- David Jablonski Staff Writer
Four of Ohio State’s seniors climbed the wall in front of the stands at Michigan Stadium and made the most of a sixth straight victory over Michigan.
Defensive linemen Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes and Tracey Sprinkle and linebacker Chris Worley posed for a photo as fans cheered behind them, celebrating a 31-20 victory over the Wolverines on Saturday. Their careers aren’t over, but they closed one chapter with an unforgettable and improbable victory against their rivals.
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The No. 9 Buckeyes rallied from a 14-0 deficit, overcame the loss of their star, J.T. Barrett, in the second half and rode the arms and legs of redshirt freshman quarterback Dwayne Haskins to a road win that keeps their playoff hopes alive.
“It was a street fight,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, “and we found a way to hang in there and win.”
Here are five takeaways from Meyer’s sixth victory in six tries against Michigan:
1. Clutch effort: Barrett hurt his knee before the game when he was hit by a camera on the sideline. An angry Meyer pledged an investigation to find out who hurt Barrett. The quarterback walked reporters through the injury in a press conference after the game. It was a surreal scene.
Barrett managed to play 2½ quarters with the sore knee but left the game after a run in the third quarter. In stepped Haskins, who led the Buckeyes on a go-ahead touchdown drive. He completed a 27-yard pass to Austin Mack on 3rd-and-13 and then rushed for 22 yards to the Michigan 1-yard line.
One play later, J.K. Dobbins scored on a 1-yard run to give Ohio State a 21-20 lead, its first of the game. Michigan missed an extra point after its third touchdown, and that would been important had Haskins not led two more scoring drives.
Haskins completed 6 of 7 passes for 94 yards and rushed three times for 24 yards.
“It’s crazy to go win the biggest rivalry in all of sports,” Haskins said. “I never thought it would be a reality. I would always prepare in meetings and ask questions. When my number was called, it worked out for me.”
2. Running success: Ohio State rushed 48 times for 226 yards. Dobbins gained 101 yards. Barrett ran for 57. Mike Weber had 57 yards, including a game-clinching 25-yard touchdown run with 1:44 left.
“I think the big thing was establishing running between the tackles,” center Billy Price said. “That helps the pass game. That helps the outside run game. The team up north did some incredible things on defense. They forced us to change our game plan and go inside and put the game on the offensive line.”
3. Slow start: The Buckeyes went 3-and-out on their first three possessions and lost six yards. Michigan built a 14-0 lead on a 2-yard run by Khalid Hill midway through the first quarter and a 3-yard touchdown pass from John O’Korn to Sean McKeon on the first play of the second quarter.
O’Korn, who filled in for injured starter Brandon Peters, wasn’t able to build on that early success. He completed 17 of 32 passes for 195 yards. Ohio State’s Jordan Fuller intercepted O’Korn with 2:36 to play with Ohio State holding a 24-20 lead.
O’Korn broke down in the postgame press conference
“You come here to win this game,” O’Korn said. “Our senior class wasn’t able to do it. I hold myself responsible for a lot of that. It sucks. I can’t imagine a worse feeling right now.”
4. Defensive dominance: Wayne High School graduate Robert Landers helped pressure O’Korn into the key interception. Ohio State had five sacks. Defensive end Sam Hubbard had 2½ of them. Ohio State limited Michigan to 100 rushing yards on 36 carries.
“We came out and played extremely hard,” Lewis said. “We knew in the first quarter we had to make an adjustment to stop the run.”
5. Looking ahead: Ohio State finished the regular season 10-2 and 8-1 in the Big Ten. It will play No. 5 Wisconsin at 8 p.m. next Saturday in the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Worley said. “We came and took care of job assignment No. 1 and that was beating the team up north. Now it’s time we went on our next assignment. We’ll get back to work tomorrow.”