Ohio State led Michigan 20-17 at the half and posted 315 yards of total offense in the first half. They moved the ball through the air and on the ground, but they didn’t move it in the red zone and they didn’t move it all that much in the second half, either.
The first half was dominated by Ohio State in many respects, except for the scoreboard. Michigan rushed for just 10 yards on 11 attempts over the first two quarters, but had big pass plays of 33, 69, and 75 yards. The latter two went for second-quarter touchdowns to receiver Cornelius Johnson.
The second half featured a reversal of fortune as Michigan’s offense continued to put up big chunks of yards and Ohio State’s didn’t. Over the second half, the Buckeyes barely managed to post half the yards that they did in the first half.
What was once a 20-17 lead for the Buckeyes turned into a 45-23 loss. After the game, OSU head coach Ryan Day was asked for his assessment.
“I think when you looked at the first half, physically, we were playing really well up front, especially on defense,” he said. “I’m not sure how many yards they had in the first half running the ball. Then they had those two long plays. In the second half, it was more of the same; too many big plays. When you look at the game, there was just way too many big plays. On offense, we had too many penalties and it got us off schedule. We just didn’t do a good job converting on third down and then it gets out of hand at the end because we are probably throwing the ball too much.”
Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy completed 12-of-24 passes for 263 yards, but he made the absolute most of his 50% accuracy on the day. He completed passes of 33, 45, 69, and 75 yards. Those four plays featured breakdowns and miscommunications in the secondary. They led to 222 of McCarthy’s 263 yards passing. His other eight completions went for just 41 yards.
So what the hell happened?
“I’m going to have to look and see where all the breakdowns were. But it wasn’t just one area,” Day said. “It was a missed tackle on the first play and then we got beat on the second play. There was obviously some misfits in the run game on other plays and then there was the pass to the tight ends. A few plays in the back end and then a couple on the run. The first thing we need to do in games like this is play great defense. Other than two plays in the first half, I thought we did, but not in the second half.”
Ryan Day brought in Jim Knowles to be his defensive coordinator based in part on what happened against Michigan last year. The Wolverines rushed for 297 yards against the Buckeyes last year. Over the first 33 carries of the game on Saturday, Ohio State held Michigan to just 92 yards rushing. The final two carries for Michigan, however, went for 160 yards.
What did Knowles see on Saturday?
“It was just disheartening,” he said. “Obviously, I have to take the blame for that. Surely, just got to do a better job. It’s a story of explosive plays. I thought we matched well, and nothing was lost like that. We matched through the course of the game, but too many explosives. And that’s what is disheartening, for not just the defense, but the team, the fans and I have to take responsibility for that.”
Knowles took the blame for the Buckeyes’ mistakes, but when asked if he was stunned by the result, he reminded people that football isn’t as easy as many believe.
“’Stunning’ – I don’t know. It’s football. It’s a hard game,” he said. “You just have to take responsibility. Obviously the players are hurting much more than me. I’m crushed, but they’re young men who put their heart and soul into it. They’re the ones that I have to be able to look in the eye and talk about all those things, scheme, technique, fundamentals, everything that goes into it has to fall on my shoulders.”
When it comes to the Michigan game and shoulders, fingers will always point to the quarterback. CJ Stroud moves to 0-2 as a starting quarterback against Michigan. Despite all of his statistics and records, it will be his record that people point to.
Despite that, if this is Stroud’s last game in Ohio Stadium as expected, he believes he gave everything he had and he hopes that fans appreciate him for his efforts.
“Honestly, I don’t even know how to feel right now. It just happened so fast,” he said of his two seasons as a starter. “I don’t know if this is my last time playing in The Shoe, but I’ve enjoyed every second I’ve gotten in there. I think I’ve earned everybody’s respect as time has gone on and I’ve fallen in love with Columbus, Ohio and Buckeye Nation. I don’t think one game defines us. I don’t think that this game defines this team. I would take this team over anybody in the country every week, so I’m blessed to be a part of this fraternity and this brotherhood.”