Jim Naveau: Familiar and unexpected shortcomings hurt OSU most

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – After Ohio State’s 30-24 loss to Michigan on Saturday, coach Ryan Day said, “I do believe this team can play with anybody in the country.”

But the facts contradicted his understandable attempt to encourage his team in a tough moment.

For the third year in a row, Ohio State could not play with Michigan when the Wolverines added Saturday’s close win to the two blowout wins they had last year and the year before that in the Big Ten’s biggest rivalry game.

For the third straight season, Michigan will be going to the Big Ten championship game as the East Division champion, not Ohio State.

For the second year in a row, both teams came into this game 11-0. But only Michigan left undefeated.

This is the first time OSU has lost three years in a row to Michigan since 1995, 1996 and 1997.

Day’s bravado and a few good moments like a 12-play, 75-yard drive to tie the game at 17-17 with 5 ½ minutes left in the third quarter aside, Michigan looked like the better team in the game, just like it did in a 45-23 win last year and a 42-27 win in 2021.

Michigan’s offense didn’t hit home runs like it did with big scoring plays as it did the two previous seasons. But it hit plenty of singles and doubles and threw in a couple of trick plays, like bringing backup quarterback Alex Orji in to gain 22 yards on two carries and having running back Donovan Edwards complete a pass for 34 yards.

But it wasn’t trick plays that were the most costly for the Buckeyes. Two of the biggest contributing factors in the defeat were familiar, season-long problems – inconsistent offensive line play and inconsistency at quarterback.

And then on Saturday, OSU’s defense, which had looked much improved this season, struggled to put up a stop sign against Michigan.

Maybe the biggest factor and biggest surprise in Saturday’s loss was Michigan scoring points on its first four possessions of the second half – a touchdown and three field goals.

“We didn’t get the stops when we had to,” defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said. Day said, “We have to get a stop and get them off the field.”

But OSU didn’t do that and paid the price, even though it still had a chance to win the game until Rod Moore’s interception in the final minute.

When Day was asked what comes next this season and in figuring out a way to beat Michigan, he said, “I’m just trying to process the game now, and we’ll go from there. It’s hard to start thinking about all that now.”

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.