Five plays that changed the game
Written by Matt Pargoff   

Michigan finished off its regular season with a loss on Saturday, falling to Ohio State 26-21. The defeat dropped the Wolverines to 8-4 heading into post-season play. We take a look at five that most significantly affected how the game played out.

Breaking Free

When Ohio State scored a touchdown late in the second quarter, it appeared as though the Buckeyes might take a 17-14 lead into halftime. The Wolverines took possession with just 1:30 remaining and started out with a conservative call, running Denard Robinson to the left.

Michigan took its time and came back with an equally conservative call on second down, running Robinson to the right. The senior quarterback followed a wall of blockers to slip past the initial line of defense, but was then hit from both sides after a dozen yards.

Whether the two hits on opposite sides balanced each other out or Robinson just had the power to run through them, there was no one between him and the endzone. As has been the case throughout his career; when that happens, he’s gone. Robinson’s 67 yard dash gave Michigan the lead at halftime.

Basil’s Bomb

While the Michigan defense held up in the redzone in the second half, leaving most of the criticism after the game directed at the offensive side of the ball, Ohio State did have success picking up yards. This became especially costly late in the second quarter.

Michigan scored with just 40 second remaining in the half to take a 21-17 lead. While Ohio State got a solid return out to the 35 yard line on the ensuing kickoff, the eight seconds it cost was probably a trade that the Wolverines were glad to make. However, a 17 yard run by Braxton Miller and a pair of short passing plays allowed the Buckeyes into long field goal range.

Ohio State kicker Drew Basil had never made a field goal from over 50 yards coming into the game, but as time expired, he chipped away at Michigan’s edge with a 52 yard kick. With the Wolverines losing by only five points, that was a pretty costly score to give up. It may have even altered Michigan’s perspective on the flow of the game heading into the first possession of the second half, giving the Wolverines thoughts that they needed to score points instead of playing it safe.

Fourth Down Folly

This will be a play remembered by Michigan fans for a long, long time. The Wolverines had moved the ball very well in the first half, picking up 219 yards of total offense. At the start of the third quarter, that pattern seemed to be continuing as Michigan moved the ball out the 48 yard line.

Challenging to enter Ohio State territory, the Wolverines attempted to run Thomas Rawls up the middle on third and two, but failed to gain any yardage. Michigan initially appeared to be planning to punt the ball, but instead called a timeout, then sent the offense back onto the field.

On fourth down, the Wolverines attempted to run Robinson up the middle, but the quarterback had no room to work and was tackled for a two yard loss. Michigan had the lead at that point, with nearly a full half to play, which will make the call a controversial one. The Wolverines surrendered possession, field position, momentum and ultimately the lead on the resulting Ohio State possession. Michigan never got as close to entering Ohio State territory for the rest of the game.

Backing Up and Missing

In an odd sequence of events, there were three consecutive plays that significantly contributed to how the game played out. A Michigan fumble gave Ohio State possession with a two-point lead and excellent field position. The Buckeyes quickly moved to within four yards of the endzone, where they faced a second and one play.

Not seeing the pressure from the backside, Miller was sacked for a six yard loss by a blitzing Thomas Gordon. On third down, a bad snap pushed the Buckeyes all the way back to the 22 yard line. Forced to kick a field goal, Basil sent his attempt wide left.

Ohio State went from being in position to potentially score a touchdown to being held without a score of any kind. That kept the game close and could have affected how the Wolverines continued to approach their offensive opportunities.

Fumbling Away Points

While Michigan fans had certainly already grown frustrated with the lack of offensive production in the second half, it got much worse when the Wolverines took possession with just over nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

At that point, the Maize and Blue were only down by two points and it would only take one big play to put them in position to take the lead. Three plays into the drive, however, disaster struck as quarterback Devin Gardner attempted to make something out of nothing. The junior signal caller was pressured quickly, but managed to escape. Trying to run with the ball, he was hit by fellow Detroit native Johnathan Hankins. The impact popped the ball free and Ohio State recovered at Michigan’s 10 yard line.

While the defense once again held up under pressure, the fumble set up an Ohio State field goal, which extended the lead to five. With just over six minutes remaining in the game, it put Michigan’s offense under even more pressure, needing a touchdown to win instead of just a field goal.

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