Michigan snaps losing streak

Published 10:35 am Sunday, November 27, 2011

Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson (above) is forced out of bounds by the Ohio State defense Saturday. Robinson threw for three touchdown and ran for two in the Wolverines’ 40-34 victory. (Vigilant/Argus Photo/RYAN BRUNWORTH)

ANN ARBOR — Denard Robinson and the Wolverines accomplished something that a Michigan team had not achieved since 2003 — a win against archrival Ohio State.

Michigan (10-2, 6-2 Big Ten) held off a late rally from Braxton Miller and the Buckeyes to top Ohio State (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten) 40-34 in the Big House on Saturday. While the game did not have the defensive dominance that Michigan had exhibited in the two weeks prior, the offense displayed the tenacity that has come to signify the revitalization of the Michigan football program.

Robinson came through with his best game of the season, completing 14 of 17 for a season-best 82.4 completion percentage, compiling 167 yards through the air with three touchdowns. He also added 170 yards on 26 carries with two touchdowns on the ground. Robinson became the fourth quarterback in Michigan history to throw for three touchdowns against Ohio State.

The game, though, was a classic back-and-forth story that almost seemed to follow a movie script.

Ohio State struck first on a 54-yard touchdown pass from Miller to wide receiver Corey Brown on the first Buckeye drive of the game. Michigan responded immediately with a 41-yard touchdown run by Robinson, and then tacked on a safety from a holding call in the end zone on the next Ohio State drive. A 26-yard touchdown pass from Robinson to wide receiver Junior Hemingway at the end of the first quarter put Michigan up 16-7 at the end of the first quarter. With the momentum clearly in its favor, Michigan had a clear edge going into the second quarter, but could not stop the potent Buckeye offense.

Entering the second quarter down two scores, the Buckeyes made quick work of the Michigan lead to put them back in the game. Drew Basil nailed a 45-yard field goal to cut the Michigan lead to 16-10, and then following a Denard Robinson fumble, Miller scored on a 19-yard scamper. The two teams would exchange touchdowns after that, putting Ohio State in the lead at halftime, 24-23. The second half proved to be much of the same.

Both teams came out strong in the third quarter defensively, as neither offense had much success continuing their first half numbers. The only strike came from Robinson to senior receiver Martavious Odoms on a 3rd-and-11 from the Ohio State 20-yard line. The score put Michigan up 30-24 entering the final quarter of play.

With the Wolverines up just six points entering the fourth quarter, it was clear that the game was entirely up for grabs. Michigan had a chance early in the quarter to pin the Buckeyes deep in their own territory, but punter Will Hagerup dropped the snap, resulting in a 17-yard loss and an Ohio State possession beginning in Michigan territory. Miller and the Buckeye offense managed to quickly move the ball down to the Michigan 5-yard line, but could not punch the ball into the end zone, and settled for a 21-yard Drew Basil field goal.

Robinson and the Wolverine offense received the kickoff with an eye towards both burning clock but also trying to score. Through the efforts of Robinson and sophomore running back Fitzgerald Toussaint on the ground, the Wolverines were able to take more than four minutes off of the clock. Robinson capped off the drive with his third touchdown pass of the game, a 4-yard pass to senior tight end Kevin Koger to put Michigan up 37-27.

Ohio State took the ensuing kickoff and drove down in just five plays, covering 80 yards, featuring passes from Miller to a series of wide-open receivers. More importantly for Ohio State, though, was that the drive took just 1:23 off of the clock. Michigan had an excellent chance to put the game away late, but a reviewed play and a penalty took two touchdowns off of the board for the Wolverines.

The Buckeyes were unable to convert on a second fourth down on their final drive, as cornerback Courtney Avery intercepted the Miller pass to end the game, and the Ohio State winning streak against Michigan.

The interception put a thud in Miller’s otherwise successful day in his first game against Michigan. Miller compiled 335 total yards, including 100 on the ground and 235 through the air with three total touchdowns. Running back Dan Herron added 37 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries for the Buckeyes.

Toussaint also had a strong day for Michigan, gaining 120 yards on 20 carries. Toussaint now has 673 yards in his past five games, an average of 134.6 per game in the span.

For the Wolverines, the win not only snaps the seven-game losing streak against Ohio State, but also sends the senior class out with a win over a rival. Although they could not best Michigan State in their tenure, the seniors will go out with a signature victory over the Buckeyes.

Ohio State falls to 6-6 on the season, and a Hail Mary pass against Wisconsin away from not being bowl eligible. The Buckeyes, with a 3-5 conference record, also post their first sub-.500 record against the Big Ten since 1999.

Michigan improves to 10-2 on the season and sits one spot away from being eligible for a BCS at-large bid. With a solid finish to the season, Michigan now becomes a hot commodity for a high-end bowl game.


Special to Cassopolis Vigilant