12 and OH-IO

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Greatness was all around.

A great rivalry.

Great expectations.

And in the end, a great escape.

No. 3 Ohio State (12-0, 8-0 Big Ten) held on for a 42-41 win over Michigan on Saturday in what turned into one of the most closely contested games in their 110 meetings on a football field.

“That’s an instant classic. That was a battle. A great game. A classic,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said after OSU won its 24th game in a row.

It became even bigger when Auburn beat Alabama 34-28 when it returned a missed field goal for a touchdown on the last play of their game.

Ohio State came into the game a two-touchdown favorite but never led until the third quarter.

Then, after building a 14-point lead with two minutes left in the third quarter, the Buckeyes had to hold off a two-point conversion by Michigan (7-5, 3-5 Big Ten) in the final minute to stay unbeaten and keep their national championship hopes alive.

Michigan rolled up 603 yards total offense after being held below 200 yards in three of its four games earlier in November. Ohio State had 526 yards, led by the running game, with Carlos Hyde going for 226 yards on 27 carries and quarterback Braxton Miller rushing for 153 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries.

Quarterback Devin Gardner (32 of 45 for 451 yards, 4 TDs) led Michigan.

It was not a game for defensive purists. But the Buckeyes delivered one huge defensive play to end it.

After Hyde scored on a 1-yard run with 2:20 to play to put Ohio State ahead 42-35, Michigan drove 84 yards and scored on a 2-yard throw from Gardner to Devin Funchess to make it 42-41.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke elected to go for a two-point conversion instead of playing to take the game into overtime.

Following an Ohio State timeout, redshirt freshman defensive back Tyvis Powell intercepted Gardner’s throw for Drew Dileo. When OSU recovered an onside kick, it was over.

“We played the game to win,” Hoke said.

Meyer said, “”I’d have done the same thing. Go win the game there. Both offenses were kind of in that unstoppable mode. I called a timeout, let our guys take a deep breath, let them think about it and we stopped them.”

Hyde said it wouldn’t have mattered. Either way, Ohio State was going to win.

“I knew they’d go for two because they didn’t want overtime. They knew what would have happened,” Hyde said. “They tried to go for two and that didn’t work out. There is no doubt we would have scored in overtime.”

Michigan scored on its first three possessions of the game and its last three.

The Wolverines sent the message this wasn’t going to be a walkover early when Gardner connected with Jeremy Gallon on an 84-yard pass play down to Ohio State’s 2-yard line.

Two plays later, Gardner ran one yard for a touchdown and Michigan was up 7-0. Ohio State matched Michigan touchdown for touchdown after it took leads of 7-0, 14-7 and 21-14.

When OSU got third-quarter touchdowns from Miller on a 3-yard run and tight end Jeff Heuerman on a 22-yard pass from Miller to take a 35-21 lead with 1:05 left in that quarter, it looked like the Buckeyes were in control.

But two Michigan touchdowns, the second set up by a fumble by Hyde at his own 41-yard line, tied it at 35-35 with five minutes to play.

Linebacker Ryan Shazier said a lack of focus played a big role in Ohio State’s slow start.

“At the beginning of the game we were too hyped. There was too much emotion,” he said. “The first quarter we were out of our game, talking too much, people getting in fights. We were trying to do too much talking and not enough playing.”

The Buckeyes’ focus improved over the course of the game but their overall pass defense didn’t.

“We didn’t get the normal pressure we do,” Meyer said. “He (Gardner) is an excellent thrower. We’ve got some things we have to get fixed.”

That will be worked on this week as Ohio State gets ready to play Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship game this Saturday night in Indianapolis.

Saturday, they just wanted to celebrate a win that was in doubt for much of the afternoon.

“I’m just happy we got that win today. You take an L there and the undefeated season doesn’t matter anymore. I’m just happy we got the win,” Hyde said.

Heuerman said, “It was such a crazy ending. Everyone’s head is still kind of spinning. We’ll take it any way we can get it. Twenty-four straight wins is something nobody at Ohio State has been able to say before.”