OSU grade card: Defensive struggles reappeared in loss to Michigan

A grade card on Ohio State’s 30-24 loss to Michigan, which was the third consecutive loss by the Buckeyes in their annual rivalry game.

OFFENSE: B-

Ohio State wanted to get off to a fast start. But what it got instead on its first three possessions of the game was a three and out, one first down before punting and a devastating pass interception that meant Michigan’s first touchdown drive started on OSU’s 7-yard line.

Quarterback Kyle McCord (18 of 30 for 271 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions) and the offensive line were both inconsistent, which is nothing new. TreVeyon Henderson (19 carries, 60 yards) struggled to find running room against a Michigan defense that came into the game ranked No. 1 nationally in scoring defense. His longest run of the day was 8 yards.

OSU’s best drive was in the third quarter when it ran the ball the last eight plays of a 12-play, 75-yard drive to tie the game at 17-17. But it could not duplicate that drive the rest of the game.

Marvin Harrison Jr. caught 5 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown in what could be his final game in an Ohio State uniform if he chooses to turn pro and does not play in whatever bowl game the Buckeyes compete in. Julian Fleming had one of his better games this season with 3 catches for 58 yards.

DEFENSE: C

Ohio State’s defense allowed only one play longer than 22 yards but could not stop Michigan when it needed to in the second half.

Michigan scored the first four times it had the ball in the second half on a touchdown and three field goals. After rushing for only 34 yards in the first half it gained 122 yards on the ground in the second half. Probably the most costly missed opportunity for OSU’s defense to slam the door shut came in the fourth quarter.

After Ohio State had pulled to within three points, 27-24, with eight minute to play, Michigan went on a 13-play, 56-yard drive that that took seven minutes off the clock and ended with James Turner’s third field goal of the day. That long, time consuming drive meant Ohio State, which had no remaining timeouts, had only 1:05 left in the game and had to go 81 yards after returning the following kickoff to the 19-yard line. And it meant the only way to avoid losing was to score a touchdown in those final 65 seconds.

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy was 16 of 20 for 148 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked once.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B

Jayden Fielding missed a 52-yard field goal attempt, which was five yards beyond his career best, and hit a 43-yarder. Fielding hit his first attempt from 52 yards but Michigan had called a timeout and that kick didn’t count. The one that did count was wide left. None of Jesse Mircco’s punts were returned.

OVERALL: C+

Ohio State hoped to change the narrative in this rivalry game after back-to-back losses in 2021 and 2022. But that will have to wait for another year.

Jim Naveau has covered local and high school sports for The Lima News since 1978 and Ohio State football since 1992. His OSU coverage appears in more than 30 newspapers. Naveau, a Miami University graduate, also worked at the Greenville Advocate and the Piqua Daily Call. He has seen every boys state basketball tournament since 1977. Reach him at [email protected] or 567-242-0414.