By HANNAH GENIG, Staff Writer
It comes as no surprise that the most sought after game of the Michigan football season would also be the most stress inducing for players, coaches and fans.
As part of The University of Michigan’s longest and most famous football rivalry, the Michigan Wolverines traveled to Ohio State in an attempt to end their losing streak against the Buckeyes.
This game however, was unlike any other in this competitive rivalry. Saturday marked the first time in 113 meetings that these two teams have gone into overtime.
Despite the promising statistics throughout the game, the Wolverines fell to the Buckeyes 27-30 in OT2.
Due to the multilayered intensity that fueled this game, the Michigan Journal Sports Staff breaks down different aspects of Saturday’s matchup.
Wilton Speight has officially returned. After his injury against Iowa, it was still up in the air about whether or not he would take the field, until he took the field Saturday afternoon. Despite the excitement of having the best playmaker back, this was not his strongest or most impressive game.
Speight threw 23-of-36 for 219 yards and aside from his two touchdowns, he had two interceptions that greatly affected the scoreboard. Throughout the game, Twitter was exploding with comments saying that Speight was helping out the Buckeyes (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten) just as much as he was helping out his teammates.
And that was very true.
Buckeyes’ Malik Hooker intercepted one of Speight’s passes and ran it back for a touchdown, marking Ohio State’s seventh pick six of the season. This statistic is the highest nationally.
On the receiving end of the ball, wide receiver Amara Darboh managed to impressively surpass the 2,000-yard record with this game. He now resides within the top five among the University of Michigan’s all-time receiving yard leaders.
Fullback Khalid Hill strongly drove the offense as well. He and running back De’Veon Smith both possess double-digits in rushing touchdowns this season.
Much of the Wolverines’ (10-2, 7-2) success so far this season can be attributed to the unyielding and aggressive defense.
Within the last four games, the Wolverines have recorded at least three sacks on some of the best quarterbacks in college football, and Saturday was no exception.
This particular game marked the most sacks since 2007, with eight combined from Taco Charlton, Chris Wormley, Channing Stribling, Ben Gedeon and Ryan Glasgow.
Cornerback Channing Stribling notably caused his 16th pass breakup of the season, breaking a tie for the fourth spot of all-time leaders in that area in Michigan football history.
Linebacker Jabrill Peppers recorded his first interception with the Wolverines in the third quarter. This interception was J.T. Barrett’s first in 207 games.
Along with this, the strong Michigan pressure often forced Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett to run and forego the pass.
Despite the copious number of sacks that occurred at the horseshoe on Saturday, the buckeyes won the game with a 15-yard rushing touchdown by Samuel Curtis in OT2.
“I’m glad he’s really good, because everybody was trying to get a piece of somebody, but he just made everybody miss,” said Barrett about Curtis’ game-winning run.
Kicker Kenny Allen continued to be an unbreakable asset to the Wolverines while also consistently showcasing his talent.
On Saturday, Allen kicked his best game with seven punts totaling 332 yards. Over his last two games, he has managed to place nine punts within the 20-yard line.
Resolving his slight inconsistency issue earlier this season, Allen is back to scoring. He has made every one of his last 12 field goal attempts, including the final kick in double overtime that gave Michigan the three-point advantage for the time being.
At the end of the first half, this game did not seem like an overtly exciting matchup. The second half featured a clear improvement by the Buckeyes’ offense, more enthusiasm from Ohio State fans and visible exhaustion on the field. This combination proved to be a lethal mixture for the Wolverines.
After a tie game in the fourth quarter, it was obvious that neither team was ready to give up just yet.
Ohio State opted to attempt the first overtime possession and J.T. Barrett very quickly scored a seemingly effortless touchdown.
To rebuttal, Michigan struggled to gain yardage with their rushing game. Finally, on fourth and goal, Speight connected with Darboh for a touchdown to keep them in the contest.
The second overtime began with Michigan’s attempt to score and they accomplished that, in the form of a 37-yard field goal by Kenny Allen. In order to win the game, the Wolverines would have needed to stop the Buckeyes from scoring completely, or only allow the field goal.
When the buckeyes were faced with fourth down and only one yard to go, they opted out of kicking and decided to run the ball instead.
During this play, J.T. Barrett found a hole in the defense and while getting tackled, tried to stretch past the first down markers. The run was originally deemed a first down and after a challenge and official review, the call stood.
This call caused an overwhelming amount of controversy among players, fans and even coaches.
“I thought there were some outrageous calls, including the one that would have ended the game,” said Wolverines Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. “I was bitterly disappointed with the officiating.”
Numerous tweets and coverage comments have circulated saying that the officiating was manipulated or just not conducted correctly.
“Our guys did everything they possibly could,” said Harbaugh. Despite a tough loss, other Wolverines like Wilton Speight and Jourdan Lewis speak optimistically about the end to their successful season.