Ohio State (11-1, 8-0 Big Ten) earned a 42-28 win over archrival Michigan in front of a record 108,610 at Ohio Stadium, but most of those in attendance left with a bittersweet taste because of a serious right ankle injury suffered by redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett. In the the third quarter, Barrett got tangled up while being tackled by three Michigan defenders. His ankle was caught under U-M defensive end Mario Ojemudia, causing the injury.
Barrett remained down after the play, and the potential Heisman Trophy candidate was eventually carted off the field with an air cast on his right leg.
The deflating injury overshadowed the 10th win for Ohio State over Michigan in 11 years. Like the 2013 edition, which ended with the Buckeyes escaping Ann Arbor with a 42-41 victory, it was not easy. Michigan utilized two long touchdown marches to go into halftime tied 14-14.
The second half was better for the Buckeyes. Ohio State scored four touchdowns in the second half to take command.
Barrett set one more record before leaving the game. A first-quarter touchdown pass game him 43 touchdowns on the season, putting him one ahead of the 42 contributed by Drew Brees of Purdue in 1998. For the game, Barrett completed 13 of 21 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown. He added 89 rushing yards and two more scores.
Sophomore Cardale Jones replaced Barrett and led a touchdown drive. He completed 2 of 3 passes for 7 yards and rushed twice for 18 more.
Sophomore Ezekiel Elliott had another solid effort, rushing for a game-high 121 yards and two touchdowns. Barrett and Jones completed passes to nine receivers. Sophomore Michael Thomas and junior Corey Smith both hauled in three passes for 34 and 28 yards, respectively.
Michigan (5-6, 3-5) was led by fifth-year senior Devin Gardner, who threw for 233 yards on 22-of-32 passing with two touchdowns and an interception. He rushed for 21 yards on 14 carries. Sophomore tailback Drake Johnson was U-M's leading rusher with 74 yards and two touchdowns, but like Barrett, he left the game because of injury.
Junior wideout Devin Funchess was Gardner's top target, catching seven passes for 108 yards.
The Ohio State defense allowed a trio of touchdown drives that traveled 80, 95 and 75 yards, respectively. However, the Buckeyes slowed the Wolverines after halftime and added a score on a fumble recovery by redshirt freshman linebacker Darron Lee in the fourth quarter.
Sophomore Vonn Bell hauled in an interception, and sophomore defensive end Joey Bosa forced a fumble and recorded a pair of sacks. Bosa did commit a pair of key penalties that aided Wolverine drives, however.
Winning & Losing
The game could not have started better for the hosts. Ohio State won the toss and deferred, and it did not take long for the Buckeyes to make the first big play of the game. The Wolverines gained 7 yards on a first-down run, but on second down Gardner's first pass attempt of the game was overthrown. No Wolverines were near Bell, who caught the ball while falling to the turf at the Michigan 41-yard line.
Ohio State then quickly went on its first scoring march of the afternoon. Elliott rushed twice for 23 yards, including a key 17-yard gain on a third-and-2 run around left end that placed the ball at the U-M 1.
Following a false start on OSU redshirt freshman guard Billy Price, Barrett found an open Nick Vannett for a 6-yard touchdown. Freshman kicker Sean Nuernberger came on to add the extra point, giving the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead with 11:34 remaining in the first quarter.
The touchdown set another record for Barrett. It was the 43rd TD that Barrett was responsible for this season, besting the 42 recorded by Purdue's Drew Brees in 1998.
Michigan's next drive garnered one first down but ended with a loss of 5 yards thanks to a 23-yard loss on a third-down sack by an untouched Lee that placed the ball at the U-M 15.
Ohio State was forced to punt on its next drive, and Michigan showed some life on offense on its next possession. Taking over at the U-M 20 following a Cameron Johnston punt that went into the end zone for a touchback, Gardner led a seven-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. The fifth-year senior QB completed all four of his pass attempts, including three to Funchess. The last of that trio went 45 yards on a deep pass that resulted when Funchess beat OSU senior cornerback Doran Grant in a one-on-one battle.
On the next play from the OSU 12-yard-line, Gardner found U-M tight end Jake Butt for a 12-yard touchdown. Matt Wile added the extra point to tie the game with 2:42 left in the first quarter.
After another Ohio State punt that was downed at the U-M 5, the Wolverines took the the lead. Gardner remained hot, completing 4 of 6 passes for 40 yards and converted a key third-and-9 at the OSU 12 with a 10 yard run. Yet it was Drake Johnson who capped the 95-yard march that elapsed 7:13 off the clock with a 2-yard touchdown plunge. Wile booted the PAT to make it 14-7 with 7:34 left before halftime.
Following the Johnston TD, Michigan led in total yards 177-71 and led the time of possession 14:58-7:28.
The Buckeyes continued to sputter on offense, punting after a three-and-out. Michigan took over at the U-M 29 but was held to punt thanks in part to a Michigan holding penalty and a sack by OSU senior defensive lineman Michael Bennett.
Ohio State took the momentum into halftime thanks to a touchdown drive late in the second quarter. Barrett, who had not completed a pass since his TD pass to Vannett, engineered a 10-play, 83-yard drive that he capped with a touchdown run on a quarterback scramble. Finding no one open on a second-and-10 at the U-M 25, Barrett raced up the middle, faked U-M fifth-year senior linebacker Jake Ryan near the 20 and reached the end zone with 0:07 left on the clock. Nuernberger added the PAT to knot the game.
Just like the first half, the Buckeyes started the second with a quick touchdown. Ohio State took the kickoff and went 72 yards in just five plays that took less than two minutes off the clock. Barrett began the drive at the OSU 28 with a pair of runs for 5 yards. On third-and-5, Barrett found Jeff Heuerman open over the middle for a 13-yard gain to the OSU 46.
Barrett faked a handoff on the next play, then looked deep. He flung the ball down the middle of the field, where senior wideout Devin Smith hauled it in at the U-M 2. Barrett then called his own number on a 2-yard TD run around left end.
Nuernberger booted the extra point to give Ohio State a 21-14 lead with 12:58 remaining in the third quarter.
The Wolverines answered the touchdown with one of their own to knot the game again. Johnson capped a 12-play, 75-yard drive that lasted 5:17 with a 4-yard touchdown run. Michigan did lose a fumble during the drive, but the third-and-6 play was negated because of a penalty. OSU sophomore defensive end Joey Bosa was offside on a play that saw him strip Gardner. Senior linebacker Curtis Grant fell on the loose ball, but it was all for naught.
Michigan converted a first down on the next play when fullback Joe Kerridge rushed for a 2-yard gain on third-and-1. The Wolverines then advanced the ball to the OSU 4 on a throwback pass from Johnson to Gardner. That led to Johnson's second TD of the afternoon, which after a Wile PAT made it 21-21 with 7:41 left in the third quarter.
The teams continued to trade touchdowns, as Ohio State went back ahead on its next possession. The longest TD march of the afternoon for the Buckeyes, one that elapsed 6:26 off the clock and took 14 plays, ended with a 2-yard TD run by Elliott that gave OSU a 28-21 lead with 1:08 left in the quarter after a PAT.
Corey Smith had two big plays during the drive. The OSU junior wide receiver made a key block on a 22-yard reception by Vannett and later drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone that set up Elliott's TD run.
The Wolverines were held to a punt on a three-and-out after the Elliott score, but the following drive was Barrett's last.
The Buckeyes iced the game sans Barrett. With Jones under center, Elliott broke through for a 44-yard touchdown run with 4:58 remaining on a fourth-and-1 play at the U-M 44. The Nuernberger PAT made it 35-21.
Ohio State's defense later got on the scoreboard. Lee recovered a Gardner fumble and returned it for a 33-yard touchdown with 3:58 remaining to make it 42-21 after the extra-point kick.
Michigan closed the scoring with 1:15 remaining on a Gardner 3-yard TD throw to Freddy Canteen. The Wile PAT set the final score at 42-28.