Michigan braces for 'huge challenge' of containing Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan knows plenty about Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins.

The Wolverines got a sneak peek at Haskins last season when the redshirt freshman entered the game in the third quarter and replaced injured starter J.T. Barrett and led the Buckeyes to a 31-20 victory at Michigan Stadium.

Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins is tied for tops in the nation with 36 touchdown passes, and is third nationally in passing yardage.

Fast forward a year and Haskins, a 6-foot-3, 218-pound redshirt sophomore, is now tied for first nationally with 36 touchdown passes. His 3,685 passing yards this season is an Ohio State single-season record and also ranks third-best nationally.

He has set 12 different single-season school records this fall and last week in an overtime victory at Maryland, Haskins threw for 405 yards and was responsible for six touchdowns.

Haskins leads Ohio State’s No. 2-ranked offense into Saturday’s annual meeting against Michigan, which boasts the nation’s top-ranked defense. There is plenty on the line as the winner — either the fourth-ranked Wolverines or the 10th-ranked Buckeyes — will be playing in the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis.

“You could argue he’s one of the top players in college football,” Michigan linebackers coach Al Washington, whose father, Al, played for Woody Hayes at Ohio State, said. “He’s accurate. He hasn’t played a lot. This is kind of his first year. Very mature. He has a complete understanding of the scheme he runs.

“He’s a very good player. We’ve got to beat him. He’s one of those guys you’ve got to beat. He’s a good player. A real good player.”

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The Wolverines are more than aware the obstacle Haskins provides. He’s big, strong, and is a prolific passer, but where he differs from the quarterbacks who have played for Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who has never lost to Michigan, is his threat as a runner.

Haskins does have skill as a running quarterback although he hasn’t put that on display much until last week’s overtime victory at Maryland. He matched his three passing touchdowns with three rushing, including the game-winner. He rushed 15 times for 59 yards.

“He’s re-writing the whole Ohio State (record book) passing yards, touchdowns,” Michigan defensive tackle Carlo Kemp said. “He presents a huge challenge for us. It would be huge accomplishment to go out there, stop him, just because of how successful he’s been at home and walk away with a win this Saturday.”

Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson and Haskins have known each other for years. Patterson joked they won’t be friends on Saturday.

“I’m sure he’s just as excited as I am to play against him as he is to play against me,” Patterson said. “I enjoy watching him play.”

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh spoke glowingly of Patterson this past week and then praised Haskins, as well.

“He’s terrific too,” Harbaugh said. “He plays with great poise. I love his demeanor when he’s playing the game. He’s just always locked in, intense, focused and he’ll let it rip, too. He’s got a great knack of throwing the ball accurately and making decisions.

“He sees the field as good as any college quarterback I’ve seen lately. He can run the ball. Big, strong guy with great stature in the pocket. He makes really good decisions. He doesn’t get rattled and just throw ‘em up for grabs. Really good on all levels in my opinion.”

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This is the type of offense Michigan’s defense is looking forward to shutting down. It’s the last stop of the Wolverines’ “Revenge Tour,” which so far has included wins over Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State, all teams that defeated Michigan last year.

“It’s what everybody wanted,” Kemp said of the Michigan-Ohio State game. “I think everybody wanted to see two teams 10-1, one last game, this is the most important game. This game decides it all. Both teams have chances to go to the Big Ten championship and keep their playoff hopes alive and keep it rolling. It’s what we all wanted.”


Twitter: @chengelis