For the second game in a row, the statistics piled up by the Ohio State defense merited a second glance.
This time, though, they had to be pleased with what they saw. One week after allowing 400 yards – a season high – to Illinois in their first loss at home since 2005, the Buckeyes thoroughly dominated a Michigan offense that had put up more than 450 yards of total offense four times in its first 11 games.
On the Wolverines' second drive of the game, they took the ball at their own 36-yard line, marched 49 yards and used a 33-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
From there, the Maize and Blue could muster just 36 more yards of total offense en route to a 14-3 victory by the No. 7 Buckeyes.
"I think after the first couple of series we got a good feel for them and we knew that they would have to throw the ball deep and try to beat us," sophomore safety Kurt Coleman said. "Once that didn't work, then we were just going to pound the ball in the second half and we just had to shut them down."
Shut them down they did. Although Michigan's top two offensive standouts in quarterback Chad Henne and running back Mike Hart were battling injuries throughout the game, they found themselves powerless to do much against the Buckeyes.
Henne completed 11 of 34 passes for 68 yards while being sacked three times. Hart, who had been averaging 148.5 yards per game in eight games this season, was held to 44 yards on 18 carries – an average of 2.4 yards per rush.
Although the inclement weather made it difficult for both teams to do much offensively, the Buckeyes were able to pressure Henne for much of the game after making a few adjustments early.
"We just got more comfortable out there," junior defensive end Vernon Gholston said. "We had a lot of young guys up front that really haven't played in a game of this magnitude. As they got comfortable, their talent started to show."
In all, the Buckeyes held Michigan to 10 three-and-outs and the Wolverines turned the ball over once on downs. U-M punted 12 times.
During the second half, Michigan crossed midfield just once. After a 15-yard punt return set the Wolverines up at the OSU 46-yard line, Henne threw a deep pass intended for wide receiver Mario Manningham downfield that was broken up – and nearly picked off – by Coleman.
"They tried to go deep to him and I tried to play the ball the best way that I could," he said. "He came over top of me and knocked it out."
On second down, Manningham took the ball from Henne around the left end on a handoff but lost one yard. Facing third-and-11 from the OSU 47-yard line, Henne set up in the shotgun. As he walked up to the center to change the play, the ball was snapped, hitting him in his midsection.
The quarterback fell on the ball and the Wolverines were forced to punt after losing three yards on the play. They would get no farther than their own 44-yard line from then on.
For the Buckeyes, it was quite the opposite from the previous week, when the Fighting Illini ran the final 8:09 off the clock and preserved the victory.
"I think we did good," said Gholston, who had three sacks. "Any time we get a win, I think it's an ‘A.' We just put last week out of our minds as if it didn't really happen and just focused on the Michigan-Ohio State game."
After suffering the team's first loss of the season, freshman defensive end Cameron Heyward said the team had gone through practice this week with the primary intention of stopping the run. Hart had missed his team's game one week before when the Wolverines lost to Wisconsin, and after the OSU game he said he was "fine" during the game.
Leading up to the game, the Buckeyes said they were preparing as if Hart and Henne were 100 percent healthy – even if they knew otherwise.
"We came in the game thinking he was going to be 100 percent even though we knew they weren't," Coleman said. "That's the way you have to come into every game, knowing they're going to play their best, and especially against us they did."
Henne left the game and went to the locker room at the end of the third quarter and was relieved by freshman Ryan Mallett, who played one series and completed 1 of 3 passes for eight yards before Henne returned to a large ovation.
Michigan then promptly went three and out in Henne's first series back on the field. With him on the sidelines, Coleman said the Buckeyes knew the Wolverines were going to try and go deep more.
"I think some balls that he was trying to make earlier in the game, it seemed like he couldn't put as much touch on them as he wanted to," Coleman said. "I think that shoulder definitely affected him a little. You knew they were going to try to go deep. Mallett has a great arm and he likes to test you deep."
Injuries or not, it was a return to form of sorts for the Buckeyes, who re-established themselves as a dominate defense again.
"It proves to us and to everybody else that we are as good as we thought we were," cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said. "All we have to do is relax and execute. When everybody is executing at the same time, I don't think there are a lot of people that can move the ball on us too much."
Defense Dominates In Title-Clinching Victory
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