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Michigan Ends Misery Vs. Ohio State

Michigan put 2,926 days of misery aside on Saturday against rival Ohio State.

Etienne Sabino chases UM's Denard Robinson

The 17th-ranked Wolverines and first-year head coach Brady Hoke notched their first win over the arch-rival Buckeyes since 2003, prevailing 40-34 in what was by far the most entertaining Ohio State-Michigan game since the one-versus-two game in 2006.

The teams combined for 74 points and 816 yards of total offense. There was one tie and five lead changes in the back-and-forth affair. But Michigan (10-2, 6-2), which trailed 24-23 at halftime, drove for a pair of second-half touchdowns and held on for the win. UM pulled it out with an interception by Courtney Avery with 39 seconds left, finally ending years of frustration at the hands of the Scarlet and Gray.

The win may be enough to help Michigan secure a BCS bowl bid – possibly against Houston in the Sugar Bowl.

"This game is more than a win," said UM defensive end Ryan Van Bergen. "It's bigger than that. It encompasses way more."

Ohio State (6-6, 3-5) showed no sign of being distracted by ongoing reports that former Florida coach Urban Meyer is due to be announced as the school’s new coach any day. Instead, they uncharacteristically came out and scored on the first series in a quick six plays.

“Obviously, this was a tough situation,” said OSU coach Luke Fickell. “It was tough for those guys. You saw the fight, that’s what this game is all about. It’s not about talent. It’s about heart. It’s about will. Obviously, we didn’t get the job done today. You can’t walk away from today and say they didn’t give it everything they had.

“It’s about the Ohio State-Michigan game. That was the emotion for today. If you need more emotion than that, then you’re at the wrong place. That’s what it was about.”

The Wolverines piled up 444 yards total offense, including a robust 277 on the ground, against an OSU defense that was down two starters and also had a couple of players go in and out with injuries.

The game turned out to be an amazing duel between athletic quarterbacks Denard Robinson for Michigan and Braxton Miller for Ohio State. Robinson edged Miller 337-335 in total offense and also got the long sought after win for his side.

Robinson completed 14 of 17 passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns and also carried the ball 26 times for 170 yards and two scores. Fitzgerald Toussaint added 120 yards on 20 carries. Kevin Koger, Junior Hemingway and Martavious Odoms each caught touchdown passes.

For OSU, Miller completed 14 of 25 passes for a career-high 235 yards and two touchdowns with an interception and also had 16 carries for 100 yards and a score.

“He’s a competitor and I would expect nothing else from him,” Fickell said. “He has grown up and he has a bright future. He’ll continue to get better. What you can’t teach is that passion and that desire.”

Miller said he didn't look at the game as a personal battle against Robinson.

"It just went back and forth," Miller said. "I wasn't paying attention to (Robinson). I was just trying to win the game and do what I could do to help the team."

Boom Herron (15 carries, 37 yards) also had a TD run, while DeVier Posey and Corey “Philly” Brown each had touchdown grabs.

The loss was OSU’s third in a row to end a tumultuous regular season and calendar year for the proud program. This year began with suspensions for several key players, including Herron, Posey and former quarterback Terrelle Pryor. It continued with the resignation of popular head coach Jim Tressel and Pryor’s decision to leave school early for the NFL.

The Buckeyes’ five Big Ten losses were by a combined 25 points, showing they could compete with the league’s best. Fickell and his staff had to deal with absences due to suspensions and injuries throughout the season.

“I told them I’m sorry for how it’s (gone),” Fickell said. “But if we all handle this the right way, it will make us better. That’s what sports are about. When you get knocked down, you get back up. For our younger guys, they’ll be back here in two years and they want to make sure they don’t forget those feelings.”

Tressel has kept his distance from the team since his May 31 resignation – due in large part to the ongoing NCAA investigation. But the coaching staff apparently invited him to speak to the team on Friday before it boarded the buses for Michigan. While OSU tried to keep that under wraps – consistent with its policy of distancing itself from Tressel – several players termed the address as “emotional.”

“It was the same thing he says all the time,” said OSU center Mike Brewster. “We used to be bored with it but now we couldn't wait to hear it again.”

Fickell, a former OSU player and assistant for the last nine years, was elevated to head coach after Tressel’s resignation. As Meyer reports of his imminent hiring have run rampant, Fickell has kept a stiff upper lip. After the game, he was emotional when asked if he knows what will happen next.

“We’ll get on that bus and head back to Columbus,” he said. “We’ll review the tape and find out how we can get better.”

When pressed on his own future, Fickell pounded the table and did his best to stay on topic.

“We’re talking about the Ohio State-Michigan game,” he said. “Out of respect for the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, that’s all that we’ve talked about.”

As of Saturday night, there was no indication when the university will make the Meyer announcement official. Sources indicated, though, it is likely to happen within the next several days.

As It Happened

Michigan won the toss and elected to defer. OSU got the ball on its own 20 after a touchback and moved 80 yards in a quick six plays to the game’s first touchdown. Miller hit Posey for 6 yards and Jordan Hall for 4 more and a first down. Two plays later, Miller kept it on a quarterback draw and rolled for 16 yards and a first down at the OSU 46.

On first down there, Miller rolled left and threw deep to a wide open Brown for a 54-yard touchdown. There was an obvious coverage break as Brown was running unfettered down the middle of the field and had all day to turn and adjust to the ball. UM corner J.T. Moore was late getting back on the play. OSU led 7-0 with 12:43 left in the first quarter.

The teams traded punts, but Michigan won the field position battle and took over at the OSU 47. On first down, Robinson hit Toussaint for a 6-yard gain on a screen. On second-and-4 at the 41, Robinson took a snap in the spread and faked a give. He sidestepped OSU linebacker Etienne Sabino in the backfield, got to the corner, picked up a pair of blocks and was gone on a 41-yard touchdown that tied it at 7-7 with 9:15 left in the first quarter.

Ohio State’s ensuing offensive possession was a disaster. On second-and-10 from the 20, Miller had a 10-yard gain negated by a holding call on fullback Zach Boren. Guard Jack Mewhort was then flagged for a false start and Miller lost 2 yards on a second-and-25 run. Finally on third-and-27 at the 3, Miller dropped into the end zone to throw. His deep pass was incomplete, but left tackle Mike Adams was flagged for holding UM’s Craig Roh in the end zone for a safety that put UM up 9-7 with 7:41 left in the first quarter.

Fickell disputed the call with referee Bill LeMonnier, whose microphone was open for the exchange. Fickell complained there was a hold on Robinson’s touchdown run.

“(Adams) pulled the guy down by the face mask,” LeMonnier said.

Michigan’s Jeremy Gallon returned the kickoff after the safety 20 yards to the Michigan 48-yard line. The Wolverines needed eight plays to find the end zone and extend their lead. UM went for it on fourth-and-1 at the OSU 43. Fullback Stephen Hopkins leaped over the pile for a 3-yard gain and a first down. Finally on second-and-6 from the 25, Robinson hit Junior Hemingway on the post pass in front of safety C.J. Barnett for the 25-yard touchdown and a 16-7 lead with 3:02 left in the first quarter.

OSU then drove 42 yards from its own 30 to the UM 28. The key play was Miller’s 24-yard gain on a keeper. But on third-and-7 at the 28, he missed a wide open Posey on a deep corner route that would have been an easy touchdown. OSU instead settled for Drew Basil’s 45-yard field goal that cut the Michigan lead to 16-10 with 10:37 left in the half.

Disaster then struck for Michigan. On third-and-2 at the UM 28, Robinson kept it and had first-down yardage. But he was hit by OSU’s Ryan Shazier and Orhian Johnson and fumbled. OSU’s Travis Howard recovered it at the Michigan 31-yard line.

Miller had an 8 yard gain on first down there, followed by a 4-yard run by Herron for a first down at the 19. Miller took a shotgun snap, jabbed a step to his right and came back left. He broke a tackle, cutback at the 10 and took UM linebacker Kenny Demens into the end zone with him for the 19-yard touchdown. Basil’s PAT kick put OSU up 17-16 with 7:51 left in the half.

Michigan answered with a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive, keyed by a 46-yard run by Toussaint. Robinson also converted a pair of third downs, one with a 10-yard run and the other with a 5-yard pass to Martavious Odoms. Finally on second-and-goal at the 6, Robinson faked a give and kept it through a huge hole up the middle for the 6-yard touchdown that put Michigan up 23-17 with 3:16 left in the half.

Ohio State roared right back with a six-play, 66-yard touchdown march. Miller completed 4 of 5 passes on the drive for 62 of those yards. On first down from the UM 43, Miller stepped up in the pocket and hit a wide open Posey for the 43-yard touchdown that put the Buckeyes back up 24-23 with 1:21 left in the half.

Michigan took possession on its own 18 after the ensuing kickoff and ran two plays as the first half clock expired.

Michigan then got the ball to start the second half. The Wolverines moved 80 yards in 11 plays to regain the lead. The key play was Robinson’s 26-yard pass to tight end Kevin Koger down the seam for a first down at the OSU 19. Three plays later on third-and-11 at the 20, Robinson stood in and had all day. He hit Odoms down the middle at the 5-yard line between OSU defenders Sabino, Barnett and Tyler Moeller. Odoms took it into the end zone for the 20-yard touchdown that put UM up 30-24 with 9:05 left in the third quarter.

The Buckeyes got a break late in the third quarter as UM punter Will Hagerup let a snap go through his hands. OSU’s Moeller tackled him at the UM 32-yard line. But the Buckeyes could not fully capitalize on this gaffe.

Miller kept it for a 23-yard gain down to the Michigan 5. But on third-and-goal from the 2, he was sacked by UM’s Jibreel Black. OSU settled for Basil’s 21-yard field goal to cut the lead to 30-27 with 12:50 left in the game.

Michigan was now looking for the kill shot. The Wolverines moved 75 yards in eight plays to a huge touchdown. Robinson found Hemingway for a 21-yard gain and UM also benefitted from a face mask penalty on OSU’s Shazier. Finally on third-and-1 at the 4, Robinson faked a give, rolled right and hit a wide open Koger in the back of the end zone for the touchdown that made it 37-27 with 8:32 left.

The Buckeyes roared back again with a five-play, 80-yard touchdown march. Miller hit Jake Stoneburner for 36 yards, Jordan Hall for 16 and Reid Fragel for 20. That set up Boom Herron’s 4-yard touchdown run that cut the Michigan lead to 37-34 with 7:09 left.

Michigan came right back, moving 54 yards in 11 plays to a field goal. Robinson found Drew Dileo for a 28-yard gain. He also had a 14-yard gain on a quarterback draw and Toussaint had a 20-yard run. Robinson’s 11-yard keeper moved it down to the 4-yard line. On second-and-goal from the 5, Toussaint exploded through a huge hole up the middle for an apparent touchdown. But video review showed Toussaint’s knee was down at the 1 before he scored.

On third-and-goal at the 1, Robinson rolled around right end for another apparent touchdown. But UM lineman Patrick Omameh was flagged for holding OSU’s Moeller and UM’s Steve Watson was hit with a personal foul as well, backing UM up to the 25. Brendan Gibbons hit a 42-yard field goal to make it 40-34 with 1:59 left.

Asked what he was thinking when the Buckeyes held UM to a field goal, Fickell said, “You’ve got belief. We ask those guys to believe. That’s what it comes down to. You have to believe you’re going to get it done.”

Ohio State had one last possession, starting on its own 20 after a touchback. On third-and-6 from the 24, Miller had Posey open on a deep pass but overthrew him by about 3 yards.

"We just missed it by a couple of yards," Posey said. "We went for it. I was trying to run as hard as I could to get there. I just couldn't make it. Maybe if I had gotten out of break faster, I could have gotten there."

. Miller picked up a fourth-down with a 7-yard scramble. But with the clock inside 50 seconds, he spiked the ball on third-and-6 from the OSU 35. There seems to be dispute whether the coaches ordered the spike or Miller did it on his own.

Either way, that set up fourth-and-6 from the OSU 35, Miller tried to go to Devin Smith on a square in. But UM’s Avery broke the play up and tipped the ball to himself for the interception that finally clinched it with 39 seconds left. Whew.

After Michigan ran its final play, fans and students stormed onto the field to celebrate the breakthrough win.

Also Notable

* The six losses are the most by an Ohio State team since the 1999 team ended up 6-6.

* Linebacker Andrew Sweat missed his second straight game. He missed last week’s game due to a concussion and was out this week with an apparent elbow injury suffered in practice. Safety Christian Bryant also missed the game due to injury. Orhian Johnson started in his place.

* Miller had the fourth 200-yard passing/100-yard rushing game in OSU history. Troy Smith had one and Terrelle Pryor did it twice.

Miller’s 19-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was his team-high seventh rushing touchdown of the season. Miller has claimed all seven rushing touchdowns in the last five games. Miller’s six touchdown runs have all come in the last five games and now has had a touchdown run in five-consecutive games.

* Safety C.J. Barnett recorded a career-high 12 tackles.

* Freshman linebacker Ryan Shazier started in place of Sweat for the second week in a row and had eight tackles in the game vs. the Wolverines.

* DT John Simon claimed his team-high seventh sack of the season at the end of the first quarter. The junior defensive end claimed 1.5 tackles-for-loss and now has a team-high 15 tackles for loss.

* This was the 108th meeting all-time between the schools. Michigan leads the all-time series (since 1897 and every year since 1918) at 58-44-6. Michigan owns a 31-20-4 edge in Ann Arbor.

Ohio State’s seven-game winning streak in the series was snapped. Michigan had not defeated Ohio State since taking a 35-21 win on Nov. 22, 2003, in Ann Arbor.

* After going 16-1 in November over the past six seasons, OSU was just 1-3 in November this year.

* OSU lost three straight games for the first time since 2004.

* The Buckeyes are 2-4 against ranked teams this year with wins over No. 15 Illinois and No. 15 Wisconsin and losses to No. 25 Michigan State, No. 15 Nebraska, No. 21 Penn State and No. 17 Michigan.

* This was only the third time where two first-year coaches will oppose one another in this game. It last happened in 1929 when Sam Willaman’s Buckeyes defeated Harry Kipke’s Wolverines 7-0 in Ann Arbor. It first happened in 1897, when Gustave Ferbert’s UM team defeated David Edwards’ OSU team 34-0 in Ann Arbor.

* The 2011 Michigan team became the first UM team since 1917 to win eight home games. They would become the first UM team to win eight home games in Michigan Stadium in a season.

* This was the 18th time that Michigan and Ohio State have played after Thanksgiving. UM holds a 9-8-1 in games played after Thanksgiving.

* The two programs have played every year since 1918, a streak that ranks 10th in Division I-A for the longest uninterrupted series.

* Seniors Mike Brewster, Dan Herron, Andrew Sweat and Tyler Moeller were the captains in the game vs. Michigan.

* Ohio State awaits its bowl assignment. That assignment does not figure to be known until Sun., Dec. 4 at the earliest. Possibilities include the Gator Bowl (Jan. 2, Jacksonville), the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas (Dec. 30, Houston) and the TicketCity Bowl (Jan. 2, Dallas).

Fickell was asked if he is looking forward to coaching OSU in a bowl game, provided the Buckeyes get a bid.

“We’re looking to get better,” Fickell said. “I don’t know any other way. That’s the situation. That will be determined by people beyond me. The most important thing is to go back in that locker room and make sure those guys know that you care about them. I love the effort they have given … better days are ahead.”

* Click here for the box score.

Click here for Dave Biddle's What We Learned column.

Click here for our Bucknuts Front Row message board thread on the game.

Click here for reaction from OSU players on the impending hiring of Urban Meyer.

Click here for our sidebar feature on Braxton Miller.

Video Files

We have postgame videos with Luke Fickell and OSU players DeVier Posey, Boom Herron and Braxton Miller (use headphones because some of the audio is light). You can sense Fickell's emotion in his postgame address.

Fickell postgame

Posey postgame

Herron postgame

Miller postgame

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