Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh takes exception to a question about the talent gap between the Wolverines and Buckeyes. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — The gap in The Game continues to be insurmountable for Michigan, as Ohio State flexed its muscles and again displayed its superior talent across the board.
Ohio State, unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings, was untouchable again in the rivalry with Michigan on Saturday before 112,071 at Michigan Stadium, including a strong showing from scarlet-clad Ohio State fans. The Buckeyes prevailed, 56-27, and have now won eight straight and 15 of the last 16.
Michigan, ranked No. 10, finished the season 9-3 overall, 6-3 Big Ten. Coach Jim Harbaugh is now 0-5 against the Buckeyes, and OSU coach Ryan Day won his debut in the rivalry. Ohio State had already wrapped up the Big Ten East title, and will play for the conference championship next week.
The Buckeyes defeated Michigan 62-39 last season in Ohio Stadium. It was a score that bruised and battered the Wolverines, particularly defensive coordinator Don Brown and his staff and assured nothing like that would happen again in the rivalry. Michigan allowed 567 yards in that loss last year and 577 this year.
“I just think we take it more serious than they do,” OSU quarterback Justin Fields said. “We prepare for it all year. Like (strength) coach Mick (Marotti) said, we're preparing for the (game) next year right now. So I think it just means more at Ohio State.”
Fields was 14-of-25 for 302 yards and four touchdowns, and J.K. Dobbins rushed for 211 yards on 31 carries and scored four touchdowns, including a 33-yarder with 6:30 left in the game.
Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson, in his final game at Michigan Stadium, was 18-of-41 for 305 yards, one touchdown and one interception. There were at least nine dropped passes. The Wolverines gained only 91 yards rushing, the third straight game they had less than 100 yards on the ground.
“It’s very frustrating,” Patterson said of the loss. “What we do all year leading up to this game is for them. We know it’s an emotional game.”
Michigan had won four straight heading into the Ohio State game and was playing its best football of the season.
“I didn’t see this coming,” said UM sophomore defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, who led the team with 10 tackles.
The Buckeyes were confident entering halftime with a 28-16 lead. Michigan blew a chance to draw the game closer in the second quarter when Patterson fumbled the snap on third-and-9 at the Ohio State 12-yard line.
“We knew we were going to have to put up points,” Patterson said. “We needed to score a couple touchdowns in the red (zone). The turnover by myself was huge. You can’t fumble the ball down there. We game-planned all week and tried to execute as best as possible.”
Ohio State scored quickly to open the second half. Dobbins had a 41-yard run to get things going for the Buckeyes, followed by a 21-yard reception from Fields. Two Michigan penalties on the same play gave OSU the ball at the UM 2. K.J. Hill would eventually score on a 6-yard reception for the 35-16 lead.
Michigan was outscored in the third quarter, 14-3, and were overwhelmed by dropped passes.
“Made too many mistakes, too many drops,” tight end Sean McKeon, who had three catches for 66 yards, said. “Not getting in a rhythm, not executing like we have been the last couple games”
The Wolverines did get a 45-yard field goal by Quinn Nordin to pull to 42-19 with 2:33 left in the third and then added another score to open the fourth quarter when Hassan Haskins scored on a 2-yard run. They closed the gap to 42-27 after getting the two-point conversion.
But on their next possession, they turned the ball over on downs as Haskins failed to convert on fourth-and-1.
“That definitely sucked,” McKeon said. “Thought we had a hole open on me and Nick (Eubanks’) side, so not really sure what happened there. Gotta execute on fourth-and-one for sure.”
“I just didn’t make the play,” Haskins said.
Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo and Angelique Chengelis discuss the Michigan-OSU game Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
That was the closest Michigan would come. Ohio State promptly took advantage of the short field and padded its lead on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Fields to Austin Mack for a 49-27 advantage.
Hutchinson said the Wolverines made defensive adjustments after last season’s debacle in Columbus, and in the end on Saturday, it was about not playing disciplined enough.
“We’ve just got to execute better,” Hutchinson said. “That’s what it comes down to at the end of the game. I thought we were prepared well. I thought we knew everything we saw. We’ve just to be better. That’s all it is. It’s not scheme. We’ve just got to execute. That’s it.”