ANN ARBOR, Mich. — With conference and national championship aspirations on the line for both teams, No. 2 Ohio State was outplayed by No. 5 Michigan in essentially every aspect of the game en route to a 42-27 loss in a snowy Michigan Stadium.
Ohio State surrendered 297 rushing yards to the Wolverines, the second time this season it has given up more than 250 yards on the ground, and running back Hassan Haskins’ five rushing touchdowns reset Michigan single-game record in a historic performance.
Content to ride the rushing attack to victory, Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara was seldom asked to do much, and he attempted just 19 passes on the day.
With the win, Michigan snapped an eight-game losing streak to Ohio State, the second longest drought in the history of the storied rivalry. The win marks the first for Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh since taking over the program in 2015.
“(Michigan) stayed on schedule the whole time, and that was the recipe I’m sure they had to win the game, and we weren’t able to stop that,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said following the game. “It’s really, really disappointing, especially when you know they’re going to do it.”
Unlike Michigan, the Ohio State offense was unable to stay on schedule, routinely finding itself behind the chains for a multitude of reasons. Running back TreVeyon Henderson was held to just 74 yards rushing, 28 of which came on one play, and the team ran for just 94 yards total.
The lack of a running game, combined with five pre-snap penalties, had the Buckeyes chasing the chains all afternoon and forcing Day to throw the ball often. Quarterback C.J. Stroud completed 34 of 49 passes for 394 yards and two touchdowns, but he was also sacked four times and consistently found himself under pressure from a Michigan defensive line that routinely won up front throughout the game.
“When you take care of the football, you give yourself a chance,” Day said. “When you play clean and don’t have penalties, you give yourself a chance. When you run the ball and stop the run, you give yourself a chance. Not all of those things happened today. When that happenes and they’re controlling the game and the ball, and we’re not getting stops on defense, all those things add up.”
The tone for the game was set from the very first drive of the game. After receiving the opening kickoff, Michigan engineered a methodical, 10-play drive that ended with a 14-yard touchdown run from A.J. Henning to give the Wolverines the early 7-0 lead.
A botched fair catch attempt by Ohio State’s Julian Fleming on the ensuing kickoff had the Ohio State offense backed up just shy of its own goal line to begin its opening drive. Unable to muster a first down, Ohio State quickly punted the ball back to Michigan, setting the Wolverines up with good field position.
McNamara’s 24-yard completion to Roman Wilson had Michigan knocking on the door once again, but McNamara’s ill-advised throw on the next play was intercepted by Ohio State’s Bryson Shaw at the 2-yard line. Shaw returned the ball out to the Michigan 22, turning away Michigan’s scoring bid.
A pair of completions from Stroud to Smith-Njigba and Chris Olave had Ohio State on the move following the turnover, and a 28-yard carry by Henderson moved the ball to the Michigan 21. Ohio State would get as close as the Michigan 5, but the drive would stall after a false start penalty and a third-down sack of Stroud.
Ruggles’ 31-yard field goal was good, getting Ohio State on the board and cutting the Michigan lead to 7-3 late in the first quarter.
The two teams traded stops before Ohio State found the end zone for the first time on the afternoon. After beginning at their own 44, the Buckeyes needed just four plays to capture the lead. Stroud connected with Wilson for a spectacular 25-yard touchdown reception and a 10-7 lead with nine minutes remaining in the first half.
Indicative of how the rest of the game would play out, however, Michigan was quick to regain momentum on the following drive. A 37-yard completion from McNamara to Cornelius Johnson set up Haskins’ first touchdown run of the game, capping off a 13-play scoring drive.
Jake Moody’s extra point was good, pushing Michigan ahead by a score of 14-10 with 3:51 remaining in the first half.
Ruggles added his second field goal of the day, this time from 30 yards out, just before halftime to send Ohio State into the locker room down a point at 14-13.
The halftime deficit marked just the second time Ohio State found itself trailing at halftime this season and the first since its loss to Oregon in September.
After receiving the second half kickoff, Day and the offense attempted to jumpstart the running game with three consecutive run plays. All three were stuffed, however, and Ohio State quickly punted the ball back to the Wolverines.
Michigan continued the theme of running right at the soft Ohio State defensive front, once again finding big yardage on the ground. After running for 13 yards on the first play of the drive, Blake Corum broke loose for 55 yards before Ronnie Hickman ran him down at the Ohio State 13-yard line.
Haskins busted into the end zone a play later for his second touchdown of the day, increasing Michigan’s lead to 21-13 less than five minutes into the third quarter.
Ohio State was unable to muster a response on the ensuing drive, and Michigan added to its lead with another touchdown by Haskins to take a 28-13 lead late in the third quarter.
With time running out on its championship hopes, the Ohio State offense was forced to deliver and did just that with a 17-play touchdown drive. Stroud’s 10-yard completion to Smith-Njigba on fourth down from the Michigan 4-yard line kept the drive alive, and Henderson found the end zone from a yard out to breath temporary life back into the Ohio State sideline.
As they did time after time, however, Michigan punched right back with an overpowering rushing attack that simply wasn’t going to be denied. Eleven plays later, Haskins was celebrating in the end zone following his fourth touchdown of the game as the Wolverines zeroed in their first Big Ten Championship Game appearance.
Ohio State showed one last gasp late in the fourth quarter as Stroud’s swing pass to Henderson on fourth down went for a 10-yard touchdown that temporarily got the Buckeyes back to within a score. Predictably, the score proved to be of little consequence, though, as Haskins carried five times for 63 yards and his fifth touchdown to put the game away.
Each and every issue that plagued Ohio State throughout the game, whether it was their inability to stop the run, penalty issues, or lack of a running game, were all landmines that had derailed the Buckeyes at times this season. In partiuclar, the self-induced mistakes were reminiscent of Ohio State’s loss to Oregon, which carried many of the same themes.
Asked whether or not his team had regressed following the game, Day said, “You make progress and you keep growing, but in any week, if you don’t show up and do it, this is what happens. This six-game run was a real run for us, week in and week out. There was a lot of good play in there, but especially in this game, if you don’t bring it in all areas, you can get exposed.
“Just like you see week in and week out, this is what can happen if you don’t play your best game, and we did not play our best game today. So, this is what you get.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.