|Hope dies last. (Credit: Getty Images / Gregory Shamus)|
The defense damn near did the thing. Curtis Samuel ran the width of the Horseshoe on third down and somehow still came up a yard short of the 15. Confusion reigned. Urban Meyer didn't trust his kicker (with good reason) and initially tried to just punch it on fourth and 1, then thought better of it, called a timeout, then thought better of that and sent the offense back out to try and get that yard.
That yard. For the remainder of my days, likely in spite of whatever epistemological evidence presented to the contrary, I will never fully believe that J.T. Barrett made the line to gain. The spot was generous, and there is no way that the officials, who had somehow seen fit to only reprimand Ohio State with six penalty yards for the entire game, were going to reverse that call on replay at that stadium. The next play was just the denouement. It didn't matter how, it didn't matter who, it just mattered that it was the only logical conclusion at that point.
So it's disappointing, bitterly so, and I wish I had some "Well, let's look on the bright side." notion to present this day. But I do not. Michigan played well enough to win, except for the turnovers, which is like saying I ran the marathon well except for the 12 miles I used a Segway. It's a rather large exception, one that cannot just be blithely overlooked. But I think it's worth remembering that few of us expected Wilton Speight was going to play in this game, and he was limited. Michigan did not complete a pass over 20 yards downfield. Speight not at 100% was still the best choice, but it was not necessarily enough to win. We're left with so many "not enoughs" during the course of this century. It is almost worse than the Rodriguez or Hoke eras. This team is a great team, it beat both of the Big Ten's division winners, as well as the winner of the Pac 12 South. But it couldn't win on the road, even if it was a one-point loss at the last second in one case, and a three-point loss in double overtime in the other, it's still cold comfort and it's still a pair of L's on the standings board. Ohio gets to feel superior for another year and questions remain, what ifs abound.
So I don't have the words right now, I don't know if I will ever have the words. I want there to be some grand epiphany about this result and what it means, but this just feels like a "life isn't fair" moment and sometimes the universe just needs to remind you of that fact, even if it has done so repeatedly over the course of this year. There may be a lesson someday, down the road, where the dots connect in retrospect, but I am reminded of something Nate Silver said in The Signal and the Noise, which I just finished last night:
However, the context we provide can be biased and self-serving. As Cicero warned Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, "Men may construe things, after their fashion / Clean from the purpose of the things themselves." We may focus on those signals which advance our preferred theory about the world, or might imply a more optimistic outcome.
Another edition of The Game is in the books. Some will call it a classic. I will call it over.