Five Answers: Ohio State at Michigan

Chad Henne and Mike Hart both overcame their injuries but could not avoid taking, to borrow a baseball term, the golden sombrero in the Ohio State series. We examine the play of those two and other injured stars, turnovers, Todd Boeckman, the Ohio State run defense and the matchups on the perimeter in this week's edition of Five Answers.

1. How healthy will either team be?

The five players whose health status was most in question – Michigan's Chad Henne and Mike Hart along with Buckeyes Chris Wells, Maurice Wells and Brandon Saine – all played to varying degrees.

Henne played all but one series in the game and had a generally miserable day. He completed 11 of 34 passes for 68 yards, was sacked three times and pressured most of the day. He had a significant number of off-target throws. Certainly the rain and multiple dropped passes hindered the senior quarterback as well, but his accuracy issues hurt the Wolverines badly.

"I don't know if he was 100 percent," OSU defensive tackle Todd Denlinger said. "I know we affected him quite a bit as the game went on. Our ends got great pressure and everybody was covered so the secondary did great and it allowed the defensive line to get after him a little bit."

Saine spelled Wells with nine carries for 20 yards, including a key 6-yard run in which he powered through Wolverines Chris Graham and Brandent Englemon for the extra two yards he needed to convert a third-and-5.

Maurice Wells made one appearance, carrying for 2 yards on the penultimate play of the game.

Beanie Wells, however, was the man of the match. He set Ohio State series records with 39 carries for 222 yards and scored both touchdowns in the contest.

Don't think that means he was healthy, though.

"There were times I thought about just running off the field I was in so much pain," Wells said. "My ankle was killing me and my wrist and my thumb were killing me. There was a lot of pain today."


2. Who will win the turnover battle?

For a third season in a row, Ohio State came out on the short end in turnover margin but won the game.

Englemon's interception of a Todd Boeckman pass late in the second half served as the only takeaway by either team. As damaging as it had the potential to be, the pick ended up not hurting Ohio State at all because Michigan's K.C. Lopata left a 48-yard field goal short as time expired in the first half.

"I probably should've just thrown the ball away," Boeckman said. "You can't have mistakes like that and give Michigan an opportunity like that but our defense did a good job to bail me out."


3. Can Todd Boeckman rebound from his poorest outing of the season?

Perhaps because of the weather, Boeckman did not do many positive things for the Buckeyes.

Fortunately, they did not need him to.

He was 7 of 11 passing for 50 yards in the first half, fumbled twice, threw the aforementioned interception and fell down on one dropback despite not being hit.

His interception was influenced by the Wolverine pass rush but an ill-advised throw nonetheless.

He threw two passes the rest of the day.

Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said the initial game plan certainly called for more than 13 passes on the day, but the circumstances of the contest dictated a change.

"We couldn't throw it," he said with a laugh. "You saw them try to throw it and even if the guy could throw it the guys couldn't catch it."


4. Can the Buckeyes stop the run?

Hart came out running well. He had the benefit of excellent blocking from his offensive line in the first quarter but also did his share of tackle breaking and making people miss.

He picked up 37 yards on six carries in the first quarter, one that ended with the Wolverines holding a 3-0 lead.

Then the Buckeyes put their collective fingers in the dam.

A defensive line that was pushed off the ball early began to assert itself in the second quarter and never relinquished momentum.

Where Hart had been finding himself often well past the line of scrimmage before having to make a cut in the first quarter, he was barraged with would-be tacklers in the backfield on a regular basis in the last three stanzas and his last 12 carries netted 7 yards.

Denlinger said Michigan's zone rushing offense got the Buckeyes back on their heels initially, but they were able to right the ship after meeting as a unit on the sidelines and resolving to go on the attack.

"They have a great offensive line and after a couple series we came together as a defensive line and said, ‘Hey, we've got to buckle down and start playing our type of defensive line football.'" he said. "After that point, things took care of themselves. We shut down the zone play and made them one-dimensional, which is nice, and in this type of weather it's hard to really throw the ball."


5. Who will win the matchups on the outside?

The official stat sheet shows that Michigan's Mario Manningham had the best day of any receiver in the game, but his five catches for 34 yards fall far short of telling the whole story. Manningham dropped four or five passes, most while he was running free, and the player who entered the game leading the Big Ten in receiving yards and averaging 17.1 yards per grab never had a gain of more than 10.

Michigan's other two receivers, Adrian Arrington (two catches for 13 yards) and Greg Mathews (one for 5) were virtual nonfactors as well.

The Buckeye receivers combined to catch five passes for 42 yards, but they made them count.

Brian Robiskie, who led the way with two grabs for 21 yards, had a 15-yard reception in the second quarter that went for a first down, and the only respective catches of the day for Brian Hartline and Ray Small both went for first downs as well.


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