ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Hassan Haskins and Aidan Hutchinson have carried the Michigan football team all season, and with their performances in the win over Ohio State, they cemented themselves as program legends.
READ: Trying to put into words what this win over Ohio State means for Michigan football program, fans
Athletes -- particularly college athletes -- aren’t necessarily remembered for great stats or awards. It’s about moments, especially in rivalry games and on the biggest stages. Trey Burke won National Player of the Year at Michigan, but he’s remembered for the shot against Kansas in the Sweet 16. Magglio Ordonez hit .312 and made two All-Star teams across seven seasons with the Detroit Tigers, but in this town, his name goes hand-in-hand with that ALCS home run in 2006.
The stage doesn’t get any bigger than the one Michigan hosted this weekend. The two biggest rivals in sports -- Michigan and Ohio State -- were playing for a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game and to stay alive in the College Football Playoff race. College GameDay was there. Big Noon Kickoff was there. All the eyes of the college football world were on the Big House.
The team to break the losing streak against Ohio State was always going to go down in Michigan football lore. But to do it while going 11-1 en route to a potential conference title? That’s a cherry on top.
Jim Harbaugh’s team had to do a lot right to beat Ohio State, but no two factors were more important than making Heisman Trophy candidate C.J. Stroud uncomfortable in the pocket and controlling the game on offense. That’s where Hutchinson and Haskins came in.
Hutchinson sacked Stroud three times Saturday. Two of those came on third down and forced Ohio State to punt. According to Pro Football Focus, Hutchinson registered 15 quarterback pressures -- the most in a single college football game since PFF started tracking that stat in 2014.
Simply put, Hutchinson had one of the best defensive performances for a college football player ever, and he did it in Michigan’s biggest win since at least 1997.
Hutchinson could have gone to the NFL after a difficult 2020 season. Instead, he returned to Michigan, dominated the biggest moments and accomplished his mission of beating Ohio State. A Big Ten championship, playoff appearances and possibly some Heisman chatter are still in the mix, too. Heck, he might be the No. 1 NFL draft pick.
On the other side of the ball, what more can be said about Haskins? He’s already rushed for more than 100 yards five times this season, and scored multiple touchdowns in five different games, too. But there’s no question this was his best performance.
Michigan needed to control the pace of the game with its offense. Haskins rushed 28 times and averaged six yards per carry. Michigan needed to score touchdowns, not field goals. Haskins found the end zone five times. Michigan needed to extend drives on short-yardage downs. Haskins moved the chains.
Whenever it looked like the Buckeyes were going to make a late push, Haskins demoralized them by keeping Michigan ahead of schedule, running through tackles and falling forward for two or three extra yards.
He had 11 first downs -- eleven! That means more than half of his 28 carries either moved the chains or put points on the board. Michigan won the game because all four of its second-half drives ended in touchdowns, and Haskins shouldered the load, bullying the Buckeyes even when they knew he was coming.
This program has a long history of legendary running backs, from Tshimanga Biakabutuka to Anthony Thomas to Mike Hart. Now, Haskins belongs on that list.
The Wolverines had no shortage of heroes on Saturday, from Cade McNamara to Rod Moore to the entire offensive line. But the team’s two best players shined brightest and etched their names into Michigan football history forever.