By: Will Burchfield
It was a question posed to a trio of Michigan players, but John O’Korn was the only one to answer.
How frustrating is it to lose — again — to Ohio State?
“I think…” said O’Korn, and then dropped his head in dejection. Silence took over the room.
Sophomores Chris Evans and Rashan Gary, seated at the interview table to O’Korn’s left, waited for the senior quarterback to gather himself. Five long seconds later, he cleared his throat and and continued.
“…the hardest part for me is you come here to win this game, and our senior class wasn’t able to do it. I hold myself responsible for a lot of that,” said O’Korn, his eyes watering and voice quivering. “It sucks. I can’t imagine a worse feeling right now.”
Michigan very well could have beaten Ohio State on Saturday. They were ahead 14-0 in the second quarter and had the ball with a chance to win it late in the fourth. But O’Korn, filling in for the concussed Brandon Peters, missed several throws, none more glaring than the interception he gifted the Buckeyes on the first play of Michigan’s final drive.
Down 24-20 with 2:47 to play, O’Korn threw a go-route to Kekoa Crawford, but the receiver ran a deep curl. The bail sailed well over Crawford’s head and directly into the hands of Ohio State safety Jordan Fuller.
The Buckeyes would ice the game with a touchdown three plays later.
Said Jim Harbaugh, “John misread the coverage. … Didn’t see the safety rotate toward the middle of the field.”
O’Korn admitted to the same.
“It was an option route. (Crawford) did the right thing, it was all on me. It was one of those ones that you just see it wrong. As soon as the ball’s in the air, you wish that you could have it back and you know what the result’s going to be,” said O’Korn. “But you can’t change it.”
O’Korn finished 17-32 for 195 yards, one touchdown and the one interception. On Michigan’s previous drive, with the score still 24-20, he missed a wide-open Chris Evans on fourth-and-four from the Buckeyes’ 39-yard line with just under seven minutes to play.
“We had a good play called, wish we could have executed it better,” said Harbaugh. “But wanted to be aggressive, wanted to attack there. When we don’t pick it up, easy to say wish we would’ve punted it, but felt good with the call, felt good with the decision.”
Of O’Korn’s performance overall, Harbaugh said, “I know we missed a few. There was some wind, but gotta hit ‘em.”
After Michigan rushed out to a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter, Ohio State slowly took over the game. They outscored the Wolverines 31-6 from that point on.
“Honestly, just my personal opinion, I think we got a little complacent as players,” said O’Korn. “I think we let the foot off the gas. This game didn’t have to be close. We could’ve ran away with it. We had plenty of opportunities and we just didn’t take advantage.”
It was Ohio State’s sixth straight win versus Michigan and 13th in the past 14 years. O’Korn agreed the Wolverines let a golden opportunity slip away.
“Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s obvious,” he said. “We go up 14-0, we don’t build on that, we let them get back in the game and then in the second half we just give them the game.”
Senior fullback Khalid Hill, for his part, said O’Korn shouldn’t shoulder all the blame.
“We all had opportunities to make plays in this game, and plays weren’t made. John threw a pass to me I probably could have caught, but when you turn all the way around you can’t jump for the ball,” said Hill, referencing another overthrow by O’Korn in the first quarter. “Not just one person made us lose. If John said that, it’s just the leader in him. But this is not on him.”