Brian Gornick, Sports Editor
As the sun beamed down on center field at the Big House and the Michigan Wolverines ran through the open Block M, there was a distinct excitement in the air. Both Michigan and Ohio State were undefeated, each looking to play in the College Football Playoffs and a chance to pursue a national championship.
Heading into the game, Michigan was without head coach Jim Harbaugh: his absence a result of a three-game suspension by the Big Ten for sign stealing allegations. Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Sherrone Moore was once again called upon to lead the team to victory, having already bested Penn State and Maryland the past two weeks.
After Michigan won the coin toss, they elected to defer. The first drives of the game were largely decided by the defenses, with Michigan and Ohio State having to punt in their own territory for four consecutive drives.
Michigan then got a break, as sophomore cornerback Will Johnson jumped a route to intercept Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord. After an 18-yard return to the Buckeyes seven yard line, Michigan was in prime scoring position.
In the red zone, Michigan looked to get physical against a strong Ohio State defense. After three consecutive runs that failed to reach the end zone, Michigan elected to go for it on 4th and 1, which saw running back Blake Corum score on a one-yard run to put Michigan up 7-0 in the first quarter.
Ohio State responded on the following drive with a nine-play, 51-yard drive that resulted in a field goal to cut Michigan’s lead down to four points.
As the first quarter began to wind down, Michigan started on their own 25-yard line, looking to extend their lead. It took Michigan three plays to get into Ohio State territory, with quarterback J.J. McCarthy finding tight end Colston Loveland for a 16-yard gain in the final seconds of the first quarter.
In the opening minutes of the second quarter, Michigan continued to drive down the field. On a third-and-long at the Ohio State 22-yard line, McCarthy looked to wide receiver Roman Wilson, threading a pass between two Buckeye defenders for a touchdown, with the score 14-3 in favor of Michigan.
After Michigan’s touchdown, the momentum shifted in favor of the Buckeyes. Ohio State responded with a touchdown drive of their own, with McCord hitting Emeka Egbuka for a three-yard touchdown reception. Their defense then forced Michigan to punt with just over three minutes left in the half, giving the Buckeyes the opportunity to go into the half with the lead.
Ohio State quickly managed to get into Michigan territory after a 44-yard reception by Marvin Harrison Jr.. After a few plays for small yardage gains, they prepared for a 52-yard FG to end the half. A timeout iced the kick right before the snap, and on the following play, the kick drifted wide left, keeping the score 14-10 Michigan as both teams went into halftime.
As halftime concluded, both teams began to see scoring opportunities and capitalized on them. Michigan received the ball to begin play, ending their three-minute drive with a 50-yard FG to extend their lead to a touchdown.
The Buckeyes responded with a grinding drive of their own. A 12-play, 75-yard drive for over six minutes was capped off by a three-yard run by TreVeyon Henderson. Michigan took less time to get into scoring position, taking around two minutes off the clock to get into Buckeye territory.
During a play where McCarthy completed an 18-yard pass to tight end AJ Barner, star offensive guard Zak Zinter went down with an apparent leg injury. The two-time All-Big Ten guard was carted off the field, and after the game was diagnosed with a broken tibia and fibula. With this injury, Michigan was forced to shift their line, moving right tackle Karsen Barnhart to guard and senior Trente Jones to right tackle.
Michigan responded to this injury on the following play with a 22-yard run by Corum, once again giving Michigan the lead. As Ohio State had the momentum at the end of the second quarter, the end of the third quarter and fourth quarter saw Michigan gaining the momentum.
After a punt by Ohio State after three plays, Michigan once again extended their lead to multiple scores with a 38-yard FG.
With over 100,000 Michigan fans pouring the pressure on Ohio State as they looked to respond, they seemed unfazed during their drive. The Buckeyes marched down the field once more in the face of adversity, with McCord finding Harrison Jr. for the latter’s first touchdown of the day.
With Michigan’s lead cut down to only a field goal, the Wolverines were looking to kill as much time off the clock as possible while still scoring. As they held the ball with just over eight minutes left, Michigan responded with a 13-play drive that took over seven minutes off the clock. The drive ended with a 37-yard FG to extend the Wolverine’s lead to six.
The nervousness in the air as Ohio State took the field on offense with just over a minute left was evident. Big plays by the Buckeyes offense did little to calm those fears, with McCord hitting multiple 20+ yard passes to put Ohio State in Michigan territory with still over 40 seconds left.
On the fourth play of the drive, McCord felt the pressure of the Michigan defense and forced a pass across the middle. The under thrown pass was intercepted by defensive back Rod Moore, giving Michigan the ball to take a knee and end the game.
Michigan won with a final score of 30-24 for their third consecutive win against Ohio State and their third consecutive Big Ten West title. With the win, the Wolverines (12-0, 9-0) punched their ticket to the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis against the Iowa Hawkeyes (10-2, 7-2) on December 2, 2023 at 8 p.m..