COLUMBUS, Ohio — Just about everyone said it couldn’t be done, but finally, the Wolverines prevailed on the road at Ohio State in an undefeated, top-five matchup.
Avenging the previous ‘game of the century’ in 2006, when Michigan football lost to the Buckeyes, 42-39, the maize and blue kept things even with OSU for the better part of three quarters and pulled away, 45-23.
After the game, head coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t have any special digs at Ohio State coach Ryan Day as he did last year, but instead frequently deferred to his players while insisting he had faith in them all along.
Here is everything he said after the game.
On the win
I’m so proud of them. Couldn’t be more proud. I knew the team was focused and determined as they have been all season. And is a locker room of heroes. We talked about it last night — there would be one or two heroes. We need a whole team of them. It was a great team win.
Winning with the passing game
A couple things. I mean, we knew that we could make those kind of plays. C.J. really got us started — Cornelius Johnson — with the catch and then broke the tackle, 75 yards. I think the very next time we came back, if I’m not mistaken, one play, 75-yard touchdown.
And we never got away from the running game. One good thing about the running game is it can wear on you and that’s when it’s usually better, as the game goes on. And love Donovan Edwards, man. When he gets free, don’t even think about it. It’s going to be a touchdown. Great to see those 75- and 85-yard runs. Those were huge events.
Another really tremendous job — Jesse Minterr and Clink in the defensive staff. Mike Elston, George Helow, Jay Harbaugh. I mean, another great job in the second-half defense. They did an incredible job. We felt like any kind of stop was going to be like golden. And we weren’t gonna mess up any stop with any kind of penalty or even if they got into a punting situation, being offsides or roughing the punter, those stops were like gold to us coming into this game. And it was great that we got so many in this game. Just can’t say enough about the players, the coaches — are incredible. And it’s — I mean, it’s a happy locker room as you can imagine. But I mean, but they’re down there giving thanks to God. And it’s just a — I told you this, it’s a spiritual team. They’re happy, they’re celebrating but they’re giving thanks.
What's the difference now between Michigan and Ohio State?
I don’t know, that seems like a lot of layers to some onion. Happy, happy with our team. I thought it was a great team effort. Played great, played as well as you could ask them to play and couldn’t be more happy and more proud of them. And move on to the next week. Great to be able to play in the championship game, and we’ll get ready for that.
What can a win like this do for J.J. McCarthy and his growth?
More excited that he’s got it. He’s just got that it-factor in every way. First-year starter. I don’t think there’s any first-year starter in the history of Michigan that’s won 12 games, 12-0. In their first game starting against Ohio State at Ohio State, play that great. Everybody on our team knows it.
So, I don’t know how to answer your question. What can that do for him? I mean, he already has it. He’s already got it. So just keep rolling with him.
How can seeing it happen help him as a player?
Yeah, well, it’s been happening, it’s been happening. It has been happening a lot. And then, in the second half, ‘Hey, let’s run J.J.,’ and he was just on fire in every way. Running the ball, throwing the ball. Just so so focused and determined. Like the rest of the team was. It was a team that was very focused and determined. You could really see it — get in here Mikey! It’s all these guys. And there’s another one!
How was this win different than last year?
It feels great to sing ‘The Victors’ in Columbus. And our team really earned it in every way.
Has Michigan gained control of the rivalry?
Just how I feel is, the team really paid the price. They really put in all the work. And that’s what they did. Just the hard work, the sweat, the sweat every other game, to get to this game and get to this opportunity. And we were thankful to be where we were, we’re right where we wanted to be and then came down here, players are all focused and determined to win the game.
Did he expect this to happen?
What part were you talking about? Do I see a great defense? I saw a great defense. And seeing it all year, seeing a tremendous offensive line. And the protection was great. Again, moving people up front. I’ve seen a quarterback that’s got it. Staff that does an incredible job, players play their hearts out, play with incredible effort. All the things that we’ve been seeing, wasn’t anything new. I mean, saw some — saved some things. It’s a nice, nice things — emptied playbook in a lot of ways. Got the deep shots and saved some things for this game.
But overall, no. That’s what it’s been for the entire season. And yeah, I love these guys. Really all the credit is to the players and the coaches. Appreciate it and I’ll let you guys talk to them.
On Mike Sainristil's performance
Mikey’s an incredible player for us. Offensively, always a penchant for making the big play. Do anything — block, just like all our receivers, I mean, all our receivers. I mean, their block — they’re happy for the other guys’ success. Somebody gets a touchdown — running back, to get a block for somebody — I mean, that’s do anything for the team. That’s our receiving group. Cornelius, Ronnie Bell, A.J. Henning — they’ll do anything. So will Andrel Anthony, anything for the team. Roman Wilson, anything for the team — and Mikey.
Mikey certainly was that guy and then I asked Mikey if he would consider going over to defense. Figured it was gonna be tough to replace Dax Hill and just felt like Mikey had the skill set for it. And he was smart enough to be able to do that and play both ways and also he was willing to — and he just was so good at it right off the bat.
(Michael Barrett: Dawg. Dawg.)
Disciplined athlete with grit, yes he does, no doubt about it! And he was so good at it we just started playing him at it nickel and corner all the time. And that’s why he made that PBU in the end zone — and others. I mean, just — tackles and will do anything for the team. Same with the guy right here — Mike Barrett. Great fifth-year senior, great captain. Hope you come back next year. And you, too, Mike! Just couldn’t have it any better. There’s not a coach in America that can have any better than to have this group of players. I mean, every single one of them — just love them.
On the Kalel Mullings pass
That’s a play we were working on. You could tell they were really crowding the line of scrimmage. No depth to the defense, and it’s a play we saved for the entire year. Really built up for it. It was a Blake Corum play. He’s had the most reps on it. But with Kalel kind of auditioned, it was just felt like he was the best one to throw it. So very few reps that he had. But I mean what a guy. There’s no one who will do more for the team than Kalel Mullings. Running back, linebacker. We brought about over the running back early in August to really be a big back for us. And then Nikhai Hill-Green got hurt. So we had to just keep Kalel at linebacker. And then this week brought Kalel back to the offensive side. And about two, three days into practice, you could see that he was getting back to that form that he was in in August. And also liked the way he was throwing the ball better than anybody else. But he just executed it really good.
What we saw was just how tight they were playing to the line of scrimmage. A great job by Schoony adjusting the ball.
How much was Donovan Edwards a pain management situation?
Yeah, well, when Donovan first got here, he was a midyear freshman and he had just come off of surgery and was in a cast for all — the whole spring practice — 6, 7, 8 weeks. And one point I remember distinctly saying — because he was catching everything with a cast — if he could catch everything, certainly everybody without a cast could catch. Remember that, Mike?
So I little doubt that — there was no pain management and it’s just that there was not a lot of pain or he’s just that tough of a guy because he there’s no pain management to it. Other than how he’s managing it. And that’s — he’s just comes and comes.