hunt can afford regardless of the conference, but especially one from the much-maligned Big Ten.
The Buckeyes, though, have 30 minutes remaining to flip the script and improve their appearance in front of the CFP committee. Whether their hated rivals play along is another matter entirely.
(Photo credit: Ohio State athletics)