Michigan did not lack opportunity, or talent, or coaching. They just lacked a quarterback.
The Wolverines jumped out to a 14-0 lead, held Ohio State to negative-six yards in the first quarter, got 5.5 yards per carry out of their running backs, and had receivers running wide open through the Buckeye secondary all afternoon. The defense forced JT Barrett to be a one-dimensional runner, kept OSU's star quarterback under constant pressure, and eventually knocked him out of the game with an apparent knee injury.
With Brandon Peters and Wilton Speight watching in street clothes, however, John O'Korn missed far too may of those open receivers. When including sacks, O'Korn averaged only 4.1 yards per dropback. His only turnover came at the worst possible time. With 2:47 on the clock and Michigan down four points after a missed Buckeye field goal, Kekoa Crawford settled down underneath OSU's safeties for what could've been a significant first down. O'Korn read the play differently and chucked a deep ball directly to OSU's Jordan Fuller.
"It was an option route," said O'Korn. "[Crawford] did the right thing. It's all on me."
There were plenty more reasons the Wolverines lost. The second quarter featured a momentous change in fortune when Josh Metellus let an easy inteception fall through his hands; two plays later, JT Barrett—with, perhaps, an assist from whatever official was in charge of watching Mo Hurst—scrambled 21 yards to make it 14-7.
Michigan's ensuing drive ended with a 23-yard change in field position after an illegal formation penalty negated their first attempt at a punt. KJ Hill returned the next one to midfield—again, with a potential penalty overlooked—and Barrett needed only three plays to tie the game on a 25-yard pass to Marcus Baugh.
The teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter, though Ohio State took a one-point edge thanks to a blocked extra point. That loomed large when Sean Nuernberger hit a 44-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. It loomed less large when O'Korn threw the interception.
With an average quarterback performance, Michigan wins this game. The gameplan couldn't have reasonably been better; any criticism of Harbaugh or the coaching staff about this game can be mocked with impunity. When it came down to it, Harbaugh couldn't throw the ball for his quarterback, and that proved to be the difference.
"The hardest part for me is you come here to win this game for the senior class and we couldn't do it," O'Korn said with tears in his eyes, before again putting the blame on himself. "It's the worst feeling in the world."
Better days are ahead. This one's still going to sting for a while.