Big Ten: Buckeyes-Wolverines 112109

Halftime: Ohio State 24, Michigan 7

November, 27, 2010
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Quick thoughts at halftime from Ohio Stadium, where the eighth-ranked Buckeyes used a big second quarter to jump on rival Michigan for a 24-7 lead.

Turning point: After Michigan scored to cut its deficit to 10-7, Ohio State's Jordan Hall returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. Both of Ohio State's first two touchdowns came courtesy of Michigan special teams miscues. A shanked punt set up a short field for Ohio State, which drove 35 yards to take a 10-0 lead.

Stat of the half: Michigan reached Ohio State territory on five drives in the first half but came away with only seven points. The Wolverines committed two turnovers (both fumbles) in Buckeyes' territory.

Best player in the half: Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Aside from an interception on the final play, Pryor performed well. He completed 15 of 21 passes for 196 yards and two scores, and added 29 rushing yards. Ohio State receiver Dane Sanzenbacher is continuing his brilliant senior season with three catches for 71 yards and a touchdown.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Only a handful of games into his Michigan tenure, Rich Rodriguez knew the program had a steep mountain to climb.

The winged helmet wouldn't equal 10 wins. The Michigan brand, which he acknowledges is one of the greatest in sports, wouldn't equal instant success. Decades of winning wouldn't equal recruiting rewards. As he put it Saturday, "The last three or four Februaries have hurt us a little bit."

AP Photo/Paul SancyaMichigan coach Rich Rodriguez dropped to 3-13 in Big Ten play with a loss to rival Ohio State.
But where is Michigan on its ascent back to past heights? Are the Wolverines making progress, or are they still at the base of the mountain two years into the Rodriguez era?

One thing is certain.

"How much does a man got to get humbled?" Rodriguez said after Saturday's 21-10 loss to No. 10 Ohio State. "Got humbled last year. Been humbled before and will be humbled again. In this profession, there's enough humility to go around for everybody.

"I'm getting tired of being humbled."

It has been a humbling two years for the head coach, who now owns an 8-16 record at Michigan, 3-13 in Big Ten play. He'll spend another winter at home, as Michigan's loss eliminated the team from bowl contention.

Michigan finished last in the Big Ten for the first time since 1962. The Wolverines failed to beat an FBS team in October or November. They'll lose their best defensive player (end Brandon Graham) and possibly their second best (junior cornerback Donovan Warren), and the core of the team remains young. There's an ongoing NCAA investigation into allegations of time-limit violations by Rodriguez's program that could conclude with major violations, a first at Michigan.

But Rodriguez still believes the team's 2009 slogan -- "All In For Michigan" -- holds true.

"Maybe people will try to say, 'Oh, woe is Michigan,'" Rodriguez said. "Michigan's going to be just fine. Our fans are all in, the players are all in, the staff's all in, the university's all in. We're going through a growing process that we're not accustomed to here at the University of Michigan.

"I'm not accustomed to it, either, but I've been through it before, and we'll get it done."

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- After losing several national award winners, Ohio State's defense adopted the motto of, "No names, no blame, no worries" for the 2009 season.

The Buckeyes left Michigan Stadium on Saturday with absolutely nothing to worry about, having clinched their sixth consecutive victory against their archrival and their third outright Big Ten title in the last four years. They had Michigan blaming itself for five turnovers and other missed opportunities in plus territory.

Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesOhio State safety Kurt Coleman caught two crucial interceptions in the Buckeyes win over rival Michigan.

And several Ohio State defenders definitely made names for themselves in the process.

The Buckeyes rode big plays on defense to a 21-10 victory, filling up the box score with tackles for loss, pass breakups, interceptions and a forced fumble that started it off in the first quarter. From safety Kurt Coleman to cornerback Devon Torrence to defensive end Cameron Heyward to linebackers Brian Rolle and Ross Homan, Ohio State won thanks to its cast of stars on defense.

"Every time we get in the red zone, we've had a higher awareness," said Coleman, who had two interceptions, both in Ohio State territory, to go along with two pass breakups. "We've just been fortunate enough to make the plays when we need it. We've been wanting to get after the ball, and it's showing out on the field."

Last year, Ohio State ranked 14th nationally in total defense and tied for 20th in takeaways with 29. Though the Buckeyes have maintained their overall toughness on D, they've been more opportunistic this season.

They now have 33 takeaways on the season, which might lead the nation after Saturday's games (Ohio State came into the day ranked sixth nationally). Ohio State now has five players with multiple interceptions, led by Coleman (5), and seven players with at least one fumble recovery.

"The first thing we said all week was, 'You can't turn the ball over,'" Michigan offensive coordinator Calvin Magee said. "And we turned it over. You can't win like that."

Young quarterbacks had given Ohio State a bit of trouble in a loss to USC (Matt Barkley) and last week's overtime win against Iowa (James Vandenberg). Michigan freshman Tate Forcier moved the ball at times Saturday, but his five turnovers (4 interceptions, 1 fumble) were the difference.

"We just came up with more plays," Coleman said. "Against USC, we just couldn't come up with the plays that we needed to, and this time, we did."

Video: Michigan OC Calvin Magee

November, 21, 2009

Michigan offensive coordinator Calvin Magee talks about the Wolverines problems against Ohio State.

Final: Ohio State 21, Michigan 10

November, 21, 2009
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Ohio State's defense made all the big plays when it mattered, forcing five turnovers in its sixth consecutive victory against archrival Michigan.

The Buckeyes clinch the outright Big Ten title for the third time in four years and will almost certainly be headed to the Rose Bowl. Michigan dropped its seventh consecutive Big Ten game to finish last in the league for the first time since 1962. The Wolverines will miss a bowl for the second straight season.

Turnovers were the difference, as Michigan freshman quarterback Tate Forcier had four interceptions and a fumble recovered for a touchdown.

I'm heading down now but will be back with more from both sides.

Best and worst of Forcier on display

November, 21, 2009
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Tate Forcier often makes something out of nothing, making him one of the Big Ten's most exciting players.

But Forcier is still a freshman, and his gunslinger mentality can hurt the team. Forcier made a throw you just can't make on second-and-5 from the Ohio State 6-yard line, as cornerback Devon Torrence recorded the Buckeyes' third interception and fourth takeaway. Forcier has three picks and a fumble on a day when Michigan's offense has moved the ball decently. He has made several huge plays, but several terrible ones as well.

You can't lose the turnover battle 4-1 and expect to beat Ohio State, which leads 21-10 with 4:49 left.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- If Ohio State's 21-10 lead holds up, I could seriously award helmet stickers to four Buckeyes defenders.

Safety Kurt Coleman just recorded his second interception of the day after a good replay overturn. Linebackers Brian Rolle and Ross Homan both have set up camp in the Michigan backfield, and defensive end Cameron Heyward single-handedly accounted for Ohio State's first touchdowns.

The Buckeyes might lack the offensive firepower of many top-10 teams, but they bring it on defense. They've made more game-changing plays this year on the defensive side, and today's game has been no exception.

Michigan capitalizes on Pryor's pick

November, 21, 2009
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Jim Tressel hates turnovers, and the Ohio State head coach just got another reminder how damaging they can be.

Tressel, who many have said takes the ball out of Terrelle Pryor's hands too much, watched Pryor throw his first interception since Oct. 24. Michigan capitalized with some magic from quarterback Tate Forcier, and the Wolverines cut their deficit to 14-10.

Pryor telegraphed his throw to DeVier Posey on third-and-4, and Michigan linebacker Jonas Mouton intercepted the ball after a deflection. I'm still puzzled why Pryor doesn't just run the ball more often, as Michigan hasn't been able to consistently stop him.

Forcier, meanwhile, showed why he's one of the Big Ten's most exciting players. He kept a third-down play alive with his feet, found an open area and then made an unbelievable throw across the field to Vincent Smith for an 18-yard touchdown. The freshman is definitely a gamer, and he's trying to lead Michigan back.

Michigan wideouts Roy Roundtree and Greg Mathews both are turning in big performances today.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Halftime tidbits from Michigan Stadium, where No. 10 Ohio State leads Michigan 14-3.

Turning point: Ohio State's dormant offense finally stirred midway through the second quarter, as quarterback Terrelle Pryor finally got the chance to make plays. Pryor's 25-yard burst set up a 29-yard scoring run by Brandon Saine on the next play as Ohio State turned a tight contest into a 14-3 cushion. Michigan didn't help its cause by throwing an interception on the ensuing possession.

Best player of the half: Ohio State safety Kurt Coleman has been outstanding in the first 30 minutes. The senior has an interception and two pass breakups, including one near the goal line that helped force a short field-goal attempt that Michigan missed. Defensive end Cameron Heyward and linebacker Brian Rolle get honorable mentions.

What Ohio State must do: Run Pryor. Michigan hasn't shown the ability to consistently stop the Buckeyes quarterback. Ohio State should incorporate more spread elements and let Pryor do his thing. On defense, the Buckeyes need to defend intermediate passes a bit better and maintain their edge in their own end of the field.

What Michigan must do: Turn yards into points. The Wolverines have 163 yards of offense but only a field goal to show for it. Michigan also must force a turnover or two on defense and keep Pryor in the pocket as much as possible.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It must have been hard for Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez to watch Terrelle Pryor fake a handoff on a zone read play and then sprint for a 25-yard gain.

Pryor showed why he's at his best in a spread offense structure and finally gashed Michigan's defense, which had held Ohio State in check for a quarter and a half. The sophomore's burst set up a nice misdirection on the next play, as Brandon Saine sprinted into the end zone from 29 yards out.

Ohio State needs to let Pryor loose more often. You can't let him play in a phonebooth. Jim Tressel loosened the reins a bit, and Pryor capitalized as Ohio State now owns a 14-3 lead.

Tate Forcier just committed his second turnover, as Ohio State's Kurt Coleman just intercepted a deflected pass.

Michigan piling up yards, not points

November, 21, 2009
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan has moved the ball on offense pretty much all season, but the Wolverines aren't cashing in where it counts.

The home team outgained Ohio State 93 yards to 31 in the first quarter, as Greg Robinson's defense stifled Terrelle Pryor. Michigan showed good tempo and balance on a drive deep into Buckeyes territory, but it has nothing to show on the scoreboard.

Ohio State's defense has done this before, surrendering yards but very few points. You can survive a few bad plays if you keep a team out of the end zone, and the Buckeyes do it better than anyone in the Big Ten.

The Buckeyes still lead 7-0.

Michigan's defense comes out hot

November, 21, 2009
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- One of the weakest units in the Big Ten looks pretty good so far today.

Michigan's maligned defense has held Terrelle Pryor and the Buckeyes' offense in check. I like Michigan's decision to move Troy Woolfolk back to deep safety after moving him to cornerback midway through the season. The defensive line has shut down Ohio State's run game, and Mike Martin came up with a big sack on Pryor, losing his helmet in the process.

You got the feeling defense would translate into offense for Michigan as Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson led a balanced drive into the red zone. But a questionable third-down call -- I hate the bubble screen -- led to a short field-goal attempt, which Jason Olesnavage missed.

Tough blow there for Michigan as Ohio State still leads 7-0.

Heyward makes mark as OSU takes lead

November, 21, 2009
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan got exactly what it needed, an early defensive stop, and then disaster struck deep in Wolverines territory.

Ohio State defensive lineman Cameron Heyward is already making a major impact in this one. He dropped Michigan's Michael Shaw for a loss on the Wolverines' first play, and then knocked the ball free from Tate Forcier and pounced on it for a touchdown. The Buckeyes lead 7-0.

Forcier carried the ball away from his body in the end zone, a major no-no, and paid a huge price. He still freelances too much.

The Wolverines can't lose the turnover battle and expect to have a chance in this one.

Ohio State-Michigan pregame

November, 21, 2009
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Just got back from the field after watching warm-ups, and a few things stood out.

  • There are a ton of Ohio State fans here, certainly more than normal. It looks like a good number of Michigan fans sold their tickets to the enemy and made some cash.
  • As expected, Michigan fans were all over Buckeyes guard Justin Boren when he came out for warm-ups. The former Wolverine heard taunts of, "Watch your knees!" and some unprintable comments about his conditioning. Boren, to his credit, seemed extremely fired up and was animated as he talked to the other linemen.
  • Michigan's Troy Woolfolk is working as a safety today after switching to cornerback midway through the season. J.T. Floyd worked with the first-team defense at corner. Mike Williams, the team's normal starting safety, is out.
  • I don't mind Ohio State's throwback jerseys. The helmets take a little while to get used to, but the socks are awesome and the jerseys don't bother me. Several Ohio State offensive linemen are wearing their regular cleats instead of the new ones from Nike. Tackle Jim Cordle voiced some concerns about the new cleats earlier this week. Cordle and J.B. Shugarts worked as the first-team offensive tackles.

It's game day at Michigan Stadium

November, 21, 2009
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- College football's greatest rivalry resumes today as No. 10 Ohio State and Michigan meet for the 106th time at Michigan Stadium.

What it means: Ohio State already has locked up the Big Ten's automatic BCS bowl berth, but the Buckeyes can win the league title outright for the third time in four seasons with a win today. The Buckeyes also can extend their win streak against Michigan to six games. Michigan needs a win to avoid missing the postseason for the second consecutive season. There's a lot of heat on second-year head coach Rich Rodriguez, so a win today would be huge. You shouldn't need to get excited for this game, but just in case, check this out.

Weather: The forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies, light winds and temperatures in the upper 40s and lower 50s.

Injuries: Michigan's official injury report can be found here. The Wolverines will be without leading rusher Brandon Minor (shoulder) and most likely starting safety Mike Williams (ankle). Minor's absence could really sting against Ohio State's stout defense. The Buckeyes are as healthy as they've been in a while. Jim Cordle and J.B. Shugarts are expected to start at left tackle and right tackle.


1. Block Brandon Graham -- Sounds pretty straightforward, but few teams have been able to successfully keep the Michigan star defensive end out of the backfield. Ohio State must keep Graham away from quarterback Terrelle Pryor and find running room elsewhere. The Buckeyes' offensive line is coming off of its best game.

2. Throw downfield a few times -- This isn't exactly the Iowa secondary, which leads the Big Ten in interceptions. Michigan's back four have really struggled this season, and head coach Jim Tressel should let Pryor take some shots downfield with big-play wideouts DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher. Ohio State shouldn't and won't get away from its bread-and-butter rushing attack. Michigan can't stop the run, either.

3. Keep Tate Forcier in the pocket -- The Michigan freshman quarterback creates big plays with his feet but can struggle when kept between the tackles. Ohio State's defensive ends and linebackers must keep contain on Foricer and make him complete passes within the pocket.


1. Force Pryor into mistakes -- Pryor has been very careful with the football since his four-turnover disaster against Purdue, but Michigan needs to force errors from the Buckeyes' sophomore. The Wolverines have to win the turnover battle and put pressure on Pryor with Graham and their other linemen.

2. Play 60 minutes -- Michigan's problems have come after halftime in recent weeks, as the Wolverines couldn't hold leads against Purdue, Illinois and Wisconsin. Ohio State has outscored teams 83-31 in the third quarter this season, so Michigan can't stumble out of the locker room after the break.

3. Make Ohio State defense chase -- Forcier has freelanced his way into good situations this fall, and Michigan boasts a decent number of big-play threats. Without power back Brandon Minor, Michigan must force Ohio State to play in space and hope to gash the Buckeyes for big plays.