Reactions & Analysis: Mistake-Plagued Game Costs Michigan Against OSU
• Before the game, everyone with a pulse was saying the same thing - if Michigan could play a near-perfect game, 60 minutes of its best football of the year, it had a legit chance to beat Ohio State. Instead:
- Redshirt freshman Cam McGrone blows coverage of tailback JK Dobbins on 3rd-and-14, surrendering a 28-yard completion. OSU scores one play later to take a 7-6 first-quarter lead.
- Senior captain Carlo Kemp gets called for an unsportsmanlike conduct after a four-yard Dobbins' rush for taking Dobbins' shoe off in the pile, taking the ball from the OSU 41- to the Michigan 44-yard line (OSU scores five plays later for a 21-13 lead)
- Down 21-13 early in the second quarter, senior QB Shea Patterson fumbles a snap at the Ohio State 12-yard line, turning the ball over and coming away with zero points on a promising drive.
- With a chance to get off the field on OSU's ensuing possession, senior viper Khaleke Hudson jumps offsides on a 4th-and-4, negating a Buckeye punt and turning the ball back over to Ohio State (they scored two plays later for a 28-13 lead).
- Trailing 28-13, Patterson finds junior WR Donovan Peoples-Jones for a touchdown but Peoples-Jones drops the ball. Michigan settles for a field goal and goes into the half down 28-16.
- On the opening possession of the second half, senior linebacker Jordan Glasgow blows coverage of Dobbins, allowing a 21-yard completion. One play later, McGrone gets called for a late hit and OSU scores three plays later for a 35-16 lead.
- Sophomore wide receiver Ronnie Bell drops a Patterson pass on 3rd-and-16 that would have given U-M a first down trailing 35-16.
- On the very next play, freshman wide receiver Mike Sainristil can down a punt at the three-yard line but touches the ball unnecessarily, bringing it with him into the end zone for a touchback.
- Down 42-16, Peoples-Jones drops back-to-back first-down throws and U-M has to punt. That coincided with a stretch in which Michigan dropped five second-half passes and six overall for the game.
- Showing no quit, Michigan gets a defensive stop with 10:11 left on the clock down 42-27. On third down, Patterson hits junior WR Tarik Black, who meekly gets tackled one yard shy of a first down. On the next play, redshirt freshman tailback Hassan Haskins doesn't follow his lead blocker into a huge hole and is stuffed, turning the ball over to OSU. Ohio State scores four plays later for a 49-27 lead.
Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes. This is nothing to say of a defense that allowed 56 points and 577 yards of offense.
Michigan played great offensive football for one quarter. It showed some fight late in the third and early into the fourth. Its defense didn't have a single good stretch, ceding more than 100 yards and at least 14 points in every quarter. U-M needed perfection to beat Ohio State. It was largely imperfect on the day.
• The final stats will not be kind to Patterson - a 41.8 completion percentage, a 104.5 pass efficiency rating and an ugly second half in which he completed 4 of 24 attempts for 55 yards and a pick - but the senior QB was certainly dealing throughout most of this game, throwing outstanding balls while getting it out quickly under the Ohio State rush. His receivers did him no favors with at least six drops, five coming in that ugly third quarter in which he was 1 for 10.
Patterson is not without blame, his second-quarter fumbled snap was a critical miscue at a moment when the Wolverines were trading blows with the Buckeyes and had some momentum on their side. But Patterson was one of the few reasons Michigan had a chance in this one, and his performance should easily go down as the best we've seen from a QB in THE Game under Jim Harbaugh.
• Despite his one drop, Bell continued to show incredible fight, refusing to go out of bounds on sideline grabs, sticking his foot in the ground and striving for more yards. He also had a terrific catch over the middle in which he was hit hard enough to probably crack a rib. Despite the hit, Bell's first instinct was to secure the catch for a first down.
It was an uncharacteristically poor stretch for the receivers in the third quarter dropping very catchable balls, beginning with the DPJ drop at the end of the second quarter, but they also made plenty of plays after the catch. It would have been nice for the entire contingent to show as much fight as Bell, especially with a glimmer of a chance to do something down 42-27.
• No more excuses for Don Brown. After his defense allowed 62 points and 567 yards to Ohio State a year ago, it surrendered 56 points and 577 yards this year. The Buckeyes might be uber-talented offensively, but these are two historically bad performance by the Michigan defense, and they've occurred on Brown's watch.
It's easy to second-guess Brown from 50 feet above field level, but whether it was running man-to-man in long down-and-distances (3rd-and-14, 2nd-and-19 in which Michigan players ran into each other on pick plays and allowed long completions), a lack of the right pressure packages to harass QB Justin Fields, or having the wrong fits up front to slow the ground game ... it was a disaster for Brown and his defensive unit.
Everything that could go wrong went wrong, every disadvantage exploited, none more so than senior safety Josh Metellus in deep coverage against the Buckeyes' speedy wide receivers.
One could say Michigan just needs to recruit better athletes in the back end (and to that point U-M did land five-star safety Dax Hill in the 2019 class) but without better athletes, coaching needs to be an equalizer and Brown has demonstrated these past two years he's not up to that task. At least not against Ohio State. Not when a team has more talent than Michigan.
Unfortunately, the Buckeyes are poised to have more talent than the Wolverines for the foreseeable future.
• If you had told me pre-game Buckeye defensive end Chase Young would be a non-factor (he had two QB hurries but no tackles, no sacks, no pass breakups, no nothing) I would have thought Michigan had an outstanding chance to win. Of course, if you would have said Dobbins would rush for 211 yards and four touchdowns, there was no chance.
Give U-M's offensive tackles credit for neutralizing Young and for doing a pretty good job when the game was still in the balance of protecting Patterson. The defensive line, on the other side, got manhandled, which is an unfortunate final memory for a position group that had otherwise been very good these past two months.
In that vein, it will be interesting to see how much of the 2019 Michigan football narrative is shaped by this loss to Ohio State. Nine wins is a good season, but U-M got blown out by Wisconsin and OSU, and should have beaten (but obviously did not) Penn State.
This Michigan defense was peaking but ultimately will be remembered much more for this and the Wisconsin performances than any good it did all year. That's fair. You have to own your bad too.
• There will be questions about Harbaugh's future. Not from me. Not that I don't think they're valid, but he's not going anywhere and it's fruitless to argue about such when the U-M administration is committed to Harbaugh. I'll go back to something I was told in September by multiple sources inside the athletic department: as long as he wins 9-10 games consistently, does it the right way, doesn't embarrass Michigan off the field or on it, and continues to make a lot of money for athletics, he will remain a favorite son of the administration.
Does he need to beat Ohio State and win Big Ten Championships? Only to be considered a legend. Not to stay Michigan's coach indefinitely.