Column: Michigan short on answers during, after loss to Ohio State
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- They didn't say much. They didn't have to.
Ohio State 26, Michigan 21.
What else is there to say?
The 20th-ranked Wolverines pour everything into their annual blood battle with Ohio State. They break summer workouts with "Beat Ohio." They sweat and hit and hurt for months thinking about walking off in victory after this game.
And they'll travel back up US-23 humbled, somber and empty handed after throwing away a one-point halftime lead via turnovers and a stalled offense. No BCS bowl, no divisional title.
An 8-4 record. Above average, below expectations and wholly unsatisfying.
Players spoke mostly in staccato answers afterward, offering no real answers at all.
Jordan Kovacs, did Ohio State do anything different to avenge last year's loss?
"No, nothing at all," the safety said.
OSU quarterback Braxton Miller was 14-of-18 passing against your NCAA-best pass defense, and ran for 108 yards (not counting sacks). What happened there?
"He's an elusive kid and he made plays when he had to," Kovacs said. "We just didn't execute."
Tailback Carlos Hyde had 146 yards. What about him?
"He ran the ball hard," Kovacs said. "We didn't get enough guys to the ball."
OK, man, you're not saying much. This is as upset as you've been this year. What's up?
"It's not just about myself," Kovacs said. "You don't want to come down here and lose, and that's about all I have to say about it."
Roy Roundtree, you're not saying anything either. Can you talk about how you feel after finishing 1-3 against Ohio State in your career?
"It hurts," the receiver said. "But we got to look at film and look at the mistakes we made."
Michigan didn't have many answers.
But Ohio State had some for Michigan's revamped offense.
Denard Robinson played for a second consecutive week, although this time it came exclusively at tailback and quarterback, and never with Devin Gardner on the field too, a two-QB look that gave Iowa fits last week.
Robinson racked up 124 rushing yards on six carries -- averaging 20.7 yards every time he touched the ball -- to help power Michigan to a 21-20 halftime lead.
But Ohio State adjusted in the second half, bringing down its safeties to stop the run in anticipation that Robinson wouldn't pass. And he didn't, even though everyone wearing a block 'M' says he can.
"He can pass," coach Brady Hoke said. "Just weren't called."
That made the offense predictable. Right? Robinson comes in under center, and it's going to be a run every time. Why worry about pass defense?
That neutralized Robinson, who was held to minus-2 yards on four carries in the second half. The tailbacks didn't do anything, either, finishing with a combined 14 yards on 10 carries for the game. Although that didn't stop Michigan from rushing them up the middle time after time.
The offense stalled, generating 60 yards on 21 plays in the second half and sustaining no drive longer than 23 yards. The defense held OSU to six points after halftime, a noble effort, but the offense was blanked, the difference in the game.
"We just didn't have that much success running the ball in the second half," Robinson said of the dropoff.
Problem is, Michigan didn't adjust. Didn't have answers.
And then there were the turnovers -- four in all, including three in the second half and one pick late in the fourth quarter by Gardner that ended Michigan's final chance at mounting a comeback.
"Hard to win football games when you turn the ball over four times, you don't convert on short-yardage situations and we didn't do that in the second half," Hoke said. "When you don't do those things, you put a little more stress on your team."
Michigan began the season ranked eighth in the country and eying a league title. It finishes a disappointing 8-4, and look no further than turnovers as to why.
The Wolverines committed 16 turnovers in their four losses, and nine in the eight wins.
Now Michigan will look forward to its bowl game, probably either the Capital One Bowl or Outback Bowl. No BCS -- not anymore.
Hoke's not ready to think about that, though. He's still steaming over Ohio State, and looking forward to next year's rematch.
"You start workin' on the next game," he said of what happens next. "You start workin' on that great game at the end of November. Start thinkin' about what you can do.
"We had a lot of underclassmen here, a lot of true freshmen here, that will remember today."