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December 2, 2013

Five & Five: Ohio State 42, U-M 41

Ranking the top five players, biggest plays, encouraging points, gameday stories and Tweets from Michigan's 42-41 loss to Ohio State.

Top Five Players

1. Redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner: The Wolverines lost by the slimmest of margins, but no one on the field fought harder for longer than Gardner, who led the Michigan offense out of the doldrums of the last four weeks to an explosive performance. Gardner ripped off 451 passing yards, the second most single-game yards in program history (behind his own 503-yard day vs. Indiana this year) and tied a program record with four passing touchdowns. Gardner was visibly hobbled in the second half, limping to the line of scrimmage, but he fought through it and gave the Wolverines a chance at the upset.

2. Ohio State senior running back Carlos Hyde: Hyde solidified his case as the Big Ten's best back, bowling over the Wolverines' defense, which came into the game ranked 13th nationally in rushing yards allowed per game (116.4), for a punishing 226 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. Hyde averaged 8.4 yards per carry, fighting through contact and gashing Michigan for huge chunks of yards all game.

3. Ohio State junior quarterback Braxton Miller: The Michigan defense held Miller in check through the air most of the day, allowing him to complete just 6-of-15 passes and grabbing an interception. But Miller made his six completions count, averaging 22.2 yards per completion (133 total yards), including a 53-yard touchdown bomb to wide receiver Devin Smith in the first quarter. Miller did most of his damage with his legs, tallying 153 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries (9.6 yards per carry), including a 53-yard scamper in the first quarter.

4. Fifth-year senior wide receiver Jeremy Gallon: When the Wolverines need a play, they turn to Gallon, and he did not disappoint Saturday, finishing with nine catches for 175 yards and a touchdown, his seventh 100-yard performance in the last 17 games. Gallon made big plays, like an 84-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass in the first quarter, and clutch plays, like an acrobatic snag on the four-yard line to set up Michigan's second-to-last touchdown.

5. The Michigan offensive line: In the first four games of November, the Wolverines surrendered 47 combined tackles for loss (at least 10 in each game) and 20 sacks. The Buckeyes had tallied 20 sacks in their last four games, heading into Saturday. The Michigan front five played perhaps its best game of the season, giving up just six tackles for loss and three sacks. None of the Wolverines' tailbacks were tackled in the backfield all game, and the Wolverines had two backs average more than six yards per carry (freshman De'Veon Smith, 8.1 yards per carry and fifth-year senior Fitzgerald Toussaint, 6.6 yards per carry).

Top Five Biggest Plays

1. With 32 seconds remaining after the Wolverines' final touchdown, Michigan coach Brady Hoke rolled the dice and went for the win. Gardner tried to sneak in a pass to senior wide receiver Drew Dileo on a pick play, but the Ohio State defense read it perfectly cut the upset bid short.

2. With just over 10 minutes to go and the Ohio State offense, up 35-28, scorching the Wolverines on the ground, Hyde bounced off the edge and found daylight. He rumbled 13 yards before meeting fifth-year senior safety Thomas Gordon, who got his hands on the ball and ripped it out of Hyde's grasp. The fumble gave Michigan a door, and the burst through it, slicing down the field for a touchdown to tie it up at 35 with five minutes to go.

3. The Wolverines needed to start quickly on offense, and Gallon helped spark them in the early goings. On Michigan's first drive, which started on its own one-yard line, Gallon doubled back for a screen pass, found a seam and burst forward for an 84-yard gain up the sideline. Michigan finished the drive with a one-yard rush from Gardner. It was the third-longest pass play in Michigan program history, behind a 97-yarder from Ryan Mallett to Mario Manningham against Wisconsin in 2007 and a 90-yarder from Todd Collins to Derrick Alexander against Illinois in 1993.

4. The Wolverines gained 208 yards on just 14 plays (14.9 yards per play) and scored two touchdowns in the first quarter. But Ohio State fought step for step to absorb the blow and keep the game within reach in the first 15 minutes. The Buckeyes' answered Michigan's first scoring drive with a 53-yard bomb from Miller to Smith. After the Wolverines went up 14-7, Miller answered again, breaking free and outracing the entire defense for a 53-yard scamper. All told, the two teams combined for 392 yards and 28 points on just 34 offensive plays (11.5 yards per play) in the first quarter.

5. Down 21-14 with just over a minute to play in the first half, Miller rolled out to the right, looking downfield. Junior defensive end Frank Clark and redshirt freshman defensive tackle Willie Henry were hot on his tail. Both defenders lunged at Miller simultaneously - but smacked into each other instead. They both fell over, springing Miller down the sideline for a 21-yard, game-tying touchdown just before halftime.

Top Five Encouraging Points

1. In the three November losses - to Michigan State, Nebraska and Iowa - the Wolverines amassed just 501 combined offensive yards. They shredded the Ohio State defense for 603 yards, the second-most ever given up by a Buckeye defense (659 yards by Illinois in 1980). There has been a high-powered offense hidden behind mistakes and missed assignments for a month - and it showed up Saturday in the biggest game of the season.

2. The Wolverines never quit, when it seemed like everyone else in the college football world was ready to quit on them. Heading into The Game with a 7-4 record against an Ohio State team that had won 23 straight, Michigan could have rolled over, as everyone expected it would. But the Wolverines were one two-point conversion away from perhaps the biggest upset in program history.

3. A loss is a loss - and this one is particularly painful - but there is much more to be confident about in this team than there was a week ago. The Wolverines finally clicked on offense, and boy, was it fun to watch. The defense was gashed by Ohio State, but then again, who hasn't been this season? Michigan has one more chance this year to put everything together and play a full game. If it happens, the bowl opponent had better watch out.

4. Hello, Jake Butt. He had the best game of his young career on the biggest stage of the season. He has a bright future ahead of him, and it's going to be fun to watch.

5. Hats off to these seniors. They fought through a tough season and came just shy of sending this team out with one of the biggest upsets in program history.

Top Five Gameday Stories

1. My family tailgates with the same crazy group of people every week, and there's a theme to every tailgate. The final one of the year is always a chili cookoff. There was some strong competition this year, but I took the title for the second straight year, winning the vote by the same margin the Buckeyes beat Michigan: one.

This was my trophy:



I have to step up my game next year, if I want to go for the three-peat. Jeff's gumbo - or "Louisiana chili," as he called it - was tough to top.

2. These guys exist in this world, and if you ask me, it's a better place for it:



3. What happens when you bring a pumpkin with a photo for Brutus Buckeye taped to it to a tailgate in Ann Arbor? Well, someone obliterates it with an axe, obviously:




4. The seniors of the Michigan Marching Band played a melody for the rest of the band and some onlookers at Elbel Field hours before the game. They went through a wonderful selection of tunes, including the song from Willie Wonka and Hey Jude by The Beatles, before ending with The Victors. There were very few dry eyes looking on:



5. Adding insult to injury, the Ohio State fans in Michigan Stadium unfurled a big banner after the win that read, "URBAN 2, BRADY 0"



Top Five Tweets

1. Retweet By The Big Dogs







2. Props From The Opposition




3. He Put It All Out There On The Field




4. Love For Gardner




5. I'll Take Gallon Every Time In That Matchup




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