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 its first win in Columbus since 2000. Michigan advances to the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 3 in Indianapolis.
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.
The Wolverines never seemed worried about their lack of a passing game this season. Not when McCarthy and company turned in four straight games of less than 170 yards through the air over the past month. Not when they'd only turned in one play of 60 yards or more through the first 11 games of the season.
Entering the Horseshoe with a hobbled Blake Corum − who touched the ball just twice early before he was forced to leave for good − the Wolverines said they had confidence in their quarterback to deliver − and did he ever.
He 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.
On the opening drive of the second half, McCarthy ran for a gain of 19 − the team's longest play on the ground to that point − before he threw a perfect pass down the right sideline to Colston Loveland for a 45-yard touchdown, the first of his career, to give Michigan a 24-20 lead. It never trailed again.
And early in the fourth quarter, McCarthy capped Michigan's 15-play, 80-yard drive that took 7:51 off the clock by pounding in a quarterback keeper from on third-and-goal from the 3-yard line for a 31-20 lead.
McCarthy finished 12-for-24 for 263 yards passing with no turnovers.
This is Michigan first unbeaten regular season since the 1997 national championship season.
The Buckeyes were the No. 2 scoring unit in the country behind Heisman contending quarterback C.J. Stroud coming into play and opened the game with a haymaker, driving 81 yards on 12 plays, capped by a strike from Stroud to Emeka Egbuka on third-and-goal from the 4.
The two sides traded field goals on the next two possessions to make it 10-3 Ohio State, but after consecutive Michigan three-and-outs, McCarthy got cooking.
He started the game 3-for-9 passing, but on third-and-9, Ohio State sent a double A-gap blitz from a cover 0 formation. He got the ball out to Johnson, who broke a tackle and had nobody between him and the end zone as he galloped for a 69-yard score.
Ohio State went 42 yards on two plays in the ensuring drive, but settled for a 46-yard field goal with 5:36 left in the second quarter.
The Wolverines then had their quickest scoring drive of the season.
Lined up in the slot, Johnson ran a streak, faked an outside move and got the safety to bite. It opened up a post route over the middle for a 75-yard touchdown in just 12 seconds.
The Buckeyes responded with a four-play, 79 scoring drive of their own when Stroud found Marvin Harrison Jr. on a 42-yard streak to retake the lead and the final score of the half.
Fireworks after halftime started on the opening drive of the third quarter, when McCarthy lofted a ball to Loveland, who beat double coverage for a 45-yard score, putting Michigan ahead 24-20 with 11:56 to play in the third.
Ohio State moved the ball to midfield on the ensuing drive, but a nice tackle by Junior Colson in space forced a punt. The Wolverines went three-and-out on their next drive, but the Buckeyes didn't capitalize after starting with the ball on the Michigan 49.
A first down play appeared to go for a gain of 20, but the Buckeyes were flagged. On top of a holding call that backed them up 10 yards, they were tagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, which set up first-and-35.
They gained 28 yards on the next there plays, but facing fourth-and-7 at the Wolverines 43, coach Ryan Day elected to punt much to the chagrin of Stroud and Ohio State fans. Michigan then chewed 7:51 off the clock on their ensuing 15-play drive, with the biggest play coming on a third-and-1.
McCarthy handed off to Kalel Mullings — a converted linebacker who hadn’t run the ball in his career before Saturday — who threw a jump pass to Luke Schoonmaker for a gain of 15.
Six plays later, McCarthy faced third-and-11 and under pressure, heaved the ball to the end zone for Ronnie Bell. The pass fell incomplete, but the Buckeyes were called for pass interference, setting up first-and-goal. McCarthy scored three plays later to make it 31-20.
Ohio State had its first solid drive of the half when Egbuka beat Mike Sainristil on a post pattern for a 41-yard gain, but the senior defensive back made amends. On third-and-4 from the 9-yard line, Stroud floated a pass to tight end Cade Stover in the corner of the end zone, which Sainristil broke up to force a field goal.
Edwards then scored a 75-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, putting Michigan up 15 with just more than seven minutes to play.
The Buckeyes drove the length of the field, but Stroud tried to avoid a sack and flipped the ball forward to receiver Xavier Johnson, but the ball bounced off his hands and into the arms of Michigan's Taylor Upshaw, who intercepted it at the Ohio State 8.
Three plays later, Edwards busted through from 85 yards out to cap what turned out to be a career day — 22 rushes, 216 yards and two scores.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Michigan stuns Ohio State with big plays to win Big Ten East title