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5 plays that mattered – Ohio State versus Michigan

Ohio State freshman running back J.K. Dobbins (2) runs the ball in the third quarter of the game against Michigan on Nov. 25 in Ann Arbor. Ohio State won 31-20. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

The Game lived up to the hype.

No. 9 Ohio State (10-2, 8-1 Big Ten) came back from a 14-point deficit Saturday and defeated archrival Michigan (8-4, 5-4 Big Ten) 31-20 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, behind the play of backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins, after J.T. Barrett left with a knee injury in the third quarter.

Down the stretch, the Buckeyes made the plays they needed to make to keep their College Football Playoff hopes alive before heading into the Big Ten championship game against No. 5 Wisconsin next week.

Here are the five plays that mattered most in Ohio State’s victory against Michigan.

Austin Mack third-down catch

Haskins likely won’t make a bigger throw this year for Ohio State. After two straight false-start penalties set the Buckeyes back to their own 47-yard line for a third-and-13 play, Haskins delivered a 27-yard strike to sophomore wideout Austin Mack for a first down at the Michigan 26.

With 3:06 remaining in the third quarter, the catch gave Ohio State’s offense a much needed jolt, following the departure of Barrett. It was Mack’s only reception of the game. It also resembled a similar grab by Anthony Gonzalez in Michigan Stadium in 2005 that helped Ohio State seal a win.

Haskins 22-yard run

Two plays after Mack’s grab, Haskins continued to will the Ohio State offense down the field. With no one open, and a little help on a no-call hold from right guard Demetrius Knox, Haskins stepped up from the pressure and ran 22 yards to the Michigan 1-yard line with 2:01 left in the third quarter.

Haskins isn’t the most mobile quarterback in college football, but he made a few plays with his feet that will please the offensive coaching staff. That run paved the way for J.K. Dobbins’ 1-yard go-ahead score on the next play.

Dobbins big run for 35 yards

The freshman running back had just six carries in the first half. His workload increased to nine carries in the second half, and no rush was more significant than a 35-yard run with less than three minutes remaining in the game.

Billy Price pulled from his center position and took Michigan linebacker Devin Bush out of the play, opening a hole for Dobbins to get to the next level. The run took Ohio State down to the Michigan 31-yard line and set up the game-sealing touchdown run from redshirt sophomore running back Mike Weber two plays later.

Dobbins’ breakaway ability was seen a couple times Saturday, but when the Buckeyes needed a drive to put away the Wolverines, Dobbins promptly answered the call for his signature moment in his first year in the rivalry.

Blocked PAT with 7:07 remaining

Ohio State ended up winning by double digits, but at the time, it seemed this play swung the momentum Ohio State’s way just after allowing a Michigan go-ahead touchdown.

Cornerback Denzel Ward came off the left edge of the Michigan line on the point-after attempt and blocked the kick with 7:07 left in the third quarter. Once Ohio State scored on the next drive, Michigan failed to get anything going on offense.

After Ward blocked the PAT, Michigan gained just 44 yards combined on its next three drives before Weber put the game out of reach.

Jordan Fuller interception

Michigan quarterback John O’Korn had open receivers for much of the game, but was often inaccurate. With 2:47 remaining in the fourth quarter, O’Korn threw his worst pass of the game, right into the hands of Ohio State safety Jordan Fuller.

The intended receiver looked to be wide receiver Kekoa Crawford, but O’Korn threw for a post route while Crawford cut into the field rather than breaking long. Fuller was playing centerfield and hauled in the momentous pick with ease.

This was Michigan’s breaking point. Before the drive began, Ohio State kicker Sean Nuernberger missed a field goal that would’ve put the Buckeyes up seven. The Wolverines had their opportunity, but O’Korn’s poor throw put an end to any hope Michigan had at coming back.

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