Though the game began on a high note for Michigan, it didn’t take long for its once-promising start to drown in a sea of costly errors.
In Saturday’s 56-27 loss to No. 1 Ohio State, Jim Harbaugh’s fifth in as many tries, the 13th-ranked Wolverines buried themselves in their own blunders. In particular, a trio of first-half mistakes gave the Buckeyes all the breathing room they needed.
The first self-inflicted wound came immediately after U-M’s blazing start, which saw them march down the field for a touchdown on a seven-play, 75-yard opening drive. After a bit of formation trickery on the extra point attempt, kicker Quinn Nordin sent his kick wide. The junior’s fifth career missed extra point left Michigan with only six points to show for its opening-drive statement.
After trading touchdowns and punts until midway through the second quarter, the Wolverines found themselves down 21-13. Shea Patterson had them on the move, though, piloting a six-play drive of 60-plus yards that put them in the red zone.
But on 3rd-and-nine from the Buckeyes’ 12-yard line, Patterson lost control of the snap. The ball bounced away from his outstretched arms and tumbled towards a cluster of charging Ohio State defensive linemen, who fell on it for the recovery.
With the Buckeyes on the verge of extending their lead to a two-possession margin, the Wolverines’ defense came up with a crucial stop on 3rd-and-10 near the midfield mark. Just when it looked like Patterson and U-M’s offense would have another chance to tie the game before the break, linebacker Khaleke Hudson gifted Ohio State a first down by jumping offsides on a punt-snap hard count.
Buckeyes’ quarterback Justin Fields took Hudson’s miscue in stride. On the first play from scrimmage following the offsides, he aired out a 47-yard completion. Running back JK Dobbins, who finished the day with 211 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, promptly scampered across the goal line for a five-yard score on the next play.
For much of the first half, Patterson’s Herculean effort kept Michigan in the game. Backed by his 250 passing yards, the Wolverines’ moved the ball well, but making three mistakes against the country’s top-ranked team is costly — in this case, to the tune of a 12-point halftime deficit.
Coming out of the locker room, Don Brown’s defense looked just as helpless as it did before the break. It began the half by surrendering another two third-quarter touchdowns in as many drives, leaving the offense feeling unreasonably pressured to keep up with Ohio State. Ultimately, four different receivers dropped passes from Patterson as the senior signal-caller tried to mount a comeback.
The Buckeyes, on the other hand, made only one notable blunder — a muffed punt that came off the chest of a true freshman while leading by three possessions.
In a game defined by Michigan’s mistakes and Ohio State’s lack thereof, a one-sided rivalry became even more lopsided.