At last the rivalry has returned.
It’s Nov. 24, and I had the privilege of being a writer and photographer at the greatest sports rivalry in the nation, the Ohio State-Michigan football game.
Millions of people around the United States and 105, 899 at “The Shoe” in Columbus, the largest crowd ever to see “The Game” there, were treated to an afternoon of good old-fashioned smash mouth Big Ten football. Both teams have vastly improved in the last few years and they each have outstanding quarterbacks.
|Ohio State back Carlos Hyde seeks out extra yardage.
(Press photo by Harold Hamilton/HEHphotos.lifepics.com)
Denard Robinson, the explosive Michigan quarterback, played a dual role as quarterback and wide receiver.
He rushed for a total of 122 yards, all of which came in the first half. Two runs counted for 97 of that total. One was a 30-yard scamper on Michigan’s first possession. The second was a 67-yard TD run.
On one scoring jaunt, he was hit by Buckeye safety Christian Bryant on one side and cornerback Travis Howard on the other, simultaneously. If the hits had been a split second apart either probably would have knocked him down. Since the defenders forgot to wrap their arms to tackle, Robinson simply maintained his balance and continued his run for a touchdown.
At the postgame press conference OSU Coach Urban Meyer was asked about what needed to change. He said when he saw Robinson’s second run he knew the Buckeyes had to “stop the quarterback run”. The Buckeye defense apparently listened and basically shut down the Wolverines in the second half holding them to 60 yards verses the 219 they got in the first half.
Robinson had minus-two yards in the second half and quarterback Devin Gardner had a minus-28 rushing for the entire game. All of Michigan’s scoring, three TDs, came in the first half. In addition to Robinson’s TD, Michigan scored on a Gardner to Roy Roundtree 75-yard pass and a Gardner two-yard run. Michigan had 279 total yards, 171 of which were from passing.
Robinson is in third place all-time at Michigan with 42 career rushing TDs and his 91 total TDs make him Michigan’s all-time leader. Assuming he is healthy enough and has a good day in their bowl game, he needs only 79 yards to be Michigan’s second leading rusher of all time. His 91 TDs is second in the Big Ten all-time. In the NCAA, he is in second place for quarterback rushing yards; another 85 yards will give him the NCAA record.
While OSU’s sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller outplayed Robinson, his play was not as spectacular. The Michigan defense, which includes Jordan Kovacs, originally a walk-on from Clay, held Miller to 57 yards rushing with one TD.
Miller did, however, have a very good 14 pass completions out of 18 attempts for 189 yards and a TD. In the rushing part of the game, back Carlos Hyde finally got it together this year and according to Urban Meyer, “He’s developing into one of the best backs in the country”.
Hyde rushed for 146 yards and one TD. OSU’s kicker doubled his season field goal count to eight, kicking four on Saturday, one of which was a career long 52 yards. Zach Boren, who was recently moved to linebacker from fullback, lead the team defensively with nine tackles, one of which was a quarterback sack.
Meyer was full of praise for his 12-0 team. He mentioned that he has been blessed with a couple of championship teams, but if you look at the top five teams in America the common denominator is great defense.
Meyer said, “We could play with anybody in America as of today. I would not have said that five weeks ago.”
Meyer praised what he called the “selfless” seniors for their sacrifices and leadership. He said, “I want to make sure they are properly recognized as one of the great groups of seniors in the history of this program. Maybe we’ll get 19 bronze statues or something.”
Michigan has not won at “The Shoe” in 10 years and OSU has won 9 of the last 11 matchups. This was the sixth OSU team in history to finish a season unbeaten and untied and one of only two ranked unbeaten teams nationally this season.
Woodmore High school was well represented with O-lineman Ben St. John sporting 18 Buckeye leaf clusters on his helmet for various things he had done to support the team. Jon Waters, also a Woodmore graduate, is now director of the Ohio State marching band.
What does the future hold for these two football teams? Well, in my opinion both are going to have great futures.
Michigan finally has a good coach and they will continue to get better, even without Denard Robinson. His replacement, Devin Gardner is very talented and what he does not have in rushing ability he makes up for in passing skills.
A word of wisdom for Michigan coach Brady Hoke, however: wear a jacket in November. If you don’t you’ll end up getting a sore throat and have to wear a headset so the others can hear your already strained voice.
As for Ohio State, Braxton Miller will be just a junior and he is surrounded by young talent. I think Carlos Hyde will skip the NFL draft to play his senior year. This team has gotten the smell of high profile victories and they can see some great things coming next year. While OSU always has a ton of talent, just wait until Urban Meyer gets some of his new freshman recruits on the field next year.
Oh, one more thing, wouldn’t it be interesting if OSU had two Heisman candidates next year in Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde? As for the AP poll, I predict will OSU will get no higher than No. 4 this year regardless of what happens in the BCS bowls. It’s all politics folks.
As for the Big Ten, unfortunately it has only three teams in the AP top 25, including OSU at No. 4, Nebraska at No. 14 and Michigan at No. 21.
The Big Ten is still not competitive with the SEC and unfortunately the recent additions of Rutgers and Maryland will not strengthen the league. From a pure football point of view this is one of the dumbest things the league could have done, I believe. These schools were added to benefit the Big Ten TV network by expanding viewership to the east. Never let it be said that the Big Ten commissioners let good football interfere with making money. Money appears to be more important to the league than developing a league that can compete with the SEC.
Before every home game the Buckeyes have what they call a “Skull Session” in St. John Arena. It is a combination band warm up and pep rally.
This year the OSU band saluted Michigan by playing their fight song “Hail to the Victors” without a squeak, strained look or bit of contempt. It was very professional.
Continuing their welcome, the visiting UM band director led the OSU band in the National Anthem. Outside of the stadium, in St John Arena and on the field after the game I saw many wearing block Ms usually with a few of their Buckeye friends. Never once did I hear a derogatory comment or see anything but good sportsmanship toward them.
There was, of course, thunderous booing when the Michigan team entered the field, but that happens at every football game. I am very proud of both teams and happy to say that the rivalry has returned and it is as good as it ever was.
Blue fans, get your chins up. Sure you lost but your team played a great game and they are on the road to better days. You are part of a great tradition and rivalry. I can’t wait until next year.