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 (via Massachusetts) didn’t grow up in college football’s most storied rivalry, but he’s embraced it and all that entails since joining Ann Tree. So much so that after the final whistle of his team’s resounding 45-23 victory over Ohio State, Sainristil took an M block flag, mixed in with a crowd of logo teammates on the line. from 50 yards, and went wild, with all due compared to Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield in 2017, the most powerful flag ever seen planting the compacted turf of the historic stadium.
Declaration made – flag planted for emphasis. It was the Michigan show now. This is of course the Wolverines conference, which will soon be official for two consecutive years.
“I knew our team was focused and determined, as they have been all season,” said a visibly excited Jim Harbaugh afterwards. “It’s the heroes’ dressing room. I talked about it last night, we can’t have one or two heroes, we need a whole team. It was a great team win.”
Ohio State coach Ryan Day didn’t see Sainristil’s gallop in midfield, but he’ll definitely feel the symbolism that comes from someone walking in and claiming him for that northern school. . It was the Big Ten program’s first loss at home since 2015 — snapping a 29-game conference winning streak at the ‘Shoe — and the first against Michigan at the venue since 2000.
The loss dropped the Buckeyes boss to a remarkable 45-5 as a head coach and 31-2 in the league.
Still, it’s number two in the final column that will stick in the minds of many around the Big Ten, as Saturday potentially signaled a moment of a changing of the guard and a reason why doubts OSU fans had about Day have now turned into real concern that he might not be the guy who takes 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. After seeing Harbaugh reel off back-to-back games on the series for the first time in two decades, it can start with the basics of trying to figure out how to win the Big Ten first.
“It wasn’t just one area, it was a missed tackle on the first game and then we got beaten on the second game,” Day remarked, quite crestfallen. “I thought we were playing hard, I thought we were fighting there, but in the end we failed.
“We’ll figure out what’s next. I’m not sure exactly what’s next right now, but that’s life at Ohio State. I definitely know what this game means to everyone and when you lose, it’s all to me. comes back, being the head coach, and that’s probably what hurts the most.”
It’s been a long time since Day took over from Urban Meyer and began his tenure with back-to-back college football playoff trips — and an appearance in a national championship game to boot. At the time, Day looked like a lock to bring home at least one shiny gold trophy, considering the amount of resources poured into the football program on a yearly basis.
Getting the upper hand on the domestic titles for Day looked like a decent bet.
Now? Given Day’s age – a much older and grayer 43 – even Buckeye Guy could pass such a bet, as the fan base begins to wonder if they might have less of a Meyer successor at the series lead, and more of a scarlet and gray version of Larry Coker or maybe Mark Helfrich with better hair.
Harbaugh alluded to this last November, saying some coaches — that is, Day — were born on third base. Now, those pointed comments were perhaps even more relevant than when they were first made.
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Is it exaggerated to speak of a coach who wins 90% of his matches this way? No, these are just the expectations you face at any of the sports giants when you lose to your rival in this manner.
Day didn’t provide many answers as the sun set Saturday night on what will be fixed over the coming weeks and months around the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. A coach will always defer to watching the film in such a setting, but he really seemed at a loss for words about what happened after a three-point half-time lead turned into a a faint memory, just as the cold air around the city turned otherwise. sunny conditions.
Michigan’s cathartic 42-27 victory last year amid snowy conditions at the big house allowed Day to move quickly to bring in Jim Knowles from Oklahoma State as the new defensive coordinator of the team, paying him just under $2 million a year to help bolster the tackle. and limit big games.
For part of this season, he did. Then Saturday came for the match that Knowles was specifically tipped to win. All his unit did was give up four touchdowns from at least 69 yards.
“You just have to take responsibility. Obviously the players are hurting a lot more than me,” Knowles said. “I’m devastated, but it’s young people who are putting their heart and soul into it. They’re the ones I need to be able to look in their eyes and talk about all those things you said. Schematic, technique, the fundamentals, everything whatever relates to it must fall on my shoulders.”
Day’s decision making didn’t help.
After the Wolverines calmed the crowd by taking a 24-20 lead, Ohio State squandered good field position around midfield midway through the third quarter through penalties. While they had recovered pieces after facing a first and 35, Day opted to punt into Michigan territory instead of on fourth and 5, and that resulted in the punt of Jesse Mirco in the end zone for a touchdown.
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The Wolverines then scored touchdowns on three of their next four practices, putting a stranglehold on 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 in the NFL Draft 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 still tough, but I think this program is tough , I think the coaches are tough, I think the players are tough.”
The results proved otherwise, at least against Harbaugh’s team.
Michigan was the toughest team in 2021 and again on Saturday, not just in the trenches, but whenever the big moment called for a response. 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 too long ago. With these questions come doubts. Can he finally win The Game after missing so many times?
Stroud is right that it all happened so fast. Ohio State once rode and dominated the Big Ten from its luxury penthouse filled with five-star rookies and long lists of draft picks. The Buckeyes’ competition was much more Alabama, Georgia and Clemson, not their own division team.
Now they’ve been shown the stairwell door, and it will be very painful for Day and the Buckeyes to move forward after the Wolverines hit them twice in a row.
Sainristil’s celebration in midfield was simply an emotional exclamation point that carried him home.
Bryan Fischer is a college football writer for FOX Sports. He has covered 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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