FINDLAY - The Ohio-Michigan Border Classic brought together some of the best talent in each state. But simply lining up a bunch of top-quality athletes next to each other doesn't automatically equate to offensive success.
It took some time for both offenses to click Saturday at Donnell Stadium in the inaugural edition of the Classic. Michigan's just clicked a bit faster.
The team from up North built a 24-7 third quarter lead, then stopped a couple late Ohio chances to seal a 27-14 victory.
Michigan held a 10-7 lead at halftime, then blew things open three plays into the third.
Michigan was able to use its running game effectively against a smaller, and more fatigued Ohio roster.
Devon Spaulding busted through the Ohio defense for a 60-yard touchdown that gave Michigan some separation from their southern neighbors. After Ohio went three-and-out, Michigan again marched deep with Ian Erikson hitting paydirt from 10 yards out.
"They only had 30 players coming into the game to start with. So our game plan was to tire them out," Spaulding said. "We did a lot of motion, a lot of jet sweeps to go back to one side. We went back and forth. I believe there was one point in the game where we ran six jets back and forth. They started getting real tired because that's a long way to run especially with the speed we have in our guys.
"Once they started tiring out, we started noticing that their linebackers were starting to play a little lazy. We said alright, we're going to start running our scissor play, where we pull our guy through the hole and I follow him. That linebacker didn't get to the hole fast enough, our guard hit him, did a heck of a job. And we scored."
It took awhile for Ohio's offense to gel together. Toward the end of the first, Ohio was able to mount one solid drive, punctuated by a 40-yard pitch and catch from Grant Sherman to Marcus Whitfield that was the game's first score.
But that was the only serious threat Ohio could manage until late in the game.
"I think we could've played, me as an individual and as a team, we could've played better," said Marshon Lattimore, Ohio's offensive MVP. "It was a good day, though. Just getting out here competing."
Lattimore said part of the offense's struggles came from the time it took for everyone to get in sync with their teammates.
"Don't nobody know each other like that," he said. "We just met each other Wednesday. So you know you have to get into the feel of it fast with each other."
Mike Fell, the Lima Senior mentor who served as Ohio's head coach, said it was natural to go through some growing pains with the team coming together so quickly, but felt his team handled it well.
"You're going to have some of that but I like the way we came together as a team," Fell said. "I was real proud of these kids all week long. They built some friendships, they had a lot of fun, they worked hard they represented Ohio and that's what it's all about."
Devon Anderson hit the end zone from 28 yards out with 1:07 left in the third to get Ohio back in the game. Michigan tacked on a field goal midway through the fourth, but Ohio was able to mount a final charge.
Sherman and Lattimore helped get Ohio down to Michigan's 25 midway through the fourth, but no farther. It looked as if Ohio was able to get a score when Sherman hit Charles Holland in the corner of the end zone, but the official ruled Holland's foot was out of bounds.
Holland, from Columbus West, caught two passes for 62 yards. He will play at Tiffin University in the fall.
Ohio had two more late chances, but an interception ended one, and a fumble the other after Lattimore couldn't get the ball to a teammate after a hook-and-ladder.
Sherman was 15 for 30 for 202 yards. Lattimore caught eight passes for 85 yards. The Glenville product will attend Ohio State in the fall.
Fell said the limited time his players had to work together had its biggest effect on Sherman, and also the linemen.
"Grant had to learn a new offense that way," Fell said. "Sometimes they go the wrong way. As a quarterback you're looking to get it out there to them. A lot of these offensive lineman are big run blockers, 300-pound guys that are going to college, a lot of those are big physical guys. I thought they did pretty well for as limited time as we had."
Nilijah Ballew was named Ohio's defensive MVP. For Michigan, Spaulding took the offensive honors while Jared Wangler picked up the defensive award.
The rematch takes place next year at a site to be determined in Michigan. But until that time, bragging rights reside up North.
"Anytime I hear someone saying Ohio football is better than Michigan I'm going to say 'You want to bet?'" Spaulding said. "Then I'm going to show them this game."