Ohio State 31, Michigan 20: Wolverines battle, but come up short again

Michigan gave Ohio State everything it wanted and more. 

But several small missed opportunities added up into something bigger, and the Buckeyes will leave Ann Arbor with another win over the Wolverines. 

Michigan lost a two-touchdown lead in the first half and a six-point lead in the second and Ohio State did enough Saturday, notching a 31-20 win over the Wolverines. 

Michigan (8-4, 5-4 Big Ten) has now lost six straight to the rival Buckeyes (10-2, 8-1), as Jim Harbaugh drops to 0-3 against Urban Meyer. The Wolverines will now await their bowl assignment with the regular season over. 

Down to its third-string quarterback, John O'Korn, Michigan came out hot in the first quarter, jumping out to a 14-0 lead with creative early play-calling and a smothering defense. Michigan held the Buckeyes to minus-6 yards in the first quarter. 

But things began to slip from there. After Josh Metellus dropped an interception near Ohio State's goal line, J.T. Barrett got the Buckeyes going with a 21-yard touchdown scramble. Four minutes later, the Buckeyes were in the end zone again when Barrett hit a wide open Marcus Baugh for a 25-yard touchdown pass with 5:07 to go in the first half. 

The Wolverines had an answer in the third quarter when Karan Higdon capped a 51-yard drive with a 2-yard scoring plunge, but Quinn Nordin's extra point was blocked. Ohio State — who was forced to turn to backup Dwayne Haskins after Barrett suffered a knee injury — continued to move the ball. 

Haskins came in and converted six of his first eight third-down attempts. He engineered a 78-yard touchdown march to close the third quarter, capped by a J.K. Dobbins run and then led the Buckeyes on a field goal drive that saw Sean Nuernberger boot a 44-yarder to make it 24-20 with 4:29 to go in the third. 

Michigan had one last chance, though, after Nuernberger missed a 43-yard attempt with 2:47 left in the fourth. O'Korn heaved an interception deep downfield right into the arms of Jordan Fuller, effectively ending the game. 

Mike Weber polished things off with a 25-yard touchdown run on the following possession. 

O'Korn finished the game 17-for-32 for 195 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Michigan rushed the ball 36 times for 100 yards. Haskins was 6-for7 for 94 yards, Dobbins finished with 101 yards and a touchdown for the Buckeyes. 

Key play: Two interceptions. Well, sort of. Up 14-0 in the second quarter, Metellus had a sure interception hit him in the chest and then fall to the ground. The game, and all its momentum, completely changed on that play. 

The Wolverines had a litany of small mistakes Saturday that all added up to loom large. None bigger than that, though. 

Michigan had one last chance, though, after Nuernberger missed a 43-yard attempt with 2:47 left in the fourth. O'Korn heaved an interception deep downfield right into the arms of Jordan Fuller, effectively ending the game. 

Mike Weber polished things off with a 25-yard touchdown run on the following possession. 

O'Korn finished the game 17-for-32 for 195 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Michigan rushed the ball 36 times for 100 yards. Haskins was 6-for7 for 94 yards, Dobbins finished with 101 yards and a touchdown for the Buckeyes. 

Key play: Two interceptions. Well, sort of. Up 14-0 in the second quarter, Metellus had a sure interception hit him in the chest and then fall to the ground. The game, and all its momentum, completely changed on that play. 

The Wolverines had a litany of small mistakes Saturday that all added up to loom large. None bigger than that, though. 

O'Korn, meanwhile, squandered Michigan's last-ditch effort late in the fourth quarter by heaving a prayer toward no one in particular on first down. 

Key stat: Haskins converted third down after third down — six of his first eight — to keep Michigan's defense on the field and ultimately put the Wolverines away. 

Ohio State successfully possessed the ball, running for 84 yards in the fourth quarter. 

What it means: Michigan gave everything it had with its third-string quarterback. The Wolverines entered this game short-handed with an uphill battle in front of them. 

Still, Michigan had its chances, and a loss to Ohio State is a loss to Ohio State. For the Wolverines, it'll sting for another year. 

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© 2017, Detroit Free Press


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