ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Dwayne Haskins did what Ohio State quarterbacks have been doing for more than a decade. He beat Michigan.
The latest victory, though, came with a bizarre twist.
Haskins replaced injured star J.T. Barrett and led the eighth-ranked Buckeyes from behind to beat the Wolverines 31-20 Saturday for their sixth straight win in a rivalry they’ve dominated no matter who’s under center.
“It was really unreal,” Haskins said.
Barrett was warming up on the sideline before kickoff when he said an unidentified male made accidental contact with his right leg, aggravating a knee injury he has played through all season.
“I remember he was wearing something gray, and he continued to walk,” Barrett said. “He got a little nervous.”
Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer was more than a little upset.
“Too many people on the sideline,” Meyer said after the game. “I’m so angry right now.”
Barrett said he will play next Saturday night when Ohio State (10-2, 8-1 Big Ten) plays in the Big Ten championship game against No. 5 Wisconsin, needing another win to bolster hopes of getting a spot in the College Football Playoff.
The Wolverines (8-4, 5-4) have lost 13 of 14 to Ohio State, the last three with coach Jim Harbaugh.
“We need to get better. That’s our mission,” he said.
Michigan was relegated to starting John O’Korn because Brandon Peters wasn’t cleared to play after having a concussion and Wilton Speight is still out with cracked vertebrae.
O’Korn, a fifth-year senior, simply didn’t make the most of the opportunity, completing fewer than half of his passes. He was picked off with about two minutes left and the Buckeyes up 24-20, heaving a pass deep to the middle of the field where only defensive back Jordan Fuller could catch it.
“That was all on me,” O’Korn said.
Mike Weber sealed it for Ohio State with a 25-yard touchdown run with 1:44 left.
Haskins took full advantage of his chance to play in the third and fourth quarters. The redshirt freshman was 6-of-7 for 94 yards and had a 22-yard run that set up J.K. Dobbins’ 1-yard touchdown that gave Ohio State a 21-20 lead late in the third quarter.
“What an introduction for the rivalry,” Buckeyes center Billy Price said.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes are in contention for a spot in the playoff, but will Barrett be able to help them win in Indianapolis to possibly advance to the playoff?
“Yeah, I’ll play next week,” he insisted.
Barrett grabbed his right knee on a run midway through the third quarter after being tackled. He limped off the field and toward the locker room before returning to watch the rest of the game from the sideline.
“I’ve played with it this whole year,” he said. “This time, it didn’t unlock for me.”
Barrett was 3-of-8 for 30 yards with a TD and ran 15 times for 67 yards and another score .
Michigan: The Wolverines can’t win 10 games for the first time in Harbaugh’s three seasons and they will lament the many missed opportunities they had against Ohio State.
O’Korn missed open receivers early in the game and late, leaving everyone on Michigan’s roster winless against Ohio State.
“I hold myself responsible for a lot of that,” he said while choking up with emotion. “I can’t imagine a worse feeling right now.”
Leading 14-0, defensive back Josh Metellus dropped Barrett’s pass that hit his hands. Barrett took advantage of getting another chance on the drive, scoring on a 21-yard run to cut Michigan’s lead to 14-7 in the second quarter.
Inside the numbers
Ohio State: The Buckeyes lost 6 yards in the first quarter and finished with 226 with Dobbins accounting for 101 yards rushing and a TD on just 15 carries.
Michigan: O’Korn was 17-of-32 for 195 yards and had a 3-yard TD pass to Sean McKeon that put the Wolverines up 14-0 early in the second quarter. The Wolverines may have had more success if they had O’Korn hand off more often. Chris Evans had 67 yards on 11 carries and Karan Higdon had 55 yards rushing on 11 attempts.
Ohio State: The last time Ohio State faced Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship with a backup quarterback, Cardale Jones led the Buckeyes to a 59-0 victory in 2014 that put them in the playoff.
Michigan: The Wolverines may end up in the Holiday Bowl.