Did a botched fake punt change game for Ohio State football against Michigan?

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Perhaps none of Ryan Day's game management from Ohio State's second straight loss to Michigan has garnered more attention than a situation that unfolded midway through the third quarter.
While the Buckeyes faced fourth- and fifth-place finishes and four points behind at the Wolverines' 43-yard line, Day opted against leaving the offense on the field to attempt a first down.
The decision appeared quarterback C.J. Initially angering Stroud as he looked to the touchline and waved the punt team off. They recovered from 25-yard penalties early in their drive. What were a few more?
"I really wanted to try," Stroud said after the game. "I'm still one of the best players in the country and I feel like I can make this game. In moments like that, I want the ball. But I have to trust Coach Day and I do.”
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On second glance, it looks like the Buckeyes are actually trying, albeit with a little trick.
After being flagged for a fast violation on the first punt attempt, the unit lined up at Michigan's 48-yard line in fourth and tenth places with three upbacks positioned behind the line of scrimmage. In order from left to right ahead of punter Jesse Mirco were linebacker Tommy Eichenberg, fullback Mitch Rossi, and tight end Cade Stover.
The ball seems poised to go to Rossi, who moves to the left as if trying to follow a block from Eichenberg and take plenty of open turf. On the right, Stover lets three Michigan players in from punt coverage to rush Mirco, leaving fewer Wolverines in the field.
Neither of them protect Mirco, who caught a high snap and veered off a nearly blocked punt. It resulted in a touchback.
Had the ball gone to Rossi, he likely would have scored a first down with enough opening on the left side of the ball, enabling Ohio State to reclaim the lead and move deeper into Michigan's territory.
Momentum may have shifted back towards the Buckeyes.
Instead, it remains another missed opportunity from Saturday. After capturing the ball, the Wolverines made their longest scoring drive of the game, which lasted into the early part of the fourth quarter and stretched for 80 yards for nearly eight minutes. A 3-yard touchdown run by quarterback J.J. McCarthy, who capped the series, gave them a 31-20 lead.
11/26/2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes punter Jesse Mirco (29) goes over wide-open tight end Mitch Rossi (34) during the second half of the NCAA football game against the Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State lost 45-23. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch
Day addressed the decision after the game, saying that a punt was called as if to give the Buckeyes better field position. He called it the right thing.
"In games like this, you have to play the field position game," Day said.
He didn't mention if it was written as a fake Kahn instead.
Here's what a false punt was supposed to be for OSU in 3Q going down 24-20 while Stroud was about to try. Probably a TD if the long snapper snaps it to Rossi like he's supposed to. Might have changed the game. Could, would. But changes my impression of Day's actions. pic.twitter.com/5DvpW1QL5n
— Ross Fulton (@RossRFulton) November 28, 2022
A day later, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said the Wolverines were lucky the fake punt never went off.
In a webinar for Big Ten championship game coaches, he said they're "so lucky."
"No one on the field saw it and they caught us off guard," Harbaugh said. "I think their snapper caught the wrong guy, caught the punter not the counterfeiter, but it would have been a huge win. We were very lucky. They actually wanted it and could have pulled off a big fourth down conversion.”
Joey Kaufman covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Reach out to him at jkaufman@dispatch.com or on Twitter @joeyrkaufman.
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This article originally appeared in The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio State Football botched a fake punt against Michigan

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