ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Ryan Day’s decisions in The Game may haunt him.
On the Buckeyes’ second drive, Day didn’t go for it on fourth-and-1 from his 46 and punted in a scoreless game.
“We didn’t want to give them any momentum,” he said softly.
Trailing 14-10 late in the first half of a game he absolutely had to win, Day allowed 30-plus seconds to tick off the clock and settled for a 52-yard kick — that was missed — instead of attempting to convert a fourth-and-2 from the Michigan 34 to potentially get in a position for a go-ahead touchdown.
“I felt like that was the right thing to do,” he said when pressed to share his rationale.
Day knows, more than anyone, that every choice he makes will be second-guessed while in charge of one of college football’s perennial powers.
That’s especially true after the coach in his fifth full season was arguably outcoached by an offensive coordinator with four games of experience as an acting head coach in place of Jim Harbaugh, who was suspended by the Big Ten and his school for half of the regular season.
While Day took a cautious approach in some critical moments, Moore did not.
Moore surprised by Buckeyes by putting backup quarterback Alex Orji in the game early in the third quarter and having him run, resulting in a 20-yard gain.
“That was something we had ready to go as a changeup,” Moore said. “We always got different things, different wrinkles, to keep people off balance. It was something they really hadn’t seen all year, and it ended up working out well.”
Moore also fooled Ohio State at the start of the fourth quarter, calling for a trick play that had running back Donovan Edwards throw to Colston Loveland for a 34-yard gain.
“There’s like 500 plays that I got in there, and that was one of them,” he said. “It came out at the right time.”
Both plays set up field goals, which proved to be the difference in the six-point game.
Moore credited the players for practicing well enough to earn his confidence to take calculated risks.
“I’d be doing them a disservice if I tried to be conservative,” he said.
The Wolverines (12-0, 9-0 Big Ten, No. 3 CFP ) will move on to the Big Ten championship game next Saturday night against No. 20 Iowa for a chance to play their way into the College Football Playoff for a third straight year.
The Buckeyes (11-1, 8-1, No. 2 CFP) will have until next Sunday to find out if they’ll be fortunate enough to earn a spot in the national semifinals, as they were last year after losing to Michigan.
“The worst part is we have to sit back now and see how everything shakes out,” said Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord, whose two interceptions were the only turnovers on a crisp and clear afternoon. “It’s out of our control. I know last year we got a second chance at life in the playoffs.
“The worst part is it’s out of our control.”
The last two years, it seemed Michigan was the tougher team against Ohio State. Day and the Buckeyes have pushed back hard against those who question their toughness, but then fell short of proving it in the biggest game.
“No. Definitely not. I see guys who wanna put on the Louis V $1,000 outfit, wanna act hard,” Michigan receiver Roman Wilson said. “I see the film. You’re not tough.”
Former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett took to social media, asking for the people in charge of Ohio State athletics to find a new coach.
“Ryan Day…. Love you bro but gotta go,” Clarett posted. “This is why you’re paid millions. Cant get paid 9’ms and lose 3 straight.”
The last time the Buckeyes lost three straight in the series was 1995-97, when John Cooper was leading the program and went 2-10-1 against Michigan in what was otherwise a Hall of Fame career. Former coach Urban Meyer went 7-0 against the rival Wolverines. Meyer’s predecessor, Jim Tressel, also had a 7-0 stretch as Ohio State won 15 of 16 combined in the series, including Day’s first season.
Day is 56-7 over five-plus seasons at Ohio State, but his 1-3 mark against Michigan is the one that matters most to the program and its passionate fans.
“We’re all disappointed,” he said. “We know what this game means to so many people and to come up short is certainly crushing.”
Follow Larry Lage at https://twitter/larrylage
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