Michigan was supposed to get steamrolled by Ohio State on Saturday. Everybody, myself included, said it. Instead, with 32 seconds remaining on the clock, the Wolverines stood on the threshold of a legendary victory. Devin Gardner had just connected with Devin Funchess on a 2-yard touchdown pass to pull Michigan within a point of the third ranked Buckeyes.
Brady Hoke immediately signaled that they were going to go for a two-point conversion to win the game. “Ohio State’s head coach called timeout,” Taylor Lewan said after the game. “We went over, and he [Brady Hoke] asked us as seniors, ‘Do you want to go for it?’ and I don’t think there was one guy that said no. Every single person said yes.”
Going for it was the right call, but the play was sniffed out by Ohio State as Tyvis Powell picked off not only Gardner’s pass, but Michigan’s chance at a monumental upset. It would have been a legendary moment in one of the most storied rivalries in all of sports. It would also have been a vindicating moment for Brady Hoke and Devin Gardner.
Instead the Buckeyes march on to the Big Ten Championship game and now, with Alabama losing, have a clear path to the BCS championship game. Meanwhile, at 7-5, the Wolverines are looking at a Buffalo Wild Wings type bowl game.
Finding solace in the loss
Michigan’s much maligned offensive line played well. They paved the way for 152 rushing yards and gave Gardner enough time to pick apart the Buckeyes defense to the tune of 32-45 for 451 yards and 4 touchdowns. If you’ve watched the Wolverines at all the last few weeks, you know that is a major turnaround.
Michigan didn’t have any negative yardage rushing plays and a pair of prized true freshmen backs, De’Veon Smith (57 yards) and Derrick Green (47 yards), ran well. In fact, at times, Smith looked a little bit like Anthony Thomas with his running ability and the #32 jersey.
As I mentioned in the opening, Michigan was supposed to lose this game by a wide margin. However, Brady Hoke had his team ready and they played with confidence and a physicality we had not seen all season. After fans and media speculated about Hoke’s future in Ann Arbor all week, he very nearly delivered a victory that would have been talked about for years to come.
The defense did not play well, but another budding star emerged in the form of freshman linebacker Ben Gedeon who had a team-high 6 tackles and 1 sack.
On offense, freshman tight end Jake Butt was a go-to guy for Devin Gardner and appears to be a star-in-the-making. He corralled 5 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown.
Most importantly, Michigan fought. They were down 14 points in the 4th quarter and stormed back to tie the game. After Ohio State reclaimed the lead late, the Wolverines marched right down the field and scored a touchdown to set up the two-point conversion attempt.
Despite the loss, this could still be a stabilizing point for the program as they look to steady the ship.
“We’ll fight, claw, scratch, get knocked down, but we’ll keep moving forward no matter what,” Lewan explained in the post game presser. “That is what this team is all about. We got knocked down a couple times this year, but we kept going no matter what. We could have easily rolled over and died against the No. 3 team in the country. We kept going, kept fighting, kept moving every time.”
Michigan returns a lot of key players next season, guys like Devin Gardner, Jake Ryan and Frank Clark to name a few. They’ll be more experienced and have more upperclassmen in the two-deep. It will be year four in the Hoke era and I think his team could start gaining some traction as they seek, what has become a very elusive, 43rd Big Ten Championship.
Sometimes the greatest growth arises from adversity. Well, this Michigan team has faced a stupendous amount of adversity. Although the results haven’t always been positive, this team has never backed down and has never quit. The game against Ohio State was a sign of growth.
Michigan commit and the #2 ranked player in the country, Jabrill Peppers, has only one official visit scheduled. That’s to Michigan on Dec 13.
Jeremy Gallon continued his sensational senior season with 9 receptions for 175 yards and a touchdown.
Gallon now has 1,284 receiving yards this season which is the second highest single season total in school history.
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