Two big calls and a no-call got under the skin of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. A pass interference call on Michigan senior safety Delano Hill resulted in a key first down for the Buckeyes on their last regulation drive that sent the game into overtime. On a fourth-and-short for OSU, redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett was stopped just past the line to gain, and the spot stood as a first down upon further review.
Arguably the biggest non-call came when OSU redshirt junior cornerback Gareon Conley appeared to grab Michigan sophomore wide receiver Grant Perry before the ball arrived. But, blaming the referees is rarely an excuse for losing a game, and things are no different following OSU’s thrilling 30-27 double overtime win over Michigan.
“He was clearly being hooked before the ball got there,” Harbaugh said.
He went on to talk about the officiating for most of his press conference. Sure, the call affected some drives and might have had something to do with the outcome, but the Wolverines put themselves into situations that were unfavorable after having the game well in hand for more than 30 minutes of play.
De’Veon Smith did not have a late-game impact
Coming in after a monstrous performance in the game against Indiana, Michigan senior running back De’Veon Smith would have been a difference maker with a similar performance against OSU. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, Smith was far from a bruising force and gained just 60 yards on 21 carries.
After averaging 6.9 yards per rush in the week prior to playing OSU, Smith was only good for 2.9 yards per carry.
“I told my teammates in (the locker room) it’s truly a blessing to be in the middle of a defense that is truly one of the best defenses, if not the best defense in the nation,” OSU junior linebacker Raekwon McMillan said.
If Smith had a bigger game, or if someone else contributed to the run game, this could have been a lot different. After all, Michigan State sophomore L.J. Scott ripped apart the OSU defense for 160 yards on the ground. The Wolverines, as a team, had just 91 yards with eight different players carrying the ball.
Speight played well at times, but faded at others
Two touchdowns and a 64 percent completion percentage is normally a pretty good statline. However, Michigan redshirt sophomore quarterback Wilton Speight was ineffective at moving the pocket and misread key plays, resulting in a passing game that was severely lacking in the second half.
Although his overtime touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Amara Darboh kept Michigan’s hopes of victory alive, it was the misreads by Speight that led to golden opportunities for OSU. On his second interception, which came late in third quarter, Speight completely overlooked OSU sophomore linebacker Jerome Baker camping in the middle of the field, and threw it right into the outstretched arms of the former high school all-state running back.
Baker nearly returned the pick for a score, and set up an eventual Barrett touchdown run.
If Speight would have thrown to the guys in white rather than scarlet, OSU would most likely have been on the losing end of Saturday’s contest.
Michigan folded late against the run
Early on, OSU’s offense was anemic. In the first half, redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber had just 14 yards rushing. Junior H-back Curtis Samuel had just 16, and redshirt junior J.T. Barrett had just 27 yards through two quarters, giving the team a total of 57 yards on the ground to start the game.
In the second half, the three-headed beast that is OSU’s backfield — Barrett, Samuel and Weber — took the game over, wearing down Michigan and scampering in for three touchdowns in the second half. So, where did Michigan go wrong?
For starters, Michigan failed to contain Barrett. Although he averaged just 4.2 yards per carry, the redshirt junior made some key reads on open holes to pick up vital yardage. The fourth-down run where he just reached the first-down line was one of those key runs.
On the final play, a lack of initial penetration and the failure to break away from lead blocks helped lead Samuel into the end zone. Michigan played its heart out on Saturday, but failing to stop the run was the biggest downfall of the Wolverines in the second half.