ANN ARBOR, Mich. — All hope for No. 9 Ohio State seemed lost. Down six points to Michigan with 6:07 remaining in the third quarter, quarterback J.T. Barrett fell to the ground, injured, and limped off under his own power. He walked to the locker room, taking with him up the tunnel, it seemed, the Buckeyes’ hopes of extending their five-game win streak against their archrival.
Enter redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins, the quarterback some fans wanted Barrett benched for earlier in the season. He took Ohio State’s offense down the field, scrambled for 22 yards, then running back J.K. Dobbins capped the drive off with a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Buckeyes a 21-20 advantage, their first lead of the game.
Following a Sean Nuernberger missed field goal that would’ve extended the Ohio State lead to 27-20, quarterback John O’Korn missed his intended receiver and safety Jordan Fuller intercepted the pass. A 35-yard Dobbins run and 25-yard Mike Weber touchdown with 1:44 remaining sealed a 31-20 victory against the Wolverines Saturday afternoon.
For the first time all game, a tense head coach Urban Meyer was able to take his hands off his knees and relax, for his team extended its win streak against Michigan to six games and kept his record against Michigan and head coach Jim Harbaugh unblemished.
Haskins went 6-for-7 for 94 yards. He also took three rushes for 24 yards. The Buckeyes were 8-for-16 converting third downs, and Haskins moved the chains on 5-of-7 third downs.
Before exiting the game, Barrett completed 3-of-8 passes for 30 yards. He hit tight end Marcus Baugh for a 25-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14 in the second quarter. Barrett also rushed 15 times for 67 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Dobbins led the game with 15 rushing yards on 101 carries and Weber had 12 rushes for 57 yards.
Ohio State’s hot-and-cold offense picked up 123 yards combined on its fourth and fifth drives. But in its seven other drives with Barrett quarterbacking the offense, the Buckeyes combined for minus-3 yards.
Ohio State’s offensive inconsistency began early in the game, and it was combined with a defense that allowed two early touchdowns.
In the first quarter, the Buckeyes’ hopes of beating Michigan seemed fleeting. The futile offense accumulated minus-6 yards, the least in Meyer’s tenure at Ohio State. The Wolverines piled on 105 yards and a touchdown, before extending the lead to 14-0 on the first play of the second quarter.
But the game started to turn when Barrett drove the Buckeyes 75 yards in 11 plays and capped off the march with a 21-yard touchdown scramble on 3rd-and-9. Ohio State forced Michigan to punt, then took just three plays to score a game-tying touchdown when Barrett found tight end Marcus Baugh for a 25-yard pass. The Buckeyes did not have a single drive for more than nine yards with Barrett behind center after their touchdowns, though.
Michigan quarterback John O’Korn struggled to hit open receivers, but used play-action passes to confuse Ohio State’s defense at times and went 17-for-32 for 195 yards. He hit tight end Sean McKeon for a 3-yard touchdown pass, his only score of the game.
The Wolverines’ offensive success was fueled on the ground, though.
Running back Chris Evans led Michigan with 11 carries for 67 yards, including a 24-yard run on his team’s first scoring drive. Running back Karan Higdon added 11 rushes for 55 yards, including a two-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward blocked the extra point attempt, preventing Michigan from taking a seven-point lead with 7:07 remaining in the third quarter. He also had eight tackles and led the game with two pass breakups.
Fullback Khalid Hill added 11 yards on five carries and he ran up the middle for a 2-yard touchdown to open up the game’s scoring with 6:02 remaining in the first quarter.
Ohio State will head to Indianapolis to take on Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game at 8:17 p.m. Saturday.