ANN ARBOR, Mich. – It may not have been easy, but the Ohio State football team is perfect once again.
The Buckeyes (12-0, 8-0) fought off archrival Michigan (7-5, 3-5), 42-41, to extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 24 games and keep their BCS National Championship dreams alive.
“That’s an instant classic,” OSU coach Urban Meyer said after the win. “Someone asked me the question about which means more – our 24th win in a row or a second win against our rivals and no question – second win against our rivals … That was a battle, and great game.”
Michigan scored with just 32 seconds on the clock and elected to go for two and the win, but redshirt-junior quarterback Devin Gardner’s pass was intercepted by redshirt-freshman defensive back Tyvis Powell at the goal line to end the game.
Powell said after the win that he knew the play was coming, thanks to OSU special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs.
“The last thing I remember is Coach Coombs was like, ‘Tyvis, they going to motion in to triple stack and No. 3’s (Michigan redshirt-freshman wide receiver Bo Dever) going to run an angle route,'” Powell said. “So right there, me and (sophomore linebacker) Josh (Perry) made a swap … Josh ended up going on the blitz, he got the pressure on him, they threw the ball. I ran, I was able to listen to Coach Coombs, and there (the ball) was.”
OSU rode the legs of senior running back Carlos Hyde and junior quarterback Braxton Miller to victory, as the two combined for 379 yards rushing and four touchdowns, the last of which by Hyde gave the Buckeyes the lead, 42-35, with 2:20 to go.
The Wolverines took the lead early, scoring on their first possession of the game as Gardner topped off a 99 yard drive when he ran it in from one yard out to give Michigan the lead, 7-0.
The Buckeyes would answer quickly, though, as Miller found junior wide receiver Devin Smith behind the defense for a 53-yard touchdown which tied the game.
Michigan would drive right down the field against the Buckeye defense again on its next possession, taking the lead again after redshirt-senior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint ran for four yards and a touchdown.
The back-and-forth affair continued as OSU kept the ball on the ground and Miller scampered 53 yards to knot the score at 14.
“We reached a point where we had to match score for score,” Meyer said about the early scoring.
Michigan drove right down the field again against the OSU defense on its next possession, taking the lead again after Gardner found Gallon again, this time for a 17-yard touchdown.
After the ensuing kickoff, a fight broke out between the two teams that resulted in three ejections. OSU freshman running back Dontre Wilson and redshirt-senior right guard Marcus Hall were thrown out after throwing a punch, and sophomore linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone was kicked out for Michigan.
“I’m disappointed with that,” Meyer said after about the fight. “I don’t know … we had a little chat about that and that’s not acceptable.”
It wasn’t until just before the half ended that OSU would tie the game again as Miller scrambled 21 yards for a touchdown after faking out multiple defenders.
After three and outs by both offenses to open the second half, Miller would score twice more in the third to give OSU the lead 35-21. The Buckeye quarterback ran for his third touchdown on the ground and then found junior tight end Jeff Heuerman down the middle of the field for a 22-yard score.
In the fourth quarter, Gardner found senior wide receiver Drew Dileo for an 11-yard touchdown to make the score 35-28 in favor of OSU.
On the Buckeyes’ next possession, Hyde fumbled the football after fighting for extra yardage near midfield. Michigan would recover, and Gardner hit freshman tight end Jake Butt from two yards out on third and goal to tie the game.
“I was surprised on that one that I was still up,” Hyde said about the play when he fumbled. “I was still pushing … I seen that I was past the first down ’cause I looked over and I was past the first down, and you know, the ball just came out man. It happens.”
The Buckeye defense was torched all game long as Gardner finished with 451 yards passing and four touchdowns. But it made the play when it mattered, and OSU recovered an onside kick try to secure the win.
Hyde finished with a game high 226 yards rushing – the most for any Buckeye player against Michigan ever – and Miller had two touchdowns through the air despite only completing six passes.
After securing its second straight undefeated regular season, OSU is set to travel to Indianapolis Saturday to face off against Michigan State (11-1, 8-0) in the Big Ten Championship game. Kickoff is slated for 8 p.m.
“I’m gonna let these guys enjoy (this win),” Meyer said. “But they get it. That’s a very smart team in there and we chatted about that and we start immediately on the championship game.”