ANN ARBOR, Mich. — With a national championship still a possibility for Ohio State but nothing but pride at stake for Michigan, it appeared that the annual rivalry might lose a little heat Saturday.
Obviously, that is not how the players viewed the situation. Before the game began, police had to get between players in the runway that separates the locker rooms, and after a Wolverine kickoff seconds into the second quarter, a fight broke out.
Three players were ejected: starting guard Marcus Hall and all-purpose speed back Dontre Wilson for Ohio State plus Michigan reserve linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone, who apparently tore off Wilson’s helmet. Hall threw a punch at backup defensive end Keith Heitzman.
Hall let Michigan fans know how he felt about them as he walked into the tunnel, raising a finger on each hand in an obscene gesture. Hall was replaced by redshirt freshman Pat Elflein.
“I’ll take care of that,” coach Urban Meyer said of Hall’s show of anger.
In explaining the altercation, quarterback Braxton Miller said: “Dontre is a little guy, a freshman, getting shoved and pushed. I was running out there to try and help him out as a leader, and a Michigan guy tried to take my head off. I’m not going to have that.”
Apparently, trash talk in the first quarter brought emotions to a peak.
“The first quarter we were out of our game, talking too much, people getting in fights,” linebacker Ryan Shazier said. “That’s not us. We were trying to do too much talking and not enough playing. That’s why they got as much as they did on us.”
Added tight end Jeff Heuerman: “We didn’t play our style of football in the first half. There was too much jawing. I think we got back to our style after that, smashing people in the mouth.”
According to a report by ESPN, which quoted a Big Ten source, league operatives can review video of such incidents in addition to reading the report turned in by game officials. If a player takes a swing at another player, a suspension is possible.
“I don’t think so,” Meyer said when asked if he thought he might lose one or more players for the Big Ten Championship game against Michigan State on Saturday. “One of my guys talked to the officials.”
The Wolverines tied the score at 35 with five minutes left in the fourth quarter, but there was no panic among the Buckeyes, who retook the lead less than three minutes later.
“That’s what we’re trained for,” Heuerman said, “for the hard moments.”