Michigan football: Wolverines top dream season with win over Buckeyes
Fate must have been on the side of Michigan on Saturday in Ann Arbor. Somehow, some way, the Wolverines were going to find a way to take down Ohio State for just the fourth time since the turn of the century.
They just had to do it, right?
Victory against OSU, for the first time since 2011, was possible this time around.
With a 42-27 win, the No. 5 Wolverines finally dethroned the No. 2 Buckeyes atop the B1G East — at least for one season — and scored coach Jim Harbaugh’s biggest win of his coaching career at Michigan. It was his first win against OSU in six attempts and one of the most important victories in UM football’s recent history. It was also Michigan’s first win over a top-5 program since 2006.
During the post-game interview with Fox, Harbaugh said that the Wolverines “thoroughly” executed all facets of the game. He was right. Michigan did pretty much everything right vs. Ohio State.
Before this season, Harbaugh said UM would beat OSU or “die trying.” The Wolverines survived, and they’re on the way to the Big Ten Championship. With a win there, they’d be in the College Football Playoff.
The Wolverines (11-1 overall, 8-1 B1G) started off with purpose, immediately striking with a trick play that set the tone for the rest of the afternoon. Faking a throw to RB Donovan Edwards, QB Cade McNamara then flipped the ball to WR AJ Henning, who turned the handoff into a 14-yard touchdown run. In the third quarter, a flea-flicker helped set up Hassan Haskins for a rushing touchdown.
Haskins had 5 rushing TDs against the Buckeyes, the most by any UM player vs. Ohio State.
AJ Henning ends a beautiful opening drive with a touchdown for the Wolverines 〽️
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) November 27, 2021
Michigan’s dream season remains intact. Many doubted the Wolverines’ chances of winning more than 6 or 7 games this year, let alone downing Ohio State and reaching the Big Ten title game. With exception to a 37-33 loss to Michigan State, Michigan had the perfect season.
Let’s take a look at some overall grades for UM. There will be more detailed breakdowns of the year in the coming weeks.
Offense – A
Michigan RB Hassan Haskins has FOUR touchdowns against Ohio State
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) November 27, 2021
With 5 touchdowns Saturday vs. Ohio State, Michigan RB Hassan Haskins solidified his status as one of the most reliable and consistent ballcarriers in the country. Sure, coming up big vs. a rival that had dominated the series is a feat in itself. However, if not for Haskins, Michigan wouldn’t have been in position to compete for a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game and College Football Playoff.
There were a lot of moving parts for the Wolverines, but Haskins was one of the most important pieces. He scored at least 2 touchdowns in 6 games this season. A career 2,000-yard rusher, Haskins became just the third Michigan running back since 2011 to eclipse the 1,000-yard single-season mark.
Enough can’t be said about Cade McNamara, an underappreciated QB who certainly set the tone for the Wolverines this year. Yeah, Haskins was a major contributor and deserves recognition. A steady run game paired with a steady QB is a recipe for success. An 11-1 finish, a win over Ohio State and trip to Indianapolis for the B1G title wouldn’t have been possible without McNamara leading the offense.
Losing Ronnie Bell in Week 1 wasn’t ideal, but the Wolverines found more production and created some up-and-coming stars at wide receiver: True freshman Andrel Anthony had a breakout game vs. Michigan State, while others such as Roman Wilson and Cornelius Johnson helped balance everything. During the middle of the season, the Wolverines saw Daylen Baldwin emerge as a playmaker.
The loss of Bell didn’t cripple the Wolverines’ wideout group; it actually helped it develop.
Michigan didn’t have the flashiest offense in the nation, but it had all of the ingredients for a potent attack: Steady QB, great run game and a stable of talented wide receivers.
Defense – A
Now Michigan’s single-season record holder for most sacks (13), DE Aidan Hutchinson anchored one of the country’s top defenses while becoming a household name in college football. Arguably the best regardless of position, Hutchinson — a 6-foot-6, 270-pounder — had 3 sacks Saturday vs. Ohio State.
Against Washington, he had 2.5 sacks during Michigan’s victory. He added 3 during a win at Penn State. Except for the Nebraska game, Hutchinson had at least a share of a sack in every game this season.
Mike Morris added depth to the D-line and finished strong against Ohio State, having a tipped pass in Michigan’s first series win since 2011. Mazi Smith and Chris Hinton also had good seasons. Across the board, Michigan’s No. 9-ranked total defense looked a lot like dominant UM defenses from the past.
Linebacker David Ojabo morphed into one of the best pass-rushers in college football; he was dominant vs. Ohio State, finishing with 3 tackles and a sack. He had 11 sacks this season, one shy of the former single-season record of 12 and two shy of Hutchinson.
Entering Saturday, Michigan had the No. 7-ranked scoring defense, allowing just 16.7 points per game.
Special Teams – A
It’s all As across the board for Michigan. Special teams were huge all season, and kicker Jake Moody was among Michigan’s most valuable players. Entering Saturday, Moody was averaging about 10 points per game, basically giving the Wolverines a touchdown and some change every Saturday.