ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Ezekiel Elliott got exactly what he wanted Saturday afternoon at the Big House.
A week after calling out the Ohio State coaches for their play calling in a loss to Michigan State, the Buckeye junior carried the ball a season-high 30 times for 214 yards and two scores in a dominant 42-13 victory over rival Michigan (9-3). The Wolverines’ once-stout defense had no answer for the Buckeyes' rushing attack, surrendering 369 yards on the ground.
Coach Urban Meyer made a concerted effort to involve Elliott early and often. There was some concern that Meyer had lost control of his star-studded locker room after Michigan State put a major dent in the Buckeyes' playoff hopes last weekend. That appeared to be far from the case Saturday when the Buckeyes put together their most convincing and complete effort of the season.
Not counting a minute-long drive at the end of the first half, Ohio State scored on five straight possessions after being forced to punt to open the game. Three of those scoring drives were longer than 80 yards apiece. Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett added three rushing touchdowns of his own against a worn-down Wolverines defensive front and passed for another score.
Michigan’s lone touchdown came in the closing minutes of the first half when fifth-year senior Jake Rudock hit redshirt junior Jehu Chesson on a 5-yard out route. Rudock completed 19 of his 32 pass attempts for 263 yards before leaving the game with an injury courtesy of a Joey Bosa sack. Before he left, Rudock passed coach Jim Harbaugh in the Michigan record books with the fifth-best single-season passing total in program history.
Ohio State (11-1) has now won the past four editions of “The Game” and 11 of its past 12 meetings with rival Michigan.
What the win means for Ohio State: The Buckeyes avoid a second straight loss and regain some composure after last week’s postgame debacle. Ohio State still has a shot at a Big Ten championship if Penn State knocks off Michigan State this afternoon. Either way, Meyer can sleep soundly tonight knowing his program kept its dominant streak against rival Michigan alive for another year.
What the loss means for Michigan: The Wolverines’ turnaround was expected to take longer than a year. Harbaugh’s first season ends with a respectable 9-3 record, but two of those losses come to rivals Michigan State and Ohio State. The future is bright in Ann Arbor but won’t arrive until Michigan can knock off at least one of the East Division powers.
The game turned when: Ohio State opened the second half with an offensive efficiency it hasn’t shown since perhaps Labor Day night at Virginia Tech. Using a heavy dose of Elliott, the Buckeyes drove 82 yards in eight plays and less than three minutes. Jalin Marshall's 25-yard touchdown put his team firmly in control, and the Buckeyes never let go.
Stat of the game: Michigan entered Saturday’s game with the second-best third-down defense in the country. The Wolverines had held opponents to a 23.2 percent success rate on third downs. Ohio State’s downhill running game converted seven of its first 10 third-down plays (seven of 13 total), including three of them on a backbreaking third-quarter drive that gave the Buckeyes a 28-10 lead.