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Football: How No. 2 Buckeyes handle ‘disheartening’ consecutive loss to No. 3 Michigan

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A family mourns Ohio State’s loss during the Ohio State-Michigan game Saturday. Ohio State lost 45-23. Credit: Christian Harsa | Managing Editor for Digital Content

As less than eight minutes remained against No. 3 Michigan in the third quarter Saturday, third-year quarterback C.J. Stroud motioned for Ohio State to hold back its punt team.

Faced with fourth down and 5 yards to go, head coach Ryan Day and the Buckeyes punted the football back to the Wolverines, who held possession for the remainder of the quarter and scored a touchdown to lead 31-20 as just over 13 minutes remained.

Stroud said he trusts Day and “will ride with him every game,” but before that fourth down when the Buckeyes trailed by four points with more than a quarter-and-a-half to go, he wanted the football.

“I wanted to go for it really bad. I think I’m still one of the best players in the country, and I think that I can make that play,” Stroud said. “There’s so many little things that played a part into us losing this game, and really, I blame it on myself. I got to do more.”

Ohio State lost back-to-back games to Michigan for the first time since 1999-2000, giving up four touchdowns of at least 69 yards and being held to three points in the second half in its 45-23 defeat Saturday.

The Buckeyes gave up 8.8 yards per play and 530 yards of offense. Michigan junior running back Blake Corum had only two carries, but sophomore quarterback J.J. McCarthy threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns.

Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said Saturday was “a story of explosive plays,” and it falls on him for the way Ohio State prepared defensively.

“Nothing well in a loss like that, but we matched through the course of the game,” Knowles said. “But too many explosives. That’s disheartening for not just the defense, but the team, the fans, and then I have to take responsibility for that.”

Second-year defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau, who recorded four tackles and two for loss, said Ohio State has one place to go after allowing 252 rushing yards, which included 160 coming from sophomore running back Donovan Edwards.

“Drawing board,” Tuimoloau said. “Go back in and see what we did wrong and go in and fix it.”

Day became the first Ohio State head coach since John Cooper to surrender multiple games to Michigan. The Wolverines also claimed their first win in Columbus since 2000.

Despite having opportunities to retake control and the game, Day said the Buckeyes came up short, and summing up emotions didn’t come easily for him.

“Hard to say right now because this is not the outcome that we all envisioned,” Day said. “I thought we played hard. I thought we were fighting out there, but in the end we came up short.”

Ohio State’s season isn’t completely over just yet.

No. 1 Georgia and No. 4 TCU remain the only undefeated teams alongside the Wolverines in the Football Bowl Subdivision. All three will advance to their conference championship games next weekend.

The College Football Playoff selection committee will reveal its four-team playoff field Dec. 4, and the Buckeyes could have a shot at earning a berth despite their status as a non-conference champion.

Day said if the door is cracked open for the Buckeyes to get into the postseason, they’re viable.

“I thought we were in it, and we were fighting there at the end. It obviously got out of control down the stretch, but it wasn’t like we were outmatched in terms of just overall play,” Day said. “We got a lot of good pieces on this team, and we came up short today, but I think if we were able to get a shot in the top four, we’d be a dangerous team.”

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