College football writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Mike Sainristil was five weeks old the last time Michigan won at Ohio Stadium.
Now a senior for the Wolverines, the fiddler from Haiti (by way of Massachusetts) didn’t grow up in college football’s biggest rivalry, but he’s embraced it and all that comes with it since arriving in Ann Arbor. So much so that after the final whistle of his team’s 45-23 win over Ohio State, Sainristil grabbed a Block M flag, shuffled through a crowd of teammates at the 50-yard line logo yards and unleashed, with all due. Regarding Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield in 2017, the most powerful flag ever planted on the compacted turf of the historic stadium.
Statement made: flag planted for emphasis. This was the Michigan show now. It sure is the Wolverines conference, soon to be official two years in a row.
“I knew our team was focused and determined, as it has been all season,” a visibly emotional Jim Harbaugh said afterward. “This is the locker room of heroes. I talked about it last night, we can’t have one or two heroes; we need a whole team of them. It was a great team win.”
Ohio State coach Ryan Day didn’t see Sainristil gallop up the middle of the field, but he’s sure to feel the symbolism that comes from someone breaking into his home and claiming him for the school from the north It was the program’s first Big Ten home loss since 2015, snapping a 29-game conference winning streak in the ‘Shoe, and Michigan’s first at the site since 2000.
The loss dropped the Buckeyes to a remarkable 45-5 as a head coach and 31-2 in league play.
However, it’s number two in that last column that will stick in the minds of many around the Big Ten, as Saturday potentially signaled a changing of the guard moment and a reason fans doubt of the OSU had on the Day have already occurred. it became a total concern that he could no be the man to lead the group back to the promised land.
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Normally, that would mean bringing a national title back to Ohio, a championship standard against which its predecessors were measured. However, after watching Harbaugh reel off two straight streaks for the first time in two decades, he can start with the basics in trying to figure out how to win the Big Ten first.
“It wasn’t just a field, it was a lost tackle on the first play, and then they beat us on the second,” commented a rather despondent Day. “I thought we played hard, I thought we battled, but in the end we fell short.
“We’re going to figure out what’s next. I don’t know exactly what’s next right now, but that’s life at Ohio State. I definitely know what this game means to everybody and when you lose, it all comes back to me. head coach, and that’s what probably hurts the most.”
It seems like a long time ago that Day took over for Urban Meyer and started his tenure with two consecutive trips to the College Football Playoff, and a national championship appearance. At the time, Day seemed like a lock to bring home at least one shiny gold trophy, given the amount of resources poured into the football program annually.
Taking over the national titles for Day seemed like a decent bet.
now? Given Day’s age (about 43 much older and grayer), even Buckeye Guy might pass on that bet, as the fan base begins to ponder whether they could have less of a successor to Meyer running the show and more a scarlet and gray. version of Larry Coker, or maybe Mark Helfrich, only with nicer hair.
Harbaugh alluded to this last November, stating that some coaches, namely Day, are born third base. Now, those one-time comments may have been even more important than when they were first made.
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Is it too much to talk about a manager who wins 90% of his games this way? No, it’s just the expectations you face against one of the sport’s greats when you lose to your rival like this.
Day didn’t provide many answers as the sun set Saturday evening about what will be fixed in the coming weeks and months around the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. A coach will always defer to watching film in such an environment, but he was truly speechless at what happened after a three-point halftime lead became a faint memory, just like the cold air of the city became toast in the middle of another way. sunny conditions.
Michigan’s cathartic 42-27 win last year amid snowy conditions at the Big House prompted Day to move quickly to bring in Oklahoma State’s Jim Knowles as the new defensive coordinator of team, paying him just a shade under $2 million per year to help shore up the tackle. and limit big plays.
For part of this season, he did. Then on Saturday came the game that Knowles was specifically called to win. All his unit did was allow four touchdown plays of at least 69 yards.
“You just have to take responsibility. Obviously the players are hurting a lot more than I am,” Knowles said. “I’m crushed, but these are young people who put their heart and soul into it. They’re the ones I have to be able to look in the eyes and talk about all those things you said. Scheme, technique. , fundamentals, everything that goes into it has to fall on my shoulders.”
The day’s decision making didn’t help.
After the Wolverines quieted the crowd to take a 24-20 lead, Ohio State squandered good midfield position midway through the third quarter thanks to penalties. Although they had clawed back after facing a first-and-35, Day opted for a punt in Michigan territory instead of going for it on fourth-and-5, leading to Jesse’s punt Mirco sailed into the end zone for a touchback.
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The Wolverines proceeded to score touchdowns on three of their next four drives, taking control of a game and a conference they can now claim ownership of.
“It happened so fast,” said Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud, who likely played his last home game when the NFL Draft comes calling next spring. “Going through what I went through last year after the game, it was tough, and it was a tough pill to swallow for 365 days. It’s going to be tough again, but I think this program is tough, I think the coaches are . . , I think the players are tough.”
The results have proven otherwise, at least against Harbaugh’s team.
Michigan was the tougher side in 2021 and again Saturday, not just in the trenches, but every time the big moment called for an answer. The Wolverines got up and gave one, the Buckeyes just didn’t.
Now the questions will come for Day just as they once did for Harbaugh, who was in a similar position not long ago. With these questions come the doubts. Can he finally win The Game after falling short so often?
Stroud is right that it all happened so quickly. Ohio State was rolling and once dominated the Big Ten from its luxury attic filled with five-star recruits and long draft lists. The competition for the Buckeyes was much more Alabama, Georgia and Clemson, not the team in their own division.
Now they’ve been shown the door to the ladder, and it’s going to be very painful for Day and the Buckeyes moving forward after the Wolverines have beaten them on the way out twice in a row.
Sainristil’s midfield celebration was simply an emotional exclamation mark that led him home.
Bryan Fischer is a college football writer for FOX Sports. He has been covering college athletics for nearly two decades at outlets including NBC Sports, CBS Sports, Yahoo! Sports and NFL.com among others. Follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.
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