Reminiscence Therapy (Michigan 42, Ohio State 27)

Hang it in the Louvre

Patrick Barron / MGoBlog

For reasons passing understanding, I had a weird feeling all week last week. I didn't write about it, talk about it or even really acknowledge it. It wasn't the usual dread...which was refreshing. And it wasn't overconfidence one can ever be that confident when facing the Buckeyes, especially when you've lost 15 of the last 16 matchups. 

When I woke up Saturday morning, that feeling was still there. It was the feeling that, one way or another, things were going to be different after this game. I didn't know what things, but just...things.

This wasn't just a statement win. This was 1969 or 1995. This was a program-altering win.

Any win over Ohio State is a huge victory for any program, but for Michigan it was even more than that. This was redemption...therapeutic...cathartic. Enter your own adjective here. Whether it was fans getting choked up when calling into the post-game show on WTKA or the dozens of tweets I read where people described being in tears at the end of the game, it was clear that this win, Michigan's 59th against Ohio State all-time, was unique.

The built-up angst, the aggression, the endless frustration of losing constantly to your biggest rival so many times finally led to the outpouring of emotion we all witnessed yesterday. From the struggles in this series from Carr to Rich Rod to Hoke and now Harbaugh – the full weight of all of that felt like it was magically lifted with this win. And it wasn't a win against a hobbled Ohio State team like it was in 2011, this was a win versus a top-ranked, fully armed and operational Ohio State team. 

Wins like this change things.

Michigan doesn't beat Ohio State by accident. Ohio State doesn't get got in this game like they have against Iowa or Purdue in recent years. Ohio State lives for this's in their DNA to hate Michigan and prepare year-round for this matchup. From Tressel to Urban and now Day, Ohio State has enjoyed the greatest stretch of success against Michigan in their storied history, and they've done it by creating an identity built to win this game. So much of Ohio State's success against other programs has come from beating Michigan with such regularity.

Michigan's 42-27 defeat of Ohio State on Saturday was not a fluke. Michigan didn't get a bunch of lucky breaks or capitalize on some crazy trick plays. Michigan imposed their will on Ohio State. It was a gameplan that has been in the making for 12 months...and they executed it flawlessly.

Michigan didn't beat a better Ohio State team yesterday...they were the better team. That's why this is so damn huge.

Their recipe on how to beat Ohio State was a simple one really. Blanket and disrupt their receivers just enough to allow the pass rush to hurry Stroud out of the pocket and out of his comfort zone. A week earlier against Michigan State, Stroud had all day to make passes...he lit Sparty up, and added his name to the Heisman conversation. Yesterday, despite impressive numbers, he didn't have that same impact because Michigan didn't allow him to the way Michigan State did. 

In his final home game, Aidan Hutchinson, who tallied 3 sacks, 7 tackles, 1 QB hurry, and multiple disruptions, proved to everyone why he decided to return for his last season at Michigan. He wanted to beat Ohio State and play for a Big Ten Championship. I doubt he ever thought he'd be mentioned for the Heisman Trophy, but that's the power of this game...that's what happens when you're the best player on one of the best teams in the country and you make the kind of impact he did yesterday. No, it wasn't Charles Woodson returning a punt for a touchdown or making a huge interception...but he was as disruptive as a defense end can be, and on the biggest stage and under the brightest lights against the best opponent.

Offensively, Michigan absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage. For the last 20 years of this rivalry, the team with more rushing yards has won this game. It's not by effective rushing attack in this game, especially at home, is so demoralizing for your opponent. The crowd feeds off of it, the players feed off of it, and that momentum just overwhelms even competent defenses. By the 4th quarter, Ohio State's defense was finished.

Michigan tallied 297 yards on the ground to Ohio State's 64. That's why this game felt so much more lopsided than it was. That's why, despite Ohio State scoring just enough to keep it close in the second half, Michigan still felt in control. Ohio State's defensive front 7 was gashed all day by Hassan Haskins, Blake Corum and the Wolverine's offensive line. It was domination. Domination not enforced by Michigan in this game since 1995.

There were so many huge moments in this game. AJ Henning's touchdown on the statue-of-liberty reverse on the opening drive...Cornelius Johnson's 37-yard catch to set up Haskins' first score in the second quarter...Blake Corum's 55-yard run to set up Michigan's first touchdown of the second half...JJ McCarthy's 31-yard pass to Roman Wilson on the next drive...McNamara's 34-yard flea-flicker to Mike Sainristil...and of course Hassan Haskins' 169 yards and 5 touchdowns...tying a school record for touchdown runs in a game that proved to be just too much for OSU's defense to handle. And you can't not mention AJ Henning's 4 kickoff returns for 67 yards, which really helped Michigan's field position especially in the second half.

Michigan beat Ohio State by running 18 less plays and possessing the ball for less time than the Buckeyes. 41 rushes and 20 throws is all Michigan had to do...and it wasn't even that close of a game. Some people scoffed at Northern Illinois coach Thomas Hammock's comments after his team had lost to Michigan 63-10 earlier this year when he told the media “What I see, they built their team to beat Ohio State”. This is what he was talking about. Michigan fans weren't so easily convinced. We had to see it to believe it.

We saw it. We felt it. Ohio State felt it, too.

In the second half, Michigan outgained Ohio State on the ground 188 to 5. And while Ohio State ran 44 plays to Michigan's 24, Michigan had 13 first downs to Ohio State's 11.

In the 4th quarter alone, Michigan had 100 rushing yards compared to Ohio State's -6. Michigan threw and completed one pass for 6 yards while CJ Stroud was 11 for 17. Michigan never ran a third down play in the final quarter, while Ohio State was 2 for 5 on third downs and 3 for 4 on fourth downs.

Mistakes didn't really hurt Michigan either. McNamara's interception on their second drive only led to 3 OSU points. The dropped interception by Moten right before the half only cost Michigan 3 more points. I've said it before...field goals don't win big games like this, touchdowns do. And when it came to penalties...Michigan only had 2 for 20 yards, compared to Ohio State's 10 for 66...including 5 false starts.

For me, this game was over when I saw this video of the two teams headed up the tunnel at halftime. 

This was hardly chaos. It was mind games. Michigan had finally gotten to Ohio State. And in the second half, they broke them.

The crowd, sensing a win, brought it in the second half. They actually brought it all day, but you could just feel them down the stretch. I swear, that sack by David Ojabo on CJ Stroud on Ohio State's second to last play was the loudest I've ever heard that stadium.

What a day. What a scene. The snow falling and cold grey skies only added to the glorious late-fall atmosphere that you expect on the final day of the regular season. I don't know if we'll ever top a game like that. Man...what a show.

Relish this Michigan fans. Wins like this, especially in this game, are fleeting. I don't know if this win will truly turn the tide in this series...I hope it does. College football is better when it's biggest rivalry is actually a rivalry. For Jim Harbaugh and Michigan, it's on to Indy and a shot at the Big Ten title against Iowa. It's an unfamiliar feeling to be certain...but one I sure hope sticks around for a while.

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