November 30, 2013

The play that saved the season

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ANN ARBOR, Mich.-It didn't hit him until after he walked off the field, went up the tunnel at the 50-yard line, and turned left into the visiting locker room. He took off his uniform, his pads, and his helmet, and hopped into the shower. There, chatting with backup quarterback Kenny Guiton, washing away the blood, dirt, and sweat that painted his body, it occurred to him.

Tyvis Powell, the redshirt cornerback from Bedford, saved Ohio State's season.

"I was taking a shower, talking to Kenny (Guiton). That's when it hit me," Powell said, smiling from ear to ear. "That was our season on the line. We had 12-0, the Gold Pants, the chances for a national championship, it kind of hit me, like, 'I saved the season.'"

Trailing by one point, Michigan, fresh off an 84-yard touchdown drive with less than two minutes remaining in the contest, elected to go for two points instead of kicking the extra point to tie the game. There were 32 seconds left, and Brady Hoke, in front of a raucous Michigan Stadium crowd, wanted to go for the win. Both team's offenses had marched up and down the field all game; this was the best chance, in the Michigan coach's mind, to secure a victory and end Ohio State's 23-game winning streak.

So Hoke kept his offense on the field and they lined up for a play. But before they could run one, Urban Meyer called a timeout.

Powell would make the play that saved the season a few minutes later, but the real save should probably be credited to Ohio State's defensive backs coach, Kerry Coombs.

Coombs told Powell what play Michigan was going to run.

"They're going to motion it to triple stack, and (Michigan wide receiver Bo Dever) is going to run the angle route," Coombs told Powell on the sideline during the timeout.

"I was like, 'Yeah, we watched that on film. That makes a lot of sense,'" Powell said.

Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner dropped back in the pocket, and fired the ball to Dever, who had run an angle route and settled around the "A" in the end zone. Powell was there too. He stepped in and intercepted the pass.

"It kind of shocked me. He really threw the ball?" Powell said. "I was thinking to myself, Coach Coombs is a genius."

Ohio State (12-0, 8-0) won the game, 42-41, completing its second consecutive season under Meyer undefeated, 12-0. The Buckeyes will face Michigan State (11-1, 8-0) next Saturday in Indianapolis in the Big Ten championship game. It's doubtful, though, that the contest between those two teams will compare to what occurred in Ann Arbor Nov. 30.

The 110th edition of The Game had everything you could want out of a battle between two bitter rivals.

There was the melee at the 20-yard line following a kickoff return by Dontre Wilson in the first half. Michigan players brought Wilson to the ground, and a scuffle led to the freshman speedster's helmet being torn off. Wilson threw a punch in the middle of a pack of Buckeyes and Wolverines. He was ejected from the game, as was Ohio State senior right guard Marcus Hall, who flipped off the Michigan crowd as the left the field.

"Disappointed," Meyer said of what occurred.

There was the running of Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde. The duo accounted for 394 yards rushing and four touchdowns, the most Michigan has given up since 2004.

There was the offensive firepower of Michigan, a team that had been average at best with the ball heading into Saturday. Gardner threw for 451 yards and four touchdowns. Wide receiver Jeremy Gallon had an 84-yard reception on the Wolverine's first possession.

"We were a little too hyped," Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier said of his defense's struggles.

There were the two drives: Ohio State's ended with Hyde bustling into the end zone for the go-ahead score with 2:20 left; Michigan's concluded with Gardner finding wide receiver Devin Funchess for a touchdown with 32 seconds remaining that eclipsed the deficit to one point.

It all led to one play: the two-point conversion.

Powell knew what was going to happen, as did the rest of the defense.

"We knew what play they were running. They had run that before," Ohio State safety C.J. Barnett said. "As soon as they scored we knew it was time to go, that the game was going to be in our hands."

Standing on the sideline, all Ohio State's offense could do was watch with their season on the brink.

"We have full confidence in our defense and our defensive staff," Ohio State tight end Jeff Heuerman said. "We were nervous on the sideline, obviously, but deep down we felt pretty good."

Ohio State's players were right in feeling how they did. Powell made the play he was told to make, the Buckeyes won the game they were supposed to win.

"It was an instant classic," Meyer said.

Powell walked out of the interview room Saturday afternoon with the ball in his hands.

"I couldn't let it go," Powell said. "It's my most prized possession."


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