Quarterback Denard Robinson led the Michigan Wolverines out of seven years of wandering winless in The Game, rallying them several times today in the 108th edition of the rivalry for a 40-34 victory over Ohio State in front of 114,132 in Michigan Stadium.
Robinson took the Wolverines on a long scoring drive in the fourth quarter, which countered the Buckeyes and quarterback Braxton Miller. The win not only stopped the losing streak to the Buckeyes, it likely secured an invitation to the BCS Sugar Bowl for the Wolverines in their resurgent season under first-year coach Brady Hoke.
Meanwhile, it likely was OSU coach Luke Fickell’s last game as head coach after a season when he was suddenly elevated May 30 to take the place of Jim Tressel, who had been forced to resign in the wake of an NCAA investigation. Sources said this week that Ohio State is poised to name Urban Meyer as its new coach.
OSU athletic director Gene Smith has said the Buckeyes will accept a bowl bid, but it’s not known at the moment from whom it will come. Signs points to the Insight Bowl or the Gator Bowl.
Today's game was up for grabs in the final minutes after Michigan squandered a chance to put it away. Robinson had skirted left end for the apparent clinching TD, only have to have the Wolverines called both for holding and a late-hit personal foul. They eventually settled for a 42-yard field goal by Brendan Gibbons, which made it 40-34 with 1:59 to play.
OSU had a chance, though, on the ensuing possession, but Miller overthrew a wide-open DeVier Posey deep down the left sideline.
After Miller scrambled for a first down to keep hope alive, OSU eventually faced fourth-and-six at its 35-yard line. Miller’s pass to Devin Smith went off Smith’s hands and was intercepted by defensive back Courtney Avery with 39 seconds left.
Robinson’s 4-yard touchdown pass to wide-open tight end Kevin Koger had given the Wolverines a 37-27 lead with 8:32 to play, capping an eight-play, 75-yard drive.
Ohio State came right back to the cut the lead 37-34 with a four-play drive capped by a 4-yard TD run by Daniel “Boom” Herron, giving him a TD in fourth straight Michigan games. Miller hit tight end Jake Stoneburner with a 36-yard pass to the Michigan 44 to get it going.
Near the end of the third quarter, Michigan punter Will Hagerup gave Ohio State a golden opportunity when he couldn’t handle a snap. When he picked up the ball he was flushed by OSU John Simon, then tackled by Tyler Moeller, handing OSU the ball at Michigan 32.
Miller kept it for 23 yards to the Michigan 5 a couple of plays later. But on a pass-run option on third-and-goal from the 2, he was sacked by Jibreel Black for a 2-yard loss. OSU settled for a 21-yard field goal by Drew Basil, cutting its deficit to 30-27 with 12:50 left and setting the stage for Robinson and the final hectic moments.
The first half, on the other hand, had been two quarters of big plays as the Buckeyes took a 24-23 lead to the locker room.
That was made possible by a 43-yard touchdown pass from Miller to DeVier Posey with 1:21 left in the half. Miller stepped up and away from the Michigan pass rush as Posey, starting out of the slot from the right, ran a skinny post underneath the safety, catching the ball at about the 10 and running into the end zone.
It had been the best of starts and then the worst of starts for the Buckeyes, who had spotted their previous three opponents 10-0 leads, losing the the last two to Purdue and Penn State. Today, they took the lead, Miller finding a wide-open Corey “Philly” Brown on a 54-yard touchdown pass into the wind on the first possession.
But Michigan rallied soon enough, tying it at 7 on a 41-yard keeper Robinson at 9:15 of the first. They pushed it two 9-7 moments later when OSU left tackle Mike Adams was called for holding in the end zone on a pass play, resulting in a safety.
After the free-kick punt, Robinson took the Wolverines 52 yards in eight plays, hitting Junior Hemingway on a 26-yard touchdown pass in front of safety C.J. Barnett to make it 16-7 at 3:02 of the first.
On OSU’s first possession of the second quarter, Miller ignited a drive with a 24-yard run to the Michigan 43. It stalled at the 28, but Basil converted a 45-yard field goal with the wind, cutting the lead to 16-10.
Three plays later, Travis Howard caused a fumble by Robinson, and Howard recovered at the Michigan 28. OSU linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered what appeared to be a left-knee injury and had to be helped from the field. He returned on the next series though noticeably hobbled.
In the meantime, Miller had converted after the fumble. His 19-yard keeper through left end that included two tackle-eluding moves and a key block by Posey, put OSU back in the lead again 17-16 with 7:51 left in the half.
Robinson pushed the Wolverines down the field on a nine-play, 80-yard march to regain the edge. The drive included a conversion on third-and-five at the OSU 11 when receiver Martavious Odoms bobbled a pass only to regain possession -- the video replay official concluded -- before he hit the ground at the OSU 6.
Two plays later Robinson faked an inside handoff out of the shotgun and kept up the middle 6 yards for a touchdown, putting Michigan back on top 23-17 with 3:16 left in the half.
But a 31-yard kickoff return by Jordan Hall set up OSU at its 34 to start the lead-retaking drive, and Miller and Posey soon converted.
The Buckeyes started the game without senior linebacker Andrew Sweat, who had missed most of the previous two gmes because of a concussion but was cleared this week only to suffer a left-elbow injury. They also started without safety Christian Bryant, who in pre-game tested a shoulder that was injured the week before, then was ruled out.
OSU lost Bryant’s replacement, Orhian Johnson, early in the second half. He was replaced by seldom-used Zach Domicone, though Johnson did return later in the game, but he was helped off again with 3:26 to play.