Freshmen Olave, Banks leave mark on ‘The Game’

COLUMBUS — The atmosphere was at an all-time high inside the big Horseshoe Saturday afternoon.

You’d expect nothing less on the last Saturday in November when it’s ‘The Game.’

The annual meeting between Ohio State and Michigan has yielded many memorable performances and coming out parties over the course of its history.

And the most recent edition — the 116th in history — didn’t disappoint in that regard.

Just a year after Dwayne Haskins had moment in the sun at Michigan Stadium when he stepped in for an injured J.T. Barrett during a key drive, true freshmen Chris Olave and Sevyn Banks had their shining moments with 106,588 Buckeye fans looking on.

Their performances — with a lot of help from their buddies — helped the Buckeyes to win their seventh straight in the rivalry, claim the Big Ten East and a berth in next week’s Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis, 62-39.

The Buckeyes — despite their success against ‘The Team up North’ — came into the game as a slight underdog and that along with everything else that ‘The Game’ entails and featured just added additional motivation for a team that’s not always played to the level at which its talent indicates it should.

However, those blemishes — most of which have come on the defensive side of the ball — were covered by high-powered and potent offense all season. Against the Wolverines, it was a total team effort.

The defense set the tone with a three-and-out to begin the game and very solidly throughout.

While Olave and Banks provided big lifts, the Buckeye veterans — especially Haskins and senior Parris Campbell — put on a clinic, too.

Campbell began the process of salting the victory away for Ohio State when he took a handoff and raced 78 yards for a touchdown. He was a handful at receiver, too.

While Haskins threw for more than 300 yards once again and the Buckeyes got the biggest chunk of their rushing yards on Campbell’s run, that running game, which has been up and down — at best — this season kept Michigan honest. That allowed Ryan Day and Kevin Wilson’s offense to utilize the crossing routes along with several wheel routes that proved effective.

The much-maligned Ohio State defense played light years better than it did against Maryland last week, or for the bulk of the season, for that matter.

It got consistent pressure on Shea Patterson and bottled up Michigan running Karan Higdon, who had guaranteed a victory during the course of the week.

Other than way too many pass interference calls, which have become part of most teams’ playbooks because they simply throw it up and hope for a flag. But, that’s another story.

The Wolverines weren’t able to hit many of the ‘big hit’ plays, which have plagued the Buckeyes’ defense throughout.

As it pertains to special teams, Banks catching a blocked punt and racing it back for a touchdown was clearly the chief highlight from the unit, but there was a hiccup. Demario McCall, who has been impressive in the return role, botched an attempted fair catch on a kickoff, which set up a Wolverines’ touchdown near the end of the first half.

While there were many things that Meyer and his coaches won’t like when they review the film today, the ultimate prize — the Gold Pants –are coming to Columbus. And on top of that, the Buckeyes won’t be studying just their tape today. They’ll begin preparing for Northwestern, which won the Big Ten’s West and will take on OSU in Indy.