ANN ARBOR, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – J.J. McCarthy said a year ago, “All we know is beating Ohio State” and that is exactly what he did leading the Michigan Wolverines to their first win in Columbus since 2000. In his first start vs. the Buckeyes, McCarthy delivered passing for three touchdowns and rushing for another in the 45-23 landslide win.
“Walking out of here with a W is all that matters no matter how we got it done,” said McCarthy in the postgame interview on Fox. “They tried to stop our identity and we are a smash mouth football team and they tried to stop the run and let the passes get open deep.”
McCarthy torched Ohio State’s defense for 263 yards passing as Michigan finished with 530 yards of offense. Coming into the game, Ohio State was ninth in the nation giving up just 283 yards per game but allowed the most in a game this year against McCarthy and the Wolverines. It was also the first time a quarterback had passed for three touchdowns and rushed for another since Clemson’s Tajh Boyd did it against the Buckeyes in the 2014 Orange Bowl.
“I pictured this honestly. I was trying to get back to myself when I was five-years old dreaming about playing on this field and everything about it was magical,” says McCarthy. “And, our jobs not finished! Let’s go Blue.”
Donovan Edwards, filling in for an injured Blake Corum, playing with a hand injury himself, showed flashes of 1995’s Tim Biakabutuka rushing for 216 yards and two touchdowns. Edwards, a Michigan native from West Bloomfield, put the nail in the Buckeye’s coffin ending any ideas of a comeback with two fourth quarter runs of 75 yards and 85 yards pushing the lead to 22 points.
“This is big. A big time rivalry game. We knew what we had to do in this game and we prepared for this game all season and in the offseason to get the victory. It’s a blessing from the Lord,” says Edwards.
Knowing what “The Game” means, Edwards stepped in when his name was called after Corum gave it a go and couldn’t make it work with his injury. His 216 yards rushing is the most in a game in his career in only his second season at Michigan. It tops his 177 yards he had against Penn State earlier this season.
Walking out of Columbus with a 12-0 record, the first since 1997, Michigan won its 60th game in the series and won their first back-to-back series since 1999-2000. The win also ended Ohio State’s 29-game home winning streak against Big Ten opponents.
In THE GAME, it’s the ending that matters as Michigan didn’t start off too hot. Ohio State took the opening drive showing exactly who they were going 81 yards in 12 plays finishing with four-yard touchdown pass from C.J. Stroud to Emeka Egbuka. The Buckeye’s defense then played with emotion stopping Michigan and allowing just a field goal cutting the lead to four, 7-3.
A turning point early in the game came on the next drive. Ohio State drove to the Michigan 15-yard line with a first-and-10. The momentum would say that Ohio State could score a touchdown to make it a 14-3 lead but the passion from Michigan’s defense said no. A one-yard pass completion to Xavier Johnson, a Miyan Williams rush for no gain, and then an incomplete pass to Egbuka sent on the Buckeye’s field goal unit for a 32-yard score making it 10-3.
After a three-and-out by the Michigan offense, the defense came through again in another key moment. Ohio State had a fourth-and-two early in the second quarter at the Wolverine 34-yard line. Opting to go for it with the success that they had in their earlier two drives, Ohio State had the momentum. But passion showed up. Michigan’s defense stopped a pass to Cade Stover that gave the ball back to the Wolverines still making it a one-score game.
Going three-and-out for the second series in a row, the defense came through once again. On a third-and-five at the Ohio State 43-yard line, Stroud threw an incomplete pass to Johnson setting up another crucial call for Ryan Day. Stroud, wanting to go for it, was waived off the field as the punting unit came on for a 57-yard punt for a touchback.
The next four series, two by each team, felt like a heavy weight match that you had been waiting for. Michigan scored quickly on three plays as McCarthy found a hole in the Buckeye secondary to Cornelius Johnson on a 69-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 10 with 7:26 in the second quarter. Ohio State responded but it was the defense that pulled the stop.
Ohio State was on the Michigan 24-yard line with a second-and-six when they were called for a false start. It became a second-and-11 from the 29-yard line. Stroud followed with two incomplete passes to Egbuka for a four-and-11 setting up a 47-yard field goal from Noah Ruggles making it 13-10 with 5:36 left to play.
It took one play for McCarthy on the next series once again finding the major hole in the Buckeyes defense for another touchdown pass to Johnson this time going 75-yards to take the lead, 17-13, with just over five minutes in the half to go. Momentum then went back to the Buckeyes landing another touchdown in just four plays when Stroud put a ball in the hand basket of Marvin Harrison, Jr., for 42-yards taking back the lead, 20-17, at the 3:49 mark. Both defenses posted three-and-out stops on each possession in the final three minutes as Ohio State went into the locker room up by three, 20-17.
Looking for another heavy weight battle in the second half, Michigan came out swinging taking the lead on the opening drive. McCarthy took the Wolverines 75-yards down the field ending on another long pass as Colston Loveland caught a 45-yard touchdown to re-take the lead, 24-20, just over three minutes into the new half. Little did the fans know that that would be the knockout punch.
Michigan’s defense forced two three-and-outs and a five-play series on Ohio State’s next three possessions. Ohio State’s defense did force a three-and-out on Michigan’s second possession but after a three-and-out themselves set up what would be the writing on the wall for the game.
With 5:30 left in the third quarter and starting at their own 19-yard line, McCarthy took almost eight minutes off the clock ending with passion. On a third-and-10 at the Ohio State 14-yard line, McCarthy went to Ronnie Bell in the end zone for an incomplete pass, but the yellow flag was thrown for pass interference setting the ball on the two-yard line. After a rush for a one-yard loss and an incomplete pass, McCarthy took the ball on third-and-goal from three-yard line and rushed to the left side jumping up pumping his first for the touchdown and two-score lead, 31-20.
From that point on, it was all Michigan. The defense allowed a field goal by Ohio State with 7:23 to go in the game becoming a one-score game, 31-23. Passion once again took over. Two Edwards touchdown runs and two defensive interceptions in the final seven minutes showed “The Stuff” that Jim Harbaugh talked about his team having. Taylor Upshaw had the first interception at their own eight-yard line with 4:19 to go which set up the second Edwards touchdown. On Ohio State’s last possession of the game, trying to make something happen, defensive lineman Makari Paige took a Stroud shuttle pass as the Michigan 33-yard line to end the game as the Wolverines ran out the clock for another historic win.
McCarthy ends with a quote saying, “It’s better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war. We have so much joy playing this game and there’s that deep warrior inside of us that no matter what it takes, we’re going to get it done.”
And get it done is exactly what Michigan did proving they have “The Stuff.”
They will now play in the Big Ten Championship game next Saturday and pretty much lock up their place in the playoffs.