COLUMBUS -- Cleveland natives Chris Worley Jr. and Jerome Baker made several key defensive plays that helped the second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes clinch a 30-27 victory over the No. 3-ranked University of Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium.
Baker collected 15 tackles and an interception, which he returned for a 22-yard gain and helped set up Ohio State’s second touchdown drive of the game, and Worley added 11 stops, including five solo efforts for the Buckeyes.
“Throughout the game, there’s ups and downs,” said Worley, a junior linebacker from Glenville High School. “Before we played last week’s game against those green and white guys (Michigan State), you’re going to see who everyone is within these last two games. In games like this, games like last week, you separate the grown men from the boys.”
Baker added, “We just do our jobs, go out every series and do our jobs. Malik (Hooker), that guy gets so many picks. That’s what he does.”
The Buckeyes trailed for much of Saturday’s game, but scored 23 of the final 33 points to seal the win over Michigan and remain in the conversation for a berth into the College Football Playoff for the second time in three years despite not playing in the Big Ten Conference Championship Game on Saturday.
“I knew it was going to go down to the wire because I knew our offense wasn’t going to continue to play that bad and the defense would make a couple plays to put us back in position,” Worley said. “The biggest thing I tried to instill in the rest of the defense was, ‘Keep our heads up. Control what we can control’ because before you knew it, we were back in the game.”
Although the Buckeyes finished with an 8-1 conference record, they will not play for the Big Ten Championship, as they lost, head-to-head, to Penn State during the regular season.
However, according to Baker, a sophomore product of Benedictine High School, the key will be moving onto whatever the next challenge it is.
“When we get our next mission, we’re going to execute,” Baker said.
Following the win over the Wolverines, thousands of the record-crowd of 110,045 fans stormed the field to celebrate, and that is a moment both Worley and Baker will remember forever.
“With what the game had at stake, what the game was, going against those guys up north, to put all that into perspective, it’s a dream come true,” Worley said. “I’m truly blessed. This team is truly blessed, and the only thing we can do is thank God.”
Baker added, “Our fans, they’re unbelievable. I thank them after every game, but that was something special. When they came on the field, I tried to take as many pictures as I could because they definitely helped us get this win.
“I prayed. I saw the fans, and I was like, ‘Wow.’ I just looked to see if I could find my parents, my sister, my uncle. I found them, took some pictures, took a lot of pictures, tried to make it through and get up to the locker room. There were a lot of hugs, a lot of ‘Good games,’ a lot of love.”