Final: Michigan 40, Ohio State 34
November, 26, 2011
By Brian Bennett | ESPN.com
The streak is over. And the rivalry is back on.
The Game is always The Game, but it had lost some national relevance given Michigan's recent struggles and its inability to beat Ohio State since 2003.
Well, now, after 2,926 days of futility, the Wolverines finally got over the hump -- in about the most exciting manner possible.
Michigan's 40-34 victory was the biggest thriller in this rivalry since the two teams were ranked 1-2 in 2006 and Ohio State won 42-39. This one had a little bit of everything, including drama at the end.
The Wolverines looked like they had wrapped things up twice in the final three minutes. But a Fitz Toussaint touchdown was overturned after officials ruled his knee was down just before he reached the end zone. Then a Denard Robinson bootleg run was wiped out by 25 yards' worth of penalties on the same play, forcing Michigan to settle for a long field goal.
That left 1:59 on the clock for Ohio State and Braxton Miller, and he nearly engineered a miracle to a wide open DeVier Posey. But the pass was overthrown. Miller converted one fourth down but was intercepted by Courtney Avery with 39 seconds left on 4th and 6.
The sheer joy on the faces of the players and Brady Hoke was obvious after the win. Hoke put so much emphasis on winning this game, saying "Beat Ohio" from the moment he arrived back in Ann Arbor. And he delivered on his promise to complete an outstanding first season leading the Maize and Blue. Michigan is 10-2 and is in very good shape to earn an at-large BCS bid, something that seemed rather hard to believe in August.
No surprise that Robinson had a huge hand in the win. He finished off a late-season renaissance by accounting for five total touchdowns, rushing 26 times for 170 yards as Hoke understandably put the ball in his best player's hands as much as possible.
Miller was also brilliant, especially for a freshman on this stage. He threw for 235 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 100 yards and a score. He has superstar written all over him, and he'll probably blossom into just that under Urban Meyer. The Hoke-Meyer showdowns should be something to see, and Michigan-Ohio State should grab the nation's attention once again as soon as next season.
As for this season, Ohio State finishes 6-6, a disappointing year even when you factor in all the outside problems and distractions. Luke Fickell was a good soldier for the program, and he didn't let it fall off a cliff. But the Buckeyes' defense struggled down the stretch this season and gave up 444 total yards to Michigan.
Wolverines fans will remember this one for a long time. It should help ease the memories of that long losing streak. But the fun in this renewed rivalry should be just beginning.