The 108th installment of The Game was a whirlwind of emotions for both school's fans. I can easily say that I had a tough time keeping my heart rate down, especially down on the field in those last few minutes. But the way this team was able to persevere, and finally overcome the seven-year losing streak against the Buckeyes was truly one of the most emotional moments I've ever had in that stadium.
The feeling I got after the game from the coaches and the players was that they finally accomplished what they set out to do. Michigan finally finished the season strong, and for the first time in seven years, this offseason is going to feel good.
Hats off to the seniors on this team. They had to go through more hell than any other senior class that I can remember. And for the fifth-year guys like center David Molk, this was the third coach they've played for at Michigan. Not many seniors at Michigan can say that. This group of guys held this team together this year, and helped recreate a winning tradition at Michigan again.
This win is for the seniors.
Denard and Fitz
No one can argue that the emergence of Fitzgerald Toussaint in this offense has not only given Michigan a much needed second weapon in the ground game, but it also took a huge load off of Denard's shoulders. Both of these guys had huge games against the Buckeyes. The stats don't show how much Fitz impacted this game, but when Michigan needed him most on the last couple drives in the 4th quarter, he delivered.
However, the stats do show how much of an impact Shoelace in this game. Five total touchdowns in the biggest game of the year will certainly help convince anyone who had any doubts about Denard's arm...in the pocket or on the run. He looked great with both all day. He made smart throws (14 for 17) and also knew when to tuck it and run. And when he did tuck and run, he led with his shoulder when he hit a Buckeye defender. Running the ball, both Fitz and Denard were feeling it.
To date, I think you can say this was Denard's most complete game as a quarterback.
The crowd brought it. Better than the Notre Dame game? I'd say pretty even, but with more passion. Tough to compete with a night game atmosphere. But this game was tense. I was barely able to keep myself composed in the pressbox on more than a few occasions.
I've mentioned a few times before about the piped in music. I like some of it, dislike most of it. The one thing I thought was interesting, the Michigan band is piped through the speakers too. I know they've been going this all year, but I was standing 30 yards in front of the Ohio band in the south endzone during a timeout when both bands were playing, and I couldn't hear them.
I'm not complaining, mind you...just an observation.
At times both teams looked good, and at times both looked downright terrible. Mistakes were everywhere, especially on defense. Both Ohio and Michigan boast better than average defensive units. So when a combined 74 points are scored pretty evenly, you know things got a little out of control.
For us, it was mainly breakdowns in the secondary. Floyd and Countess were victimized a couple times, and the long touchdown to Posey at the end of the half was on Woolfolk. Yes, part of it is Braxton Miller making great throws to hit WRs in stride. I'm not too proud to say this wasn't Braxton's coming out party. He made plays in this game that freshman QBs rarely make, with his arm and his legs. He's the real deal.
We kept Ohio in this game
Michigan had a couple chances to put this one out of reach, and failed to do so. Once was in the first half when Denard was stripped of the football that led to the Miller touchdown a few plays later making the score 17-16 Ohio. And the other was in the second half when Michigan was up 30-24, when Will Hagerup botched the snap on his punt, which presumably would have pinned OSU deep in their own territory – in a game when Ohio was rarely able to drive the length of the field for a touchdown. The last touchdown of the game was the only instance I believe.
Both turnovers were huge errors at times when it felt like Michigan was starting to take control of the game. Big momentum shifts.
But a huge stop by the Michigan defense down near the goal line to hold Ohio to a field goal after the Hagerup debacle. Jibreel Black made a huge play there.
On one angle Fitz looked short, the other he looked over. The call on the field was touchdown. When you have conflicting angles on the replay, and they're not conclusive....you go with the call on the field, no?
That did not happen.
Huge props to Brendan Gibbons for coming in and knocking home the 43-yard field goal – his longest of the season. That was a big play...which got lost after the game.
There a lot more that I'm going to discuss about this game, but we'll dive into more specifics soon.