Buckeye fans are happy with the running game, while the Wolverine faithful have more confidence in their coaching staff after the tight loss.
The Iron Bowl wasn’t the only huge rivalry game with national title implications that came down to a play in the final minute Saturday. No. 3 Ohio State survived a scare from Michigan, stopping a last-minute two-point conversion attempt en route to a 42-41 victory, keeping the Buckeyes’ national title aspirations alive for one more week.
Ted Glover of Land-Grant Holy Land was impressed with Ohio State’s ground attack, which came from both the quarterback and running back positions.
Braxton Miller, QB: Yeah, you can knock Miller for only going 6/15 passing, but man, he’s just entertaining as hell to watch run. Even when he’s off when he’s throwing the ball, he still came up with two HUGE throws for scores. And it seemed whenever the offense was going to stall and nosedive, Miller made a play.
Carlos Hyde, RB: The thunder in the thunder and lightning attack was a grown ass man in Ann Arbor on Saturday. Hyde has evolved into one of OSU’s best backs in recent memory, and I would put this season up there with anything Beanie Wells did. I’m not talking entire career, but this is a single season tour de force, and his 226 yards rushing was as impressive a game as I’ve seen.
Anthony Mammel of Maize n Brew found positives from the Wolverines’ loss, saying the difference in coaching ability may not have been as large as previously thought.
Urban Meyer and the rest of the Buckeye coaching staff looked like a well-oiled machine for the majority of the 2013 regular season, destroying defenses and turning in the most sacks of any team in the Big Ten. Michigan, on the other hand, looked inconsistent at nearly every position on both sides of the field from one game to the next.
Then the two staffs put it all out there during Saturday’s contest. Suddenly, many Michigan faithful are more confident in Brady Hoke’s ability to lead his team to the Promised Land. Al Borges’ fantastic game plan still might not save his job, and Darrell Funk should still probably get the axe, but at least faith in Hoke has been strengthened.
The two teams traded a pair of touchdowns each in the first quarter — short runs for Michigan by Devin Gardner and Fitz Toussaint offset by a pair of 53-yard touchdowns from Braxton Miller (one on the ground, one through the air). Early in the second quarter, Gardner found Jeremy Gallon for a 17-yard score and the lead, and a fight broke out between the two teams.
The Buckeyes responded with three Miller touchdowns in a row — two on the ground and one in the air — to make it 35-21 entering the fourth quarter, with the game seemingly in control against a Wolverine offense that had struggled all year.
But Michigan responded, thanks to perhaps a career-defining performance from Devin Gardner. The junior finished the day 32 of 45 for 451 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions, and added a rushing score as well. He threw two touchdown passes early in the fourth, tying the game up at 35-35 with five minutes to play.
With just over two minutes to play, Carlos Hyde ran the ball into the end zone from one yard out — his only touchdown on a day in which he ran for 226 yards — giving the Buckeyes a 42-35 lead.
Michigan had one last drive to tie it up, and they turned the keys over to Gardner. The quarterback completed seven of nine passes on the final drive, ending in a two-yard touchdown toss to Devin Funchess. Instead of kicking the extra point to tie it up, Brady Hoke elected to go for two (after consulting with his seniors), and Gardner’s final pass of the game was intercepted, ending in an Ohio State win.
The game did not have only Big Ten implications — SEC commissioner Mike Slive watched the game from the press box in Auburn, and was openly rooting for the Wolverines.