COLUMBUS, Ohio — Raw emotion was everywhere: Joy for a win, concern over an injury, shock for a missing player.
The thrill of beating rival Michigan 42-28 on Saturday was tempered for No. 7 Ohio State by star quarterback J.T. Barrett’s broken ankle and the disappearance of teammate Kosta Karageorge.
“A lot (is) going on,” Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. “A lot (is) going on.”
The rivalry known around these parts as “The Game” became almost a subplot to the larger issues involving both teams.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke’s job status has been in question as the Wolverines (5-7, 3-5 Big Ten) have sagged since his 11-2 start at Michigan in 2011. The Wolverines have gone 8-5, 7-6 and 5-7 to give him a 31-20 record.
With no postseason, interim Athletic Director Jim Hackett will make the call on Hoke’s status.
Ezekiel Elliott scored untouched on a 44-yard run on fourth-and-1 with 4:58 left to help Ohio State (11-1, 8-0, CFP No. 6) pad its lead after losing Barrett on the first play of the fourth quarter. Linebacker Darron Lee then returned a fumble 33 yards for a score a minute later to put the game out of reach.
Barrett threw for one TD and ran for two before his right leg crumpled underneath him when he was tackled on a run.
“I heard him yell and I ran over to help him up,” tight end Jeff Heuerman said. “When I went over I saw his ankle and it wasn’t pretty. I just told him, ‘Stay down, stay down.’ It kind of hit me, ‘Oh man.’”
Barrett will undergo surgery on Sunday and will be lost for the remainder of the season. He will miss when the East Division champion Buckeyes play either Minnesota or Wisconsin in next week’s Big Ten title game in Indianapolis.
Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner was among those who came up to say words of encouragement to Barrett.
“You hate to see any player get hurt, especially a guy like him,” said Gardner, who completed 22 of 32 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. “A great guy, a hard worker. A guy who was called upon and he’s executed and done it humbly.”
Barrett, a Heisman Trophy contender, completed 13 of 21 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown and also ran for scores of 25 and 2 yards while gaining 89 yards on 15 carries.
Cardale Jones came in for the Buckeyes (11-1, 8-0, CFP No. 6) to lead the drive that culminated in Elliott’s long run.
In the wake of the defeat, there was also plenty of emotion in the Michigan locker room.
Asked about his future with the Wolverines, Hoke remained resolute and said that he was still the head coach and would remain so.
“What I know is I’m going to be the football coach at Michigan,” he said. “That’s what I know right now.”
Before the game, walk-on defensive lineman Karageorge, who has been missing since earlier in the week, was recognized along with 23 other Buckeyes scheduled to appear at their final game in Ohio Stadium. A police poster showing Karageorge, with the word MISSING stamped across it in vivid color, was shown on the large video board at the south end of the field.
“He’s got a great personality, one of the favorite people I’ve ever met — just an interesting guy and a big heart,” defensive tackle Michael Bennett said. “We’re hoping he comes back soon.”
Many in a crowd of 108,610 rushed the field after the final seconds ticked off. State highway patrol officers encircled the goalposts to prevent anyone from tearing them down after the 111th meeting of the rivals.