This season was all about Michigan’s opportunity.
But on the biggest stage, the Wolverines gave it away.
Despite controlling most of the game, No. 3 Michigan’s mistakes allowed No. 2 Ohio State enough chances at life in regulation and the Buckeyes thanked them for it in double overtime, handing U-M a heartbreaking loss, 30-27, Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
The loss likely dooms the Wolverines (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten) to a New Year’s Six bowl game, the Orange or the Rose, leaving them short of all their goals: A Big Ten East Division title, an Big Ten title game appearance and likely a College Football Playoff spot.
It would take a significant series of implosions in other places for U-M to still get a CFP berth.
They’re in this spot because of their own implosions earlier in the game.
Michigan had control a number of times, but quarterback Wilton Speight threw two critical interceptions leading to touchdowns.
Then, when the Wolverines had a chance to end the game in double overtime on fourth down, it appeared Chris Wormley’s arm stopped Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett. But the officials ruled Barrett gained the first down at the 15-yard line and, on the next play, OSU’s Curtis Samuel ran it in.
This was the first overtime in the history of the Michigan-Ohio State game, but one the Wolverines will never forget, losing 12 of the past 13 games against the Buckeyes and still haven’t won in Columbus since 2000.
After the teams matched each other in the first overtime – OSU scoring easily in two plays, U-M needing a fourth-down Amara Darboh touchdown catch – they moved along to the critical second OT.
The Buckeyes (11-1, 8-1) only reached overtime when kicker Tyler Durbin, who had missed two previous field goals, made the one that mattered, a 23-yarder with one second left in regulation.
Ohio State went for it on fourth-and-inches inside the 20 with just over eight minutes remaining. It could have doomed them. But Urban Meyer loves being aggressive and it paid off with tailback Mike Weber converting on the left side.
But the Buckeyes couldn’t finish then as Durbin, who entered the game 16-of-17 on field goals, missed his second from close range.
Michigan’s chances to open the lead were there, but the Wolverines couldn’t handle prosperity.
Late in the third quarter, with the ball and a chance to eat up clock, the Wolverines imploded in an epic meltdown.
Amara Darboh couldn’t hold on to a second-down pass, Mason Cole ruined a third-down screen with a facemask penalty, De’Veon Smith was blown up in the backfield and then Wilton Speight threw an interception deep in Michigan’s end.
When the Buckeyes got their gift, U-M gift-wrapped it. Maurice Hurst jumped offsides, then Jim Harbaugh slammed his headphones, drawing an unsportsmanlike penalty. From the three-yard line, Ohio State’s Mike Weber only needed to fall into the end zone and make it suddenly interesting with U-M’s 17-14 lead.
Ohio State had chances in the third quarter to regain momentum, but coughed them up.
It’s first drive ended just three plays in when a tipped pass was picked off by Jabrill Peppers, giving U-M an early chance.
The Wolverines marched to Ohio State’s three-yard line, looking to extend the lead, but fumbled a snap which Ohio State recovered.
Yet the Buckeyes again couldn’t do anything and were forced to punt. Then they compounded the mistake as their fake punt was ruined by Ryan Glasgow.
Given such a short field, U-M wasn’t about to blow it again and converted for the 17-7 lead.
Michigan’s defense was the game’s dominant force for the first 16 minutes of the game.
They corralled Samuel, holding him to 13 total yards. They kept the Buckeyes off the field, holding them to just 1-of-7 third downs and kept the heat on with three sacks and five tackles for loss.
Until Ohio State’s defense made the biggest play.
With Wilton Speight backing up into his own end zone, he was hit as he threw to his left. OSU’s Malik Hooker picked it and cruised into the end zone for the touchdown, giving Ohio State a 7-3 lead in a game it had no business leading with 4:03 left before halftime.
But then Peppers immediately shifted the momentum with a 45-yard kickoff return and, having a shorter field, Speight drove U-M 55 yards in 3:46 for the game’s first touchdown.
That took the Wolverines into halftime with a 10-7 lead and loads of confidence, with only one major mistake in the first half.