The 35-21 loss to Michigan was not what we scripted for the 2003 season. 24 of 26 is awesome, but it does not shake the pain these players are feeling after that loss. Players live in the moment. They are not thinking about the high school trophies they have at home. They are not thinking about the highlight tapes from the 14-0 season. They are not chatting about the character they showed in the gut-wrenching Purdue overtime victory. Don't get me wrong, these guys will eventually look back at the National Championship rings they own and their accomplishments will settle in. But at the moment, they are concerned with the loss to Michigan and the chance at redemption.
We can go back and forth on the McMullen/Krenzel decision. We can critique play calling and game plans. In the end though, it all comes down to…
-18 plays, 89 yards
-3 plays, 74 yards
-9 plays, 80 yards
-5 plays, 62 yards
-8 plays, 88 yards
In no way was it realistic to think our defense would shut out the Wolverine offense. However, I did not expect the Wolverines to score five touchdowns on our defense. On the first series, it was third down conversions and not enough in the red zone. The second touchdown was missed tackles. The third touchdown was a personal foul and pass interference flag. On the fourth touchdown, gap integrity was an issue. A 30-yard third and 4 completion to a tight end did not help with the final touchdown.
On both sides of the ball, these coaches and players will put all the blame on themselves. "If I just made that interception. If I just made that tackle. If I just completed that post route. If I just cut up field instead of bouncing it out." We can look at that Michigan game and play the "could've, would've, should've" until we are blue in the face. I am not going there. Tennis fans might understand my point. This game wasn't about our unforced errors; it was about Michigan hitting winners.
Their line protected the quarterback who studies a lot of film and knows where to attack defenses. The tailback has unbelievable burst and will cut the ball back or bounce it when the OSU defensive line wins at the point-of-attack. Their wide receivers will go get the ball and use athleticism when their number is called. Defensively, they were so physical with our starting tailback and quarterback that they made them leave the game and eventually re-enter at less than 100%.
Our team does the same thing with our crop of players, but on this day, U of M did it better.
Lloyd Carr will not win any awards for having a dynamic personality when doing his interviews, but he had that team ready to play football. They scored on three of four drives to start the game. They scored on the opening series of the second half. They took OSU three-and-out after a Navarre interception at 21-28. Most importantly, their offensive line showed incredible technique throughout the game. An offensive line gives the keys away to our defense on where the ball is going and whether they are running or passing. Michigan's o-line never clued us in on what they were doing. They sold their fakes, their pad levels were consistent, and they were athletic enough to move their feet to be where the coaches needed them to be. The Michigan coaching staff did a nice job recruiting and coaching these players.
No player or coach or single game is bigger than Ohio State football. I was only 2-3 against Michigan in my playing career. I know about painful losses. Imagine Perry running for twice that yardage. Well, that is what Biakabatuka did to a defense I was part of in 95. You learn from it. You watch the film and you go back to practice working even harder. The Buckeyes kept battling and beat them in '98 to earn a #2 finish. The Buckeyes kept battling and beat them in 2002 to earn a #1 finish. Tressel will make sure these guys keep battling.