Perhaps the most famous college football rivalry is the one contested between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan Wolverines every November in a battle between two of the most storied schools in the history of the sport. This yearly tradition—alternating venues between Columbus and Ann Arbor—rallies alumni and fans of each school to the chance of earning victory over a hated rival. Though the Wolverines hold the overall advantage in terms of wins and losses for the scope of the rivalry, recent history has been heavily skewed in favor of the Buckeyes.
As someone who has “inherited” a Michigan rooting interest through a grandfather-in-law who is an alumnus of the university, I always find it important to try to put together a solid effort when controlling the maize and blue against Ohio State in NCAA Football. For this week’s entry in STAT BOX STORIES, one of the more unlikely statistical results occurred as I led the Wolverines onto the field at the Big House.
As some signage in the NCAA Football 12 menu states, sometimes it’s “Not a Good Day for Defense.” While reading this entry, it would almost be appropriate to listen to the Michigan and Ohio State fight songs—alternating, over and over—to replicate the sounds of a game which saw a combined 72 points scored between the two teams.
Neither team was particularly successful in the first quarter of the game. I won the coin toss and elected to kick to begin the game, and I was able to keep the Buckeyes from putting points on the board through their first offensive possession. Unfortunately, a lengthy drive for me on offense after fielding the punt only resulted in three points on a 35-yard field goal to open the scoring.
Ohio State drove into Michigan territory early in the second quarter, thanks in large part to a 15-yard facemask penalty against me on a 3rd-and-Long for the Buckeyes which allowed for the conversion and a brand new set of downs. A 27-yard rushing touchdown on the very next play allowed Ohio State to take immediate advantage of that untimely penalty, as well as a 7-3 lead on the scoreboard. The first touchdown of the game set into motion a back-and-forth run of scoring drives, with a 22-yard rush by Michigan going on the board just over a minute and a half later. With the score 10-7 in favor of the home team, Ohio State’s next possession on offense resulted in a 3-yard scramble touchdown for their quarterback just over a minute later to give the Buckeyes a 14-10 lead. The next Michigan drive was much more methodical, chewing time off the clock on my way to a 4-yard touchdown rush and a 17-14 halftime lead.
Receiving the ball to begin the second half, I didn’t waste much time getting more points on the board. Though my first two plays of the half did not account for much yardage, the third play of the third quarter resulted in a catch-and-run for 85 yards by my tight end to take a 24-14 lead just over a minute into the half. After forcing Ohio State to punt on their next possession, an untimely interception by Michigan led to a 35-yard field goal conversion for the Buckeyes to narrow the deficit to 24-17. Just 24 seconds after getting the ball back, however, I scored on a 61-yard rush to again take a two-touchdown lead at 31-17 and end the scoring in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, I was forced to punt early on and poor coverage on the return allowed Ohio State’s punt returner to take the ball back 86 yards for a touchdown. After that breakout score, the defenses were finally able to string together some stops and the next points weren’t scored until a 13-yard touchdown rush by Michigan with 2:34 remaining in the game. Although Ohio State was able to score again on a 21-yard pass with 1:21 remaining in the game, they illegally touched the ensuing onside kick before it had traveled the required ten yards. This allowed me to run out the clock and convert a 40-yard field goal as time expired to intentionally inflate the final margin of victory to ten points in this heated rivalry game.
With 501 yards of total offense, this may well have been the most potent offensive performance in a single game for my entire career of playing NCAA Football. Even more unbelievable was the split of rushing attempts to pass attempts, as I ran the ball 49 times for 388 yards while I was 3-for-9 passing for 113 yards; a majority of those yards coming on the 85-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Though Ohio State’s pass attack was more potent than mine, the rushing comparison wasn’t even close. Even though I was flagged six times for a total of 60 penalty yards—much more than the two flags the Buckeyes picked up for 10 yards—my ability to move the ball played a clear role in taking home the victory.
Looking at individual player statistics, my lead halfback—who ended up taking home Player of the Game honors—had a monster day with 30 carries for 272 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns. With an average of 9 yards gained per rush, he was nearly unstoppable over the course of the day. Even better, his backup managed 18 carries for 103 yards, contributing a 5.7 yard per carry average to the totals. Ohio State’s halfback was also able to rack up a 100-yard rushing game, though he was only able to score once. Even though my quarterback only completed three of nine attempts through the air, he was able to put up a touchdown to nullify the interception thrown.
With a solid victory in “The Game” for STAT BOX STORIES, I won’t feel nervous returning to Michigan for Thanksgiving with my in-laws as they prepare to watch the Buckeyes and the Wolverines engage in their yearly meeting for real this Saturday afternoon. Though neither team will be able to take part in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game, there’s no doubt that both teams will be fighting hard nonetheless to finish out the regular season on the highest note either team could achieve short of a BCS National Championship.
Come back tomorrow for this week’s Madden NFL 12 entry, which pits the Green Bay Packers against the Detroit Lions as the Motor City hosts its traditional Thanksgiving Day game.