Michigan beats Ohio State for third straight win in rivalry
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- — With Jim Harbaugh nowhere in sight and a scandal hanging over their heads, J.J. McCarthy and No. 3 Michigan stared down No. 2 Ohio State and ran the school's win streak against the Buckeyes to three games with a 30-24 victory on Saturday in maybe the most consequential game in the history of the storied rivalry.
Michigan's Rod Moore intercepted Kyle McCord's wobbly pass intended for All-American Marvin Harrison Jr. at the Wolverines' 21-yard line with 25 seconds left, setting off a wild celebration on the home team's sideline.
McCarthy took a knee, Michigan fans poured over the brick walls of The Big House and onto the field and the Wolverines (12-0, 9-0) were off to their third straight Big Ten title game.
In a season of high expectations that now has a championship-or-bust feel, Michigan is a victory away from a third consecutive College Football Playoff appearance.
For coach Ryan Day and the Buckeyes (11-1, 8-1), it’s another year of lamenting a loss in the most important game on the schedule for Ohio State and wondering what has happened to the program that spent a decade and a half dominating Michigan.
Day is now 1/3 against the Wolverines. Before he took over from Urban Meyer, Ohio State had won seven straight meetings and 14 of 15.
McCarthy went 16 for 20 for 148 yards and a touchdown. If this was the third-year player’s final appearance in The Game, he’ll finish 3-0.
The 119th Ohio State-Michigan game was guaranteed to be memorable even before it kicked off. With Michigan being investigated by the NCAA for allegations of in-person scouting and sign stealing and Harbaugh serving the last game of a Big Ten-imposed suspension, the circumstances around The Game were historically unprecedented.
The only sign of Harbaugh was on the pregame videoboard montage. Offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore was again filling for his boss and seemed to make all the right moves.
Michigan went 3 for 3 on fourth downs, implemented its backup quarterback for a couple of plays to gain 22 yards on the ground and executed a halfback pass to set up a fourth-quarter field goal that put Michigan up 10.
After Ohio State cut the lead to 27-24 with 8:05 left on a 14-yard touchdown pass from McCord to Harrison, Michigan proceeded drain seven minutes off the clock and kick a 37-yard field goal by James Turner to make it 30-24 with 1:05 remaining.
McCord, Harrison and the Buckeyes had 1 minute to go 81 yards with no timeouts. They made it to the Michigan 37 before McCord’s second interception of the day closed it out.
As expected with two of the best defenses in the country, it took a while for the offenses to get rolling.
Will Johnson picked off McCord deep in Ohio State territory to set up a fourth-and-inches touchdown dive by Blake Corum. Michigan converted two more fourth-and-shorts on a touchdown drive that ended with McCarthy threading a needle to Roman Wilson from 22 yards out.
Badly needing a response down 14-3 in the second quarter, Ohio State marched 73 yards and McCord hit Emeka Egbuka for a 3-yard score.
It went to the half that way after Day passed on a fourth-and-2 from the Michigan 34 with less than a minute left in the second quarter and elected to try a 52-yard field goal that went wide left as time expired.
After Michigan opened the second half with a 50-yard field goal by Turner, Ohio State asserted itself with a 75-yard drive, finishing it off with eight straight runs and a tying 3-yard touchdown by TreVeyon Henderson.
McCord was 18 for 30 for 271 yards.
Then it was Michigan’s turn for a long drive that Corum capped with a 22-yard touchdown, his school-record 22nd of the season.
Ohio State: Last year, the Buckeyes snuck into the playoff after losing The Game. The backdoor will be much harder to get through this year with a crowded field of CFP contenders.
Michigan: The Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis against No. 20 Iowa.