Hail to those faltering heroes
Hail to the what? That was my wife’s Facebook status minutes after Michigan fell to Ohio State for the sixth year in a row and the 13th time in 14 years.
A diehard Buckeyes fan, she had to be one of the few people in the Upper Peninsula, let alone the state, thrilled with the result last weekend.
Honestly, I don’t blame her for mocking the Wolverines’ famous fight song because this rivalry has gotten sad.
“The Game” is always an interesting day at my house. My wife has to put up with people playfully vandalizing her locker at work with Michigan gear and taunting her with insults all week long.
However, every year since we moved here, she returns to her job gloating and she enjoys every minute of it.
Every season I wonder if this is going to be the year the Maize and Blue end their long jinx to the Scarlet and Gray, and in the first few minutes Saturday, I foolishly thought it was going to happen.
Let’s revisit that afternoon. Michigan had a 14-point lead on OSU before giving up two touchdowns before halftime.
After Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett went down with a leg injury — head coach Urban Meyer is blaming on a sideline cameraman for some reason — the U of M secondary was gashed by backup redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins and OSU led by four points late in the game.
The Wolverines had one last chance to take the lead, and for reasons I still can’t quite understand, I thought they were going to pull off their comeback. Then Michigan quarterback John O’Korn decided to ruin that idea and make me look like an idiot.
O’Korn has had a rough season, but he looked like an upgrade when starter Wilton Speight went down with an injury (and was subsequently treated by inept medical personnel at Purdue) due to his mobility.
Instead, O’Korn put forth some mediocre performances and was benched in favor of freshman Brandon Peters. However, Peters was ruled out against the Buckeyes due to a concussion and Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh had to reluctantly turn back to O’Korn.
The fifth-year senior just looked off all game. He missed open receivers, stayed in the pocket too long and seemed to have this panicked look on his face whenever he dropped back to pass.
But all of that could’ve been forgotten on that final drive if O’Korn had succeeded. Instead, on the first play of the possession, he threw the ball into the open hands of an OSU defensive back.
How bad was that pass? O’Korn looked like he was trying to chuck a Portside bread stick to a friend across the room but ended up hitting the lamp hanging above him.
You know the rest of the story. The Buckeyes scored the game-clinching TD soon after and Wolverines fans were left dumbfounded as to why their favorite team managed to trip over themselves again against its archrival.
If I were a casual football fan, I would wonder if this can even be considered a rivalry anymore, considering how one-sided it has become.
Despite how things have been going the past few years, it is still a rivalry and I still say it’s the best in college football.
You could maybe throw Alabama-Auburn in the mix due to its influence on the national championship game the last few years, and maybe Notre Dame-USC due to its tradition, but UM-OSU takes intense hate to a national level and that’s hard to match.
Even though things may seem bleak and you might want to start a “Fire Harbaugh” campaign, next year should be better.
I know that gets said a lot in the world of sports, but it’s true in this case. Harbaugh will be in his fourth year as coach and his recruits will finally be taking control of the offense.
Peters is his guy and with Speight transferring, the helm should be his next season.
Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black are emerging as quality receivers and the interior line looks solid for next year.
Karan Higdon also seems to be emerging as the No. 1 running back next year and will probably finish with more than 1,000 yards this season.
If the Wolverines can get a little more stability and consistency at tackle, they should be a force next season.
The Wolverines are 9-3, which is still a strong season and that’s where a lot of analysts picked them to finish. The only thing that makes it look bad are the losses to Michigan State and the Buckeyes.
Next season’s schedule isn’t easy as Michigan has to face the Spartans, OSU and Notre Dame on the road, but with the core it has coming back, it could be a big year.
A good chunk of Harbaugh’s recruits will be starters next year, so we can finally give a full assessment of what he’s done with the program.
Basically, don’t despair U of M fans. Next year, you’ll have a starting quarterback who is capable of throwing a Portside breadstick across a room and a strong supporting cast to catch it.
If everything falls into place, you’ll finally be able to taunt that one Buckeyes fan that you know.
Just make sure it’s not the one I live with.
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.