Saturday, November 26, 2011

OHIO STATE'S REIGN OVER MICHIGAN COMES TO A HALT IN A 40-34 LOSS

Braxton Miller
TBT/Josh Stueve
ANN ARBOR, MI — The monkey has been surgically removed off the backs of the Michigan Wolverines, courtesy of Denard Robinson.

In the 108th meeting between the Wolverines and the Ohio State Buckeyes, Robinson was flawless as the junior sliced up the Buckeye defense for 5 total touchdowns and 337 total yards (167 passing, 170 rushing). Robinson’s precision through the air — going 14-for-17 — helped push Michigan (10-2, 6-2 Big Ten) over the hump in its first victory over Ohio State (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten) since 2003, 40-34. 


The loss gives the Buckeyes their first non-winning season since 1999.

The hated rivals traded punches for 60 gritty and intense minutes in front of 114,132 fans — the second largest crowd in Michigan Stadium history.

“I was out there playing for the seniors,” Robinson said. “I played my heart out, and the guys did too.”

Ohio State interim head coach Luke Fickell was emotional afterward in what turned out to be nothing out of the rivalries norm.

“I’m hurt,” he said. “Just like everyone of those seniors in there.”

Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller stood toe-to-toe with Robinson throughout the contest. The true freshman, who came into the season finale averaging just 76 passing yards per game, accounted for 335 total yards (235 passing, 100 rushing) and 3 touchdowns.

“(Miller’s) a competitor,” Fickell said. “I’d expect nothing else from him. You’ve seen him grow up and he’s continued to grow. He’s got a bright future. He’ll continue to get better. But what you can’t teach is that passion and that desire to be a competitor.”

Penalties at the OSU goal line cost Michigan a chance to bury the Buckeyes as the Wolverines settled for a 43-yard field goal with 1:59 left in the fourth quarter.

The table was set for Miller and the offense as they strutted out for one last drive, but fate was not on their side this time around. The Buckeyes were handed an opportunity to retake the lead with 1:48 left when receiver DeVier Posey slipped past the coverage, but Miller launched it just over the head of Posey. The toss would have resulted in the go-ahead score.

“We just missed it by like a couple yards,” Posey said. “I thought we had it and we went for it. I think the silver lining out of that play was Braxton wasn’t afraid to throw it because that was a call that he made.”

On 4th-and-6 at the OSU 35, Miller’s last gasp was sent to receiver Devin Smith across the middle but the ball bounced off the true freshman’s hands and into the arms of Michigan’s Courtney Avery with 39 seconds left in the game.

The seven-year itch was scratched for the Wolverines.

“It’s an important game,” Michigan head coach Brady Hoke said. “Since day one you know I’ve said that. It’s a great rivalry. But to see those kids, the joys, the tears, that’s why you coach and that’s why this is such a great game.”

The mood in the visitor’s locker room wasn’t as joyful, according to Posey.

“Always after a loss it’s hard, there’s some tears,” Posey said of the locker room mood after the loss. “It was just a weird feeling. I’m not really used to it … I feel like this group will become closer because of this.”

The games opening possession saw Ohio State put together quite the drive as it drove 80 yards on six plays, capped off by a 54-yard bomb from Miller to sophomore receiver Corey "Philly" Brown.
But, it wasn’t long until Robinson got the Michigan offense into gear as he took an option keeper 41 yards to tie the game 7-7 at the 9:15 mark in the first quarter.

The Buckeyes answered with one of their ugliest possessions of the year. After consecutive penalties had pushed Ohio State back to its own 3-yard line, senior tackle Mike Adams was caught holding in the endzone, which resulted in a safety for Michigan. The safety gave the Wolverines their first lead in the rivalry since 2007.

Following the safety, Michigan received the ball on a free kick and made sure its opportunity didn't go to waste. Two plays after converting a 4th-and-1 at midfield, Robinson hit senior receiver Junior Hemmingway for a 26-yard touchdown to give the Wolverines a 16-7 lead.

On the following drive, Miller lead Ohio State into Michigan territory, but overthrew an open Posey in the endzone. The Buckeyes looked to kicker Drew Basil who nailed a 45-yard field goal that cut Michigan's lead to 16-10.

Denard Robinson
TBT/Josh Stueve
On the ensuing Michigan drive, Robinson bounced to his left on a 3rd-and-2 before cornerback Travis Howard jarred the ball loose and fell on the recovery. The Buckeyes did a little capitalizing of their own after the defense forced the ball back. The offense took over at the UM 31 and Miller dashed for a 19-yard score to give the Bucks a 17-16 advantage.

The back-and-forth first half continued as the Wolverines took the lead on a 6-yard TD run by Robinson that capped an 80-yard, 9-play drive. Robinson’s third touchdown of the half gave Michigan a 23-17 lead.

Miller wouldn’t be outdone, though, as he would find Posey on a 43-yard bullet to give the Buckeyes a 24-23 lead with 1:21 left in the second quarter. 

With the Buckeyes clinging to a third quarter lead, Robinson found receiver Martavious Odoms for a 20-yard touchdown on a 3rd-and-11 for the go-ahead score.

“Robinson played a great game,” junior defensive lineman John Simon said. “He threatens you with the run and pass and he made plays when they needed it.”