ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Before No. 8 Ohio State’s commanding 42-13 victory over No. 10 Michigan, The Lantern’s sports editors Ryan Cooper and Kevin Stankiewicz dispensed five things they would be watching for during the game. Here is how those five items played out.
Zeke backing up his words
Junior running back Ezekiel Elliott turned heads across the nation after OSU’s loss to Michigan State for what he said in the postgame press conference. He was critical of the play-calling and the fact he only got 12 carries.
Elliott insisted the world would see a different team against the Wolverines.
He was right.
OSU controlled the game, outgaining Michigan 484 to 364. As for Elliott, he received the extra carries he asked for.
He finished the game with 30 carries for 214 yards and two scores. He also passed Eddie George to move into second place all-time on the OSU rushing list.
“It’s kind of a dream come true,” Elliott said of eclipsing George’s total. “It’s an honor to continue this running back pedigree at Ohio State.”
The St. Louis native was much more involved than he was in the past game, as on the first offensive series he had two touches, which equalled the amount he had in the entire second half against the Spartans. It took only until the Buckeyes’ first drive of the second half for Elliott to eclipse his number of carries from last week.
The Michigan defense had been stout against the run for most of the season, but on Saturday, the Buckeyes exposed the unit. On top of Elliott’s fifth career game of more than 200 yards rushing, redshirt sophomore quarterback J.T. Barrett ran for 139 yards and three scores of his own.
Barrett also added 113 yards and a touchdown through the air.
OSU offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Ed Warinner noted the passing game as one area still to be improved upon. But even so, he was not dwelling on it.
“I still would have liked to have had a few more passing yards,” he said. “But for whatever reason that didn’t materialize. But at the end of the day we weren’t worrying about stats. We were worried about one stat — winning the game.”
Will there be a rivalry moment?
The last time OSU entered Michigan Stadium, there was large scuffle between the two teams after then-freshman Dontre Wilson returned a kickoff. Wilson was ejected, as was former OSU lineman Marcus Hall and Michigan then-sophomore linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone.
On Saturday, there were no ejections or brawls of that magnitude. However, the usual added intensity from the rivalry was on display.
The crowd was infusing the airwaves with boisterous boos all afternoon, including during the marching band’s performance of “Script Ohio,” as well as when sophomore linebacker Raekwon McMillan was being helped off the field with an injury.
As for the players, they also got involved, most notably near the end of the first half on another kickoff. OSU redshirt freshman safety Malik Hooker and Michigan redshirt junior wide receiver Jehu Chesson got tangled up on a return, wrestling each other to the ground. Additional players, including Wilson, created a huddle where words between the teams were exchanged. Officials dissolved it before it developed into anything larger.
Outside of that play, it was a relatively clean edition of The Game.
Redshirt junior wide receiver Michael Thomas and redshirt sophomore linebacker Darron Lee both said after the game that there wasn’t too much talking between them and their Wolverine counterparts.
“There wasn’t too much jawing,” Lee said. “Sometimes you’ve got to respect (your opponent).”
Barrett acknowledged his respect for the Wolverines and the rivalry, but he said it’s more about worrying what his team is doing during the game and not let the emotion of it all affect the performance.
He did, however, admit that sometimes emotions can play a part.
“Of course there is an appeal to emotion,” Barrett said, ”because we hate each other.”
Salt in the wound
Michigan redshirt freshman Jabrill Peppers is widely regarded as one of the most talented and versatile players in nation, and he showed why on Saturday.
From the get-go, Peppers was all over the field.
On the Wolverines’ first offensive possession, the 6-foot-1 Peppers had a 12-yard reception, a 5-yard rush and he threw a pass. As usual, he played his native safety position as well, while also returning punts.
Offensively, Peppers finished with nine touches for 54 yards. The Michigan defense struggled to slow the OSU run, but Peppers did his job in the passing game solidly. He finished the game with five solo tackles.
His individual efforts weren’t enough, but the New Jersey native showed off his athleticism and playmaking ability throughout the game, backing up all the hype that surrounded him. His performance warranted a mention from Elliott in the postgame press conference.
“What Jabrill Peppers does for that team is just phenomenal, being able to play both ways,” Elliott said. “Every time he just touches the ball, you kind of hold your breath.”
Peppers is only a redshirt freshman, which means he has plenty more college football ahead of him. As for opponents, that means plenty more holding of breath will occur.
Jake Rudock vs. Ohio State’s secondary
Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock had been playing lights-out football coming into Saturday’s contest. Although the Wolverine offense as a whole was limited to just 13 points, the redshirt senior was able to have moderate success.
In just about three quarters, Rudock finished the game 19-of-32 for 263 yards and one touchdown. He was not on the field for most of the fourth quarter after being sacked by OSU junior defensive end Joey Bosa.
Even though he had about one less quarter of play, it was still his fourth consecutive game of over 250 yards passing.
Known for his accuracy and smart decision making, Rudock showed why, consistently fitting the ball into tight windows and finding the open man when they appeared.
Unfortunately for coach Jim Harbaugh, the Wolverines could not locate Rudock any help in the ground game, as they only rushed for 57 yards.
The Buckeyes were clearly the better team on Saturday, but Rudock did have a solid performance amid the rest of his team’s struggles.
Seniors playing their final regular-season game
For the OSU seniors, their final game in Ohio Stadium did not play out the way they had wished.
The same could not be said about their last time playing in The Game.
A convincing 42-13 win over their archrival to secure a fourth pair of gold pants will now preside as the backdrop for the seniors’ regular-season careers.
Of the 18 seniors on the roster, performances ranged from helmet-sticker-worthy to mundane, even though they still got the win.
Senior linebacker Joshua Perry recorded a game-high 10 tackles, while defensive comrade Adolphus Washington was disruptive in the middle, picking up two tackles and a pass breakup.
On the other side of the ball, the three seniors on the offensive line, had themselves a day, as they cleared gaping holes for Barrett and Elliott to run through after two shaky drives to begin the game.
For the skill-position players, it was slightly less noteworthy. H-back Braxton Miller had four touches for just 12 yards, while tight end Nick Vannett caught just one pass for eight yards.
“It’s awesome,” redshirt junior right guard Pat Elflein said about the seniors. “That’s who we did it for, the seniors, those guys that are leaving … to send them out like that, that’s what it’s about.”