For all you want to make about the rivalry – a football game – when you don’t win do you go home sick to your stomach? And Sunday, when you recalled the things you said – how you acted – probably sick at heart, too?
For the thousands of comments and tweets on social media, Saturday’s Ohio State-Michigan game turned out to be, for many, something they struggled with, win or lose. And, so unaccountably!
Frankly, it was a football game, a lot on the line, of course, and especially for Ohio State fans…because it didn’t end happily. Some, I don’t think, ever stopped to realize that it might not. Now, they face whatever indignation comes for the next 365 days…until they play again. The rest of the world moves on.
And before I get into the specifics of why Michigan won for a third consecutive year – or more painfully for those reading locally…why Ohio State lost – let me share that I observed public behavior, and a lot of it, between people for the sake of a football game that you would never see standing in line at the post office. I would imagine the confessionals were jammed on Sunday morning, including a Michigan fan who flipped off an elderly Ohio State fan dressed proudly in her scarlet and gray, who sat quietly while enduring ‘F’ bombs with each Michigan first down and touchdown.
Obviously, this lady never reads Twitter, or ‘X’ – had no idea of the change in culture between the present and what it was like back when the world was civil, and you dressed to the ‘nines’ for the big game. She was living in the days of Woody and Bo.
And then…I saw the president of Michigan, Santa Ono, walking along the front row of the south stands, behind the end zone, shaking hands and congratulating the same fans for their passion and support of the university. “It’s a wonderful day,” he told one, posing for a ‘selfie’.
No doubt, you’ll see it with roles reversed, next year!
Was there alcohol involved?
There usually is when you make a fool of yourself, publicly.
Necessary? Well, I suppose it comes down to the fragile state of the human psyche. What goes around, comes around, and I observed the same behavior during the decade of Ohio State beating up on Michigan and gloating about it on social media – the same ‘F’ bombs. Days like Saturday, when I observed the vanquished slumping to their cars for the ride back south.
I also saw the ‘victors’ slugging down that lone remaining member of the 30-pack, last call before for the ‘AA’ meeting on Monday.
It crossed my mind…that life, itself, is football. But football is not life!
As to why Michigan won? Michigan out-played Ohio State. They made more plays. What other conclusion can you come to when you consider that Michigan scored every time it touched the football in the second half?
If you want to blame coaching…I’m not sure you can prove it.
However, the halfback pass between Donovan Edwards and tight end Colston Loveland was a nice touch in the second half, a back-breaking first down that Michigan had obviously planned for just the right moment. There was no such planning by the Buckeyes, apparently – nothing that daring or innovative.
Since spring football back in April, people have raved about the receiving corps at Ohio State being undefendable. Marvin Harrison , Emeka Egbuka, Carnell Tate, Julian Fleming and tight end Cade Stover were written about as though they were as dependable as ‘Door Dash’. They didn’t look that way Saturday. Two-hundred-seventy-one yards passing, yes, but not ‘Door Dash’ – nothing dynamic. Harrison said in the press conference that he saw double coverage that he hadn’t seen all year, and apparently OSU never figured it out. He finished the day with five catches for 118 yards and a score. Egbuka? He caught three balls for 25 yards. Hardly undefendable. Next spring, come April, let’s save the hyperbole until it’s justified.
Much has been said about the Buckeyes’ running game, and TreVeyon Henderson did have his moments on Saturday. But he didn’t have enough of them, and that you attribute to the game plan. He carried the ball 19 times for 60 yards – Chip Trayanum 6 times for 37. They say the run game sets up play-action, which in turns sets up strikes downfield with all those undefendable receivers. But in retrospect……?
I heard it over and over, before, during, and after…how Michigan was ‘hungrier’ than Ohio State. People on station WJR were recalling how Ohio State got too fat during the eight-game win streak, and 15 of 16 between 2004 and 2020. “They need to get ready for it,” someone wrote on ‘X’. “We’re not going to lose for the next 20 years.”
It’s hard to explain what ‘hungrier’ means in terms of athletic competition. Except, of course, that one side is more invested in competing than the other. I observed that last spring when Michigan came to Ohio State in baseball, and got swept three straight. UM wasn’t competitive. It was obvious…the Buckeyes were hungrier, and more passionate to win.
And after fighting back to tie the game at 17-17 in the third quarter Saturday, one would have thought that the Buckeyes had somehow captured the momentum …the passion. You shut teams out after fighting back like that.
But it was Michigan, and not Ohio State, who following an injury to offensive lineman Zack Zinter (broken leg), scored on the first play after Zinter was carted off the field, a 22-yard sprint to the end zone by Blake Corum, their biggest run play of the game. I’m not sure you can blame it on hunger; but I’m not sure you can’t, either.
I came away feeling Ohio State’s marquee players were underutilized. Henderson looked healthy and quick. He ran well…just not enough.
Harrison had a good day, but on days like this you need a great day. And if he was doubled throughout that only tells me that someone else was single-covered, or not covered at all. Why talk about it if you don’t throw it to them?
Or, maybe they didn’t pass block long enough, and well enough, to give Kyle McCord the necessary time.
And on the subject of quarterbacks did anyone notice the difference? J.J. McCarthy looked confident to make something happen. McCord…like he was waiting for something good to happen. McCarthy kept pulling down the ball and making big plays with his feet. McCord just had big feet. McCarthy made all the throws he needed. McCord had the two bookend interceptions that cost OSU a chance at winning.
In the end, it’s probably a lot of reasons why Ohio State suddenly doesn’t win games like Michigan and Georgia. And before any Michigan defender writes to canonize Jim Harbaugh, Remember, you wanted to dump Harbaugh three years ago.
And, I remember the men of Michigan getting beaten, 51-45, by TCU in the national semi-final game last year…a TCU that went 5-7 this year…with the same J.J. McCarthy and the same Harbaugh. Afterwards Harbaugh said the same things that Day did Saturday. “It hurts.”
But if you held a gun to my head and asked me to give you one good reason for Saturday…the question of hunger still lingers in my mind. I’m not sure we prioritize the right things. Actual winning is tougher than hell. While to some, when national signing day comes around, fans think it’s a win when their favorite team signs the latest top-five recruiting class, taking the word of Bill Kurelic that Jimmy Wagonwheel is a five-star that ‘can’t miss’, before he ever attends a class.
And just five years ago they were wringing their hands up north over Michigan’s failure to recruit ‘five stars’. Go figure. Now OSU’s roster is full of them, and here we sit on the day after another Michigan game.
So it’s not a question of talent.
And I’m not sure it’s a question of Ryan Day; because if he’s fired by Wednesday he’ll be on someone’s short list for another marquee job before sundown.
Not so long ago we were giddy over ‘Urban renewal’, and in the end we weren’t happy with him, either.
It’s something, I guess, the same as it’s always been. Maybe we did get fat during the good days. And maybe it is more important to Michigan now.
At least, that’s what they’re saying…on WJR!