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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Perfection. It doesn't define how Ohio State played on Saturday, but rather what it accomplished with its 26-21 win over Michigan on Saturday. The Buckeyes played far from their best game of the season against the Wolverines, but the victory capped off an undefeated season for OSU under first-year head coach Urban Meyer, as the team will now head home for the year after being slapped with an NCAA bowl ban last December.
After the game, Ohio State players and coaches alike discussed the final game of the unique sixth undefeated season in program history.
After Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson ran wild in the first half, gaining 124 yards on six carries en route to a 21-20 Wolverines' lead, the Buckeyes' bottled up the Michigan star, holding him to minus-2 post-intermission yards. Meyer admitted that the Buckeyes went into halftime knowing that they needed to find a way to stop Robinson in the second half.
"My comment was, after I saw Denard Robinson sneak out of there for a long run, stop the quarterback run. That's the input I had," Meyer said. "Probably the same I think 107,000 people said that as well."
The OSU coach credited the halftime of adjustments of co-defensive coordinators Luke Fickell and Everrett Withers for the job the Buckeyes' did containing Robinson in the second half. Fickell admitted that slowing down the dual-threat quarterback was even tougher this week, since OSU wasn't sure how Michigan would utilize him, after playing him mostly at running back last weekend against Iowa.
"The tough thing was you didn't know what capacity he was going to be there," Fickell said. "Was he quarterback? Was he not a quarterback? Could he throw it? Could he not throw it? Last week was the first time you saw him in a game (at running back). It caused us a lot of late nights"
Numbers don't lie
As is usually the case in each Ohio State-Michigan matchup, the game came down to turnovers, with the Buckeyes taking the ball away from the Wolverines four times on Saturday- recovering three fumbles and recording one interception. OSU safety Christian Bryant said that it was the Buckeyes' goal to create takeaways, in order to put their offense in a better field position.
"It just gives us momentum," Bryant said. "Every time Michigan had the ball, we tried to force a turnover. We had four today and that's what it's all about right there, defensive football."
One of the game's crucial turnovers came on Michigan's first possession of the game, when freshman defensive lineman Adolphus Washington sacked Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner, forcing a fumble that was recovered by OSU fullback-turned-linebacker Zach Boren.
"The fumble happened and I dove after it while taking a kick to the head," Boren said. "Needless to say my head was spinning for a minute but it was something I was used to as a fullback. I was completely fine and it felt great to make the play."
A week ago, Meyer promised that the Buckeyes' would find a way to give the ball to running back Carlos Hyde more, after his 87-yard performance against Wisconsin. On Saturday, the OSU coach made good on that promise.
Hyde rushed for 146 yards on 26 carries, capping off a breakout season for the junior running back, who finished the year with 970 yards in just 10 games.
"I was being patient and trusting my read," Hyde said. "When I found that read I had to make sure to explode through the opening."
Playing in just the sixth game of his college career at linebacker, Boren led the Buckeyes on Saturday with nine tackles, two for a loss, and one of which came on a sack, in which the son of former Michigan linebacker Mike Boren could be seen talking trash to Gardner.
"A little bit," Boren admitted when asked if he added a little something extra to his sack. "I had a little fun jawing a little bit but it's all in the heat of the game."
Cause for concern
Robinson's play in the first half put the Buckeyes on the ropes heading into halftime, particularly after a 67-yard touchdown run saw him split both Bryant and OSU cornerback Travis Howard on his way to the end zone.
"It was just a collision between me and Trav. He hit him on the right side, I hit him on the left side," Bryant said. "Me and Trav collided, like we hit heads."
Despite giving up the highlight reel play to Robinson, Bryant was pleased with the way that the Buckeyes adjusted to college football's second all-time leading rushing quarterback in the second half.
"Those are plays you just have to overcome," Bryant said. "And in the second half, he didn't get any of that."
With the Buckeyes finishing the season as one of just two (currently) unbeaten teams in college football, Meyer was asked whether or not his team deserves to be considered for an Associated Press National Championship, which it is still eligible to win. Hesitant to make headlines, Meyer didn't go as far as pining for a national title, but did say that he'd put it up against any other squad in the country.
"The quote I'd like out there is I think this team could play and compete with any team in the United States of America as of now," Meyer said. "I'm not going to get into the what ifs and you can't control what you can't control.
"We're 12 0. I'm going to see to it when you walk into that Woody Hayes facility this team will never be forgotten."
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