COLUMBUS — Senior Day at Ohio Stadium went on without the heart and soul of the 2012 Ohio State football team and program. So without defensive end and Big Ten sack leader John Simon, who sat out with a leg/knee injury, Urban Meyer’s team was supposed to struggle, and without question, they certainly did.
But after a first half shootout that saw both teams combine for over 450 yards of offense, the Buckeyes’ defense turned up the intensity and forced three Michigan second-half turnovers in pitching a shutout to turn “The Game” into “The Struggle.”
It happened in front of a record crowd and capped off an undefeated season with a win over Michigan, 26-21.
The Wolverines (8-4, 6-2 Big Ten) seemingly went up and down the field, thanks to the play of their star-studded quarterbacks Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson in the first half, but Braxton Miller and Ohio State (12-0, 8-0 Big Ten) answered each score.
Miller and his OSU offense jumped out quickly, scoring a little more than two minutes into the game. The Heisman contender hit Devin Smith for 52 yards on their fourth play from scrimmage that led to Carlos Hyde’s 3-yard score.
Big Blue used big plays and six Ohio State first-half penalties to take a halftime lead.
First, Devin Gardner hit Roy Roundtree on a 75-yard pitch and catch for a touchdown midway through the first quarter.
After a Drew Basil field goal to give Ohio State a 10-7 lead, the Wolverines recovered a muffed punt that led to a Gardner 2-yard TD.
Miller answered, finding Philly Brown on a 14-yard touchdown pass.
Robinson and Michigan closed out their half on a spectacular note. Robinson took-off on an option and broke two tackles and raced 67 yards to silence the crowd. Basil closed out the half booting a 52-yard field goal to close within 21-20.
The second half was a polar opposite. Basil connected on a 28-yarder on Ohio State’s first possession in the third quarter to regain the lead at 23-21.
Then both defenses took control. Michigan was stopped on downs at midfield, but the Buckeyes could not convert. The Wolverines turned the tables and forced a Miller fumble, but were stymied on offense.
Ohio State added to the lead after Michigan-native Johnathan Hankins leveled Gardner to cause a turnover. Miller was then stopped on third and goal by Glenville graduate Frank Clark.
Basil padded the lead after his fourth field goal, a 25-yarder to make it 26-21. OSU iced the game with 4:50 left in the fourth quarter when C.J. Barnett picked off Gardner at the 49 yard line.
Hyde finished with 146 yards on 26 carries, while Miller was solid going 14-18 for 189 yards with one touchdown. He added another 57 on the ground on 20 attempts.
It’s Ohio State sixth undefeated season in school history.