COLUMBUS, Ohio — The 2022 Michigan-Ohio State football game will forever be known as the J.J. McCarthy breakout game.
While the sophomore quarterback’s talent was tantalizing all year long, he never put it all together at once. Much less on a stage of this magnitude. But it was as if Michigan knew something everybody else didn’t.
McCarthy on Saturday threw for three touchdowns, ran for another and Donovan Edwards struck twice for touchdown runs of 75 and 85 in the fourth quarter as the Wolverines mauled the Buckeyes, 45-23, for their first win at Ohio Stadium since 2000.
“None, no adjustments,” McCarthy said of what the team changed in the locker room which led to a 28-3 margin over the final two quarters. “We came in with a full-game game plan and we were ready for them. The message was just ‘we’re the best second-half team in the country and we prove it every single week.”
“It was just great to go out there and prove it again.”
Michigan (12-0, 9-0 Big Ten) advances to the Big Ten championship game next Saturday night in Indianapolis, where the Wolverines will face Purdue. The Boilermakers locked up the Big Ten West with their victory at Indiana on Saturday.
The Wolverines trailed at the half, 20-17, then dominated the final two quarters with the power run game to beat the Buckeyes for the second straight season. Michigan, which ran 11 times for 10 yards in the first half, finished the game with 35 rushes for 252 yards (7.2 yards per carry) and three scores.
“One good thing about the running game is, it can wear on you,” said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. “It’s why it’s usually better as the game goes on. And I love Donovan Edwards, when he gets free, you don’t even think about it, it’s going to be a touchdown.”
The Wolverines, whose identity has been built through Blake Corum on the ground, never seemed worried about their lack of a passing game this season.
Not when McCarthy turned in four straight games of less than 170 yards through the air over the past month. Not when U-M only turned in one play of 60 yards or more through the air in the first 11 games of the season.
Entering the Horseshoe with a hobbled Corum — who touched the ball just twice early and didn’t play after the first quarter — the Wolverines said they had confidence in their quarterback to deliver — and did he ever.
McCarthy found Cornelius Johnson while staring down a blitz and Johnson broke tackles down the left sideline for a 69-yard touchdown. On the Wolverines’ next offensive snap, McCarthy threw a perfect 75-yard touchdown, again to Johnson, on a wide open seam-route to give Michigan its first lead, 17-13.
“I thought it was pretty good, we were just waiting for it to come out,” McCarthy said of the deep passing game that had been much maligned all season. “We knew what it was, it was just great that it came out at this time.”
Johnson had a career day, catching four passes for 160 yards and the two touchdowns.