By: Phillip Lutz, Sports Editor
It was not pretty at times but it was closer than it could have been.
Michigan played the best they had all season in the game of all games against Ohio State Saturday. Michigan in the end defeated itself by a score of 31-20. The Wolverines now have an 8-4 record overall and 5-4 in the Big Ten.
Michigan would have a game like most others this season. Two quarters playing really well and then giving up big plays in the other two quarters giving the game away to the Buckeyes.
Coach Jim Harbaugh said about his team after the game, “They’re fighters. They work, they don’t complain, they don’t whine. And I love coaching them.” He went on to say “we’ve got to get better, we’ve got to get stronger, we’ve got to improve.”
Redshirt senior quarterback John O’Korn played his best game of the season, but he also eventually cost the Wolverines the game. O’Korn threw an interception on a wrong read in the final three minutes of the game finishing off the Wolverines. He would finish the game completing 17 of 32 passes. O’Korn had 195 yards on the day including a 43 yard pass to Kekoa Crawford. He also had a touchdown, an interception, and was sacked five times. O’Korn had accuracy issues all game. Overthrowing receivers and failing to throw the ball away when needed.
The Wolverines were more proficient in all facets of the game especially in the passing game. Nine separate Michigan players caught passes Saturday with Kekoa Crawford leading the way with two receptions for 57 yards. Chris Evans was a star catching five passes for 34 yards and rushing the ball 11 times. He gained 67 yards on the ground including a 24 yard scramble.
Karan Higdon was a factor rushing 11 times for 55 yards and a touchdown. Higdon also caught a pass for nine yards. Khalid Hill had a rushing touchdown and Sean McKeon had a receiving touchdown.
The true heroes of the game were the members of the Michigan defense that kept the Wolverines in the game. No one was more of an impact player than the beast from the east, Rashan Gary. Gary would rack up 10 tackles, including three tackles for 11 yards lost. He also had two sacks for the Wolverines that resulted in nine yards lost. Gary proved that he will be even better next year and will truly be a force to be reckoned with in 2018.
Linebacker Mike McCray would not be stopped as he made eight solo tackles and added two other tackles for loss of three yards. Another bright spot was the inspired play of “Goldilocks” defensive end Chase Winovich. Winovich had nine total tackles including a tackle and a half for a loss of four yards and a sack with a four yard loss. It is unclear if Winovich will be back next season as he said after the game, “I am a free agent.”
One of the biggest plays of the day was made by cornerback David Long during the first quarter. Long got burned on a pass, but recovered masterfully coming up to break up the play just as the pass got to the receiver. Josh Mettelus almost had an interception that would have kept the Buckeyes out of the end zone early on. This was an example of missed opportunities that have plagued the Wolverines Saturday and for the entire season.
It was heartbreaking for the 19 seniors possibly playing their last game at the Big House for the Wolverines. This class has never defeated the Buckeyes. This senior class left it all out on the field Saturday and the tears by several of the seniors proved that they were really upset over the loss. “I hold myself responsible for the loss” O’Korn said during the press conference after the game through tears.
“Wish we could have won. Wish we could have sent the seniors out with a victory. I’ll tell you one thing: they gave everything they had and they played extremely hard” Harbaugh said after the game.
Michigan now must wait until after the championship games next week to see which bowl game they will be awarded. Either way this Michigan team will soon reload with new recruits and they must find their quarterback to be more competitive for next year.