Don't fault Brady Hoke for this one.
The Michigan coach held up two fingers when his Wolverines scored a touchdown with 32 seconds left to cut Ohio State's lead to 42-41. The signal for two required no hesitation. You could tell this was a decision Hoke had contemplated as his team marched down the field or maybe even taken a poll on, according to Columbus Dispatch columnist Rob Oller.
Hoke asked seniors during timeout if they wanted to go for two. Every one said yes.
— Rob Oller (@rollerCD) November 30, 2013
And it was the right call. However, the pass that Devin Gardner threw wasn't the right one as he threw it into double coverage. It was almost an interception. Interception, incompletion. It didn't matter. No. 3 Ohio State's undefeated season was preserved after it recovered the ensuing onside kick.
Michigan had trouble stopping Ohio State's running game all day. The Buckeyes had 393 yards on the ground; 226 of those courtesy of Carlos Hyde's 27 carries. That likely played strongly into Hoke's decision to go for the win at home. He had a (hobbled) quarterback who had thrown for 451 yards and just threw his fourth touchdown pass.
But Gardner couldn't continue the magic. Out of a stacked formation of three receivers, he was committed to the first option -- even if on replay it looked like the quarterback draw was wide open. Ohio State read that first option perfectly. (Though don't fault Gardner either. Robbed of his mobility after a twisted ankle, his passing performance was the main reason Michigan stayed right with OSU.)
Now, a week after it closed the gap on No. 2 Florida State in the BCS Standings, the debate about Ohio State's worthiness for the National Championship remains, even though this is win No. 24 in a row. Fair or not, a soft conference and schedule will do that to you. As will over 600 yards by an offense that could best be described as "stagnant" over the past month.
Yes, this is a rivalry game -- that was evident with the three ejections and double-bird show in the second quarter -- and the Buckeyes hadn't won by more than 11 points in Ann Arbor since 1961. And they still haven't. But as the focus of Saturday's early slate, it was a chance for Ohio State to make a statement about its championship legitimacy with a decisive win. This was not a decisive win, and one not fitting of the third-best team in the country according to Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan.
Taylor Lewan; "That's not the No. 3 team in the country."
— Everett Cook (@everettcook) November 30, 2013
It gets another chance for that decisive victory next week against Michigan State, the other team up north, in the Big 10 title game. But sorry Buckeye fans, the debate about your team is going to continue for at least another week.
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