ANN ARBOR — Everybody else thought Michigan was going to roll over.
The oddsmakers anticipated that the Wolverines would go down to one of the nation’s top-ranked teams by at least two touchdowns, with some spare change thrown in.
The Wolverines’ once-dormant offense exploded for 603 yards in a 42-41 loss Saturday to Ohio State, nearly three-quarters of its total offensive output of 866 yards in its previous three games.
Since the start of November, some ventured to put an all-points-bulletin out in regards to the disappearance of Michigan’s offensive identity. The Wolverines averaged just more than 216 yards, with many coming from the passing game.
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Against the Buckeyes, UM had its highest offensive output since Oct. 19, when it finished with 751 yards in a 63-47 win over Indiana. 603 yards was uncharacteristic for an offense that’s been under siege over the past four weeks.
“The response was that we got ready to play,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said.
“We executed better. We blocked better. There’s a lot of things we did better.”
Michigan didn’t stop passing, either — a facet that’s been forced to become its strong suit in the absence of a running game. Quarterback Devin Gardner had 32 completions for 451 yards and four touchdowns while Jeremy Gallon notched his fourth game with at least 100 receiving yards. He was one of nine players to catch Gardner’s passes.
The drawback for Michigan? Having to face Ohio State’s two-headed offensive monster in quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde, as the duo had all but 16 of Ohio State’s rushing yards.
“It was tough trying to defend them,” UM linebacker Cam Gordon said. “We knew they were going to run the ball. As a defense, we should have done a better job.”
Miller finished with 133 yards passing and 153 yards rushing, while Hyde, who entered Saturday’s game averaging 7.7 yards a carry, rushed for 226 yards.
“That’s not very good,” Hoke said of giving up nearly 400 yards rushing to two players. “It’s not. You’ve got to give them some credit and you’ve got to give their offensive line some credit, but at the same time, we’ve got to do a much better job getting those blocks.
“Carlos Hyde, he’s a real back.”
Michigan, however, countered with a bevy of youngsters who produced in easily the most significant game of the season.
Freshman running backs De’Veon Smith and Derrick Green combined for 104 yards on 19 carries and Michigan’s two tight ends, freshman Jake Butt and sophomore Devin Funchess, combined for 10 catches, 126 yards, and two touchdowns.
“They understood what it was and what this game is about,” Gallon said. “Freshmen or not, it’s Michigan vs. Ohio. It’s not a game, it’s a war. They understood. They understood that and they played to that level.”
Did the Wolverines finally find their offensive identity? Or did they simply rise to one occasion?
With a bowl game on the horizon, that has yet to be determined.
“I’ll be very excited to see the next game,” Hoke said, “to see if we play with the same passion that they seemed to have today, the same energy.”