Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst said last year's loss to Ohio State is motivation to win this year. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — It is the fourth-and-short play that has been dissected, discussed, and argued about for the past year.
Did Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett really get the critical first down in double overtime that kept the Buckeyes alive for another play and eventual game-winning touchdown? Or did Michigan make the stop, which would have ended the game and given the Wolverines the victory, and get jobbed by the officials?
More than likely, your response is determined by your team allegiance.
As the Wolverines prepare to face Ohio State on Saturday at Michigan Stadium in the annual grudge match, the players said they do use the way that game finished last year at Ohio Stadium as motivation. Officials gave Barrett the first down and on the next play, Curtis Samuel scored on a 15-yard run to lift Ohio State, 30-27 in double overtime. That extended the Buckeyes’ streak to five straight wins against Michigan.
“For me, I think everyone knows we definitely won that game, hands down,” Michigan running back Karan Higdon said Monday. “It is what it is. I can’t change the results, no one can.”
After that game, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said he was “bitterly disappointed” by the officiating and said Barrett did not make the first down.
“My view on the first down was it was that short,” Harbaugh said after the game, holding his hands about a foot apart.
Senior defensive tackle Maurice Hurst said the Wolverines talked about the finish to the game for a long time.
“I think until I’m an old man I’ll think he’s short,” Hurst said Monday. “It’s something that was talked about on ESPN every day for probably about a month. It’s something we talked about a lot for the rest of that season.”
UM running back Karan Higdon says the Wolverines "can't leave any doubt" when facing Ohio State. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
And the Wolverines use it now as an example of how to not allow a game to go down to the wire and give officials the ultimate say.
“It motivates us a lot,” Hurst said, “just the fact that you know any play can really change the game and you want to make sure you’re doing all the little things right and you want to make sure it doesn’t get to that scenario where it has to be decided on one play at the end of the game.”
Higdon, echoing Hurst, said the Wolverines learned it is on them to finish.
“We put the game in the hands of the referees and that’s one of the worst things you can do,” Higdon said. “We have to make sure we don’t make that same mistake this year. We talked about it amongst ourselves. We know what we’ve got to do this year and we’re ready to go with that.”