ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Ohio State’s 2011 season is over, and so is its seven-game winning streak against the Michigan Wolverines.
A back-and-forth contest that featured six lead changes also saw Michigan junior quarterback Denard Robinson pass for three touchdowns and rush for two scores and 167 yards. Robinson’s performance helped the No. 15 Wolverines snap its seven-game losing streak to OSU — including OSU’s 2010 victory over the Wolverines which was later vacated — as the Buckeyes fell, 40-34, Saturday at Michigan Stadium.
“We were out there playing for the seniors,” Robinson said after the game. “I played my heart out. I was just doing what I had to do to play for the seniors and play for Michigan.”
Trailing 40-34, OSU took control of the ball with 1:59 remaining in the game and attempted to produce a game-winning score. Freshman quarterback Braxton Miller threw an interception with 39 seconds remaining.
Michigan then lined up in the victory formation, downed the ball to bleed out the clock and began to celebrate with the student section shortly thereafter.
“Obviously, we didn’t get the job done today,” OSU coach Luke Fickell said after the game. “I told the (players) that I’m sorry for how (the game) went, but we’ll all handle this the right way. That’s what sports are about — you get knocked down, you get back up.”
Victory was hardly guaranteed for the favored Wolverines, and OSU even struck first in the game.
In what may have been his last game as OSU head coach, Luke Fickell and his staff mixed up the offensive play calling and helped put the Buckeyes in position for an opening-drive score.
Miller quieted the crowd early, leading OSU to a score on its first possession and a 7-0 lead when he found sophomore wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown for a 54-yard touchdown pass.
Miller was 3-of-4 passing for 64 yards on the drive, eventually finishing the game with a career-best 235 passing yards on 14-of-26 attempts.
The lead was short lived as Michigan’s Robinson scored on a 41-yard touchdown run to tie the game at the 9:50 mark in the quarter.
The Wolverines then took their first lead against the Buckeyes since 2007 after being awarded a safety midway through the first quarter after OSU senior left tackle Mike Adams was called for a holding penalty in his own end zone.
Michigan continued to reap the benefits of its safety as Robinson connected with redshirt senior Junior Hemingway on a 26-yard touchdown pass to put the Wolverines up, 16-7.
With the touchdown pass, Robinson passed Wolverines alum and three-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady on Michigan’s all-time list for touchdown passes.
A 45-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Drew Basil brought the Buckeyes to within a score and a 19-yard touchdown run by Miller on OSU’s next drive restored OSU’s lead at 17-16 with 7:50 to play in the half.
Miller took advantage of a short field after OSU freshman linebacker Ryan Shazier forced a fumble that junior defensive back Travis Howard recovered on Michigan’s 31-yard line. The score also gave Miller a team-high seven rushing scores in 2011.
The scores just kept coming, and Robinson re-wrote the Michigan record books again on the Wolverines’ next drive.
An 80-yard, nine-play drive was capped by Robinson with a six-yard touchdown run to give the Wolverines a 23-16 lead with 3:16 to play in the half. Robinson moved into fifth place on Michigan’s all-time rushing touchdown list with the score.
“(Robinson) played well. He played with a toughness,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. “He went after some of those runs, especially in the second half. It tells you a lot about him and how he feels about his teammates.”
The first half held one more twist in the scoring action, though.
In his second game back after missing the first 10 games of the season with suspensions, senior wide receiver DeVier Posey hauled a 43-yard Miller pass in for a touchdown to give OSU its third lead of the game at 24-23.
The touchdown was Posey’s first since OSU’s 31-26 win against Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4 in New Orleans. The win was later vacated as part of the university’s self-imposed penalties for NCAA infractions.
On Michigan’s first drive of the second half, the lead changed again as Robinson found senior wide receiver Martavious Odoms on a 20-yard pass to put the Wolverines up, 30-24.
That lead held through the third quarter, but a bobbled snap and botched punt attempt by Michigan gave OSU another opening. The Buckeyes managed just a 21-yard field goal to narrow the deficit to 30-27.
Michigan came back on it’s next drive and appeared to begin distance itself from OSU and the losing streak that had haunted it for the better part of a decade.
Robinson completed a 4-yard pass to senior tight end Kevin Koger to increase Michigan’s lead to 37-27 with 8:32 to play.
Old winning streaks die hard, though.
The Buckeyes answered yet again less than 90 seconds later when Daniel “Boom” Herron scored on 4-yard rush to cut Wolverines’ lead to 37-34.
Herron had run for just 33 yard on 14 carries prior to the score in his final regular season game as a Buckeye.
Redshirt junior kicker Brendan Gibbons added a 43-yard field goal to extend the Wolverines’ lead to 40-34.
Fickell said he was confident as Miller led offensive unit onto the field with 1:59 remaining in regulation.
“You’ve got to believe,” Fickell said. “You’ve got to believe that in every situation you’re going to find a way to get it done. You saw the eyes of those (players) on the sidelines… they had hope. That’s all you can ask for.”
With 39 seconds left, a Miller pass was deflected by freshman wide receiver Devin Smith and fell into the waiting hands of Michigan sophomore corner back Courtney Avery.
From there, it was all choreographed celebrating by Michigan players and storming the field for Wolverines fans.
OSU (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten) will now wait to see if it receives a bid to a bowl game.
Urban Meyer update
Former Florida coach and current ESPN college football analyst has reportedly agreed in principle to become OSU football’s next head coach, according to a media report.
OSU spokesman Jim Lynch did not deny that the university had reached an agreement with Meyer.
“We have not been commenting on rumors and speculation,” Lynch said in an email to The Lantern.
ESPN said that Meyer, who was a member of its on-air television crew for the Buckeyes’ Sept. 3 win against Akron, will not be contributing to its broadcast of OSU’s season finale even though his usual broadcast partners, Dave Pasch and Chris Spielman, will be on the call.
“(Meyer) wasn’t removed from the game because he wasn’t announced to be on it originally,” ESPN spokesman Michael
Humes said to The Lantern in an email. “We felt the studio in Bristol was the best place for (Meyer) given the many storylines and top matchups going on in college football this weekend. He can offer commentary about the season, contribute to GameDay from ESPN studios and also help preview and review the significant games on the schedule.”
ESPN reported Friday that Meyer requested to be taken off his weekend assignment, and that his request had been granted.