THE OHIO STATE­MENT GAME

Buck­eyes blitz top de­fense in na­tion for 567 yards in rout

Chicago Sun-Times (Sunday) - - SPORTS - BY RALPH D. RUSSO

COLUM­BUS, Ohio — This sea­son for Ohio State has been any­thing but nor­mal, be­gin­ning with its cel­e­brated coach sus­pended for three games.

There have been spotty per­for­mances and trou­bling trends on both sides of the ball. There have been ques­tions and con­stant spec­u­la­tion about Ur­ban Meyer’s health and fu­ture, in ad­di­tion to his han­dling of for­mer as­sis­tant coach Zach Smith, who has been ac­cused of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence by his ex-wife.

Af­ter all that, it was busi­ness as usual against Michi­gan, and now the Buck­eyes are right where they al­ways ex­pect to be.

Dwayne Hask­ins threw five touch­down passes, fresh­man Chris Olave had a break­out per­for­mance and No. 10 Ohio State con­tin­ued its mas­tery over No. 4 Michi­gan with a record-set­ting 62-39 vic­tory Satur­day that sends the Buck­eyes to the Big Ten cham­pi­onship game.

“I think we def­i­nitely showed the coun­try the Ohio State Buck­eyes are still here,” of­fen­sive tackle Isa­iah Prince said.

The Wolver­ines were two vic­to­ries away from their first con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship since 2004 and a trip to the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off, fac­ing an un­der­dog Ohio State team that has looked dis­com­bob­u­lated on de­fense and one-di­men­sional on of­fense for much of the sea­son. Look­ing to snap a six-game los­ing streak against the Buck­eyes (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten) and get coach Jim Har­baugh his first vic­tory in four tries in the ri­valry, the Wolver­ines (10-2, 8-1) wilted.

Har­baugh faces an­other year of crit­ics ques­tion­ing his abil­ity to win the big game. He took own­er­ship of a com­plete col­lapse, but his play­ers were not let­ting him take all the blame.

“I don’t know why he would take any heat af­ter this loss,” said quar­ter­back Shea Pat­ter­son, who passed for 187 yards and three touch­downs. “He took a lot last year and even this year when we were win­ning. We have a chance to win 11 games, and I think that’s a suc­cess­ful sea­son.”

In the 115th meet­ing be­tween two of col­lege foot­ball’s most sto­ried pro­grams, Ohio State scored more points than it ever had against Michi­gan — in fact, more points than any team has ever scored in reg­u­la­tion against Michi­gan.

Hask­ins and the Buck­eyes carved up the top-ranked de­fense in the coun­try for 567 yards. Hask­ins fin­ished with 318 yards and set the Big Ten sea­son record for touch­down passes with 41.

And now, de­spite all the dys­func­tion this sea­son, the Buck­eyes will face No. 19 North­west­ern next Satur­day in In­di­anapo­lis with a chance to re­peat as Big Ten champs and maybe even make the play­off.

Maybe most sat­is­fy­ing of all, Ohio State has won 14 of the last 15 meet­ings against the team it loves to beat the most.

“This is not an or­di­nary game,” Buck­eyes de­fen­sive tackle Dre’Mont Jones said. “This is a game that’s got years and miles be­hind.”

Olave, who came into the game with five catches and no touch­downs, caught two touch­down passes in the first half and broke it open on spe­cial teams in the third quar­ter. He looped through a seam in the line and got a chunk of Will Hart’s punt. The ball sailed off high and to the side and landed in the arms of Sevyn Banks, who cruised 33 yards for a touch­down that made it 34-19 and sent the Ohio Sta­dium crowd into a frenzy.

JAMIE SABAU/GETTY IM­AGES

Chris Olave (from left), K.J. Hill and Jah­sen Wint cel­e­brate af­ter Olave blocked a punt and the Buck­eyes scored a touch­down in the third quar­ter Satur­day.

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