Ohio State coach Urban Meyer called timeout before Michigan went for a potential game-winning two-point conversion — not that he was surprised to see it coming.
His defense was panting after getting carved up like a holiday ham, and he wanted his players to be as fresh as possible with their national title hopes, another perfect regular-season and their legacy in the rivalry game on the line.
“We were blown out on defense. We’re playing guys too many plays. I wanted to call a timeout so they could take a deep breath and be able to strain a little bit,” Meyer said.
“I would have done the same thing,” he added of the two-point call. “You go win the game right there, no question. Both offenses were kind of in that unstoppable mode where you’re changing the line of scrimmage. They were passing the ball at a very high efficiency.”
The Wolverines kept the Buckeyes befuddled most of the day, but the defense rose up on the decisive PAT. Redshirt freshman cornerback Tyvis Powell stepped in front of a Devin Gardner pass for an interception at the goal line, preserving a 42-41 win before 113,511 fans here Saturday.
The third-ranked Buckeyes extended their winning streak to 24 games going into the Big Ten title matchup with Michigan State next week, and they could move into the second spot in the BCS standings today following No. 1 Alabama’s last-second loss at Auburn — that is, unless poll voters take a dim view of their one-point escape.
The Wolverines this year have been very good on offense (751 total yards against Indiana) or very bad (501 combined yards in three earlier November losses), and the Buckeyes saw the very good version.
“How many yards did we give up?” safety C.J. Barnett asked.
Told it was 603, he replied: “Not too great. But we got the win. The offense carried us. That was huge. We understand we’ve got things to fix, so we’ll get to work.”
The Wolverines surpassed their record for most yards in the rivalry, while the Buckeyes (12-0, 8-0 Big Ten) racked up a robust 526 yards. Quarterback Braxton Miller, playing on his 21st birthday, ran for three touchdowns and threw for two more, while running back Carlos Hyde rambled for 226 yards and a one-yard TD that made it 42-35 with 2:20 left.
But the Wolverines (7-5, 3-5) went 84 yards in 11 plays, scoring with 32 seconds left on a two-yard TD pass by Gardner (32-of-45, 451 yards, four scores).
“We’re pretty disappointed because we feel we’re a lot better than that,” OSU linebacker Ryan Shazier said. “We had a bad game today. We had too much emotion at the beginning of the game, and they got in front of us.
“In the first quarter, we were out of our game — talking too much and people getting in fights. That’s not us. We’re known for playing with our pads. We tried to do too much talking and not enough playing.”
The chatter and bad blood spilled over into a full-blown melee after a Dontre Wilson kickoff return with 14:29 left in the second quarter. Wilson had his helmet ripped off by Michigan back-up lineman Royce Jenkins-Stone and landed a punch on another Wolverine. OSU starting right guard Marcus Hall also entered the scrum and took a swing at a helmeted foe.
OSU coaches raced in to pull players toward the sidelines, and flags were flying. Even Miller got involved in the scrum. Replays showed him shoving a bit with an unidentified Michigan player.
“I had seen little Dontre, a little freshman, getting mugged and pushed,” he said. “Being a leader, I tried to help out. Then some Michigan guy tried to take my head off. I’m not going to let that happen.”
Wilson, a starting hybrid back, and Hall were ejected, along with Jenkins-Stone. And the Buckeye duo could face further discipline when the Big Ten office reviews the tape.
It doesn’t look good for Hall, who threw his helmet, kicked the sideline bench and lifted both arms to make obscene gestures toward the crowd as he left.
“Disappointed with that. I don’t know where that came from,” Meyer said of the fight. “We had a little chat about that. That’s not acceptable.”
But Meyer didn’t let it detract from the game or the euphoria of beating Michigan for the second straight year.
“That’s an instant classic,” he said.
BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP
Ohio State vs. Michigan State, 8 p.m. Saturday, FOX, 1410