COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—Troy Smith barely got on the field for Ohio State earlier this season. After the Buckeyes’ biggest game of the year, he had trouble getting off of it.
With former high school teammates Smith and Ted Ginn Jr. leading the way, the Buckeyes pushed their troubles into the background for at least a day with a stunning 37-21 upset of No. 7 Michigan on Saturday.
“I’m pretty much at a loss for words,” said Smith, the quarterback who didn’t play in three of the first five Ohio State games after being beaten out for the starting job in preseason. “It’s unbelievable. Coming off the field, I nearly got my neck broken by fans.”
Smith was swarmed by thousands of fans who flooded onto the field, dancing and singing and hugging—some apparently a little too tightly.
He ran for 145 yards and Ginn set school and Big Ten records with his fourth punt return touchdown. The two left after the game to catch Glenville High School’s playoff game. Both starred for the Tarblooders before choosing Ohio State.
The loss kept the Wolverines (9-2, 7-1) from clinching an outright Big Ten title, but the Wolverines are still going to the Rose Bowl thanks to Iowa. The Hawkeyes (9-2, 7-1) beat Wisconsin 30-7 to dash the Badgers’ Rose Bowl hopes. Michigan and Iowa will share the Big Ten title, but the Wolverines’ victory over the Hawkeyes sends them to Pasadena, Calif., for a second straight season.
“When you win the championship, you don’t have to apologize,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “You don’t have to hang your head. Are we disappointed? You’re damned right we are.”
This is only third time the loser of the Michigan-Ohio State game has gone to the Rose Bowl. Michigan did it in 1982 and Ohio State in 1996
Ohio State’s fourth season under coach Jim Tressel has been a tough one. The Buckeyes started the Big Ten season with three straight losses and plummeted out of the rankings. Just when things started looking better on the field, problems arose off.
Two weeks ago former Ohio State star Maurice Clarett accused Tressel, his staff and Buckeyes boosters of giving him and other players improper benefits. An NCAA investigation is about to begin.
But it’s never a bad day in Columbus when Ohio State beats Michigan.
“This was important because it’s Ohio State-Michigan,” said Tressel, now 3-1 against the Buckeyes’ archrivals. “(Former Ohio State) Coach Earle Bruce always says that if the Ohio State coach wins against Michigan he can walk down the main streets of Columbus. If he loses, he’d better walk the back alleys. It’s that important.”
Smith had never run for more than 62 yards nor passed for more 192 since relieving the injured Justin Zwick in midseason. On a day where little went wrong for Ohio State (7-4, 4-4), he carried 18 times and came up just one yard short of tying a school record for yards rushing by a quarterback. He also completed 13 of 23 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns without an interception or a sack.
“He killed us throwing the ball and especially running the ball,” Michigan defensive back Marlin Jackson said.
Ginn, the freshman wide-out with the sprinter’s gait, gathered a punt at his own 18 midway through the third quarter with the Buckeyes up 20-14. He broke a tackle and went into overdrive for an 82-yard touchdown. His fourth return for a score this year matched the NCAA mark.
“I saw the guy, so I had to make something happen real quick,” Ginn said. “Once you see a touchdown, there’s no need to make a move. You just use your speed.”
Smith said of Ginn, “He’s been like the sparkplug in our car. He got us going.”
After the Wolverines scored on two impressive second-quarter drives, Ohio State’s defense dominated for most of the rest of the day. Chad Henne was intercepted twice, once at the 1 by Ashton Youboty with the Wolverines still in the game.
Michigan, averaging 165 yards rushing a game, was limited to 71. Henne’s first-year running mate in the backfield, Big Ten rushing leader Mike Hart, finished with just 61 yards on 18 carries.
Henne completed 27 of 54 passes for 328 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. Braylon Edwards had 11 catches for 172 yards.
The Buckeyes struck first on the game’s fifth play from scrimmage, Smith heaving a long pass that Anthony Gonzalez caught before streaking to the end zone past a fallen Ernest Shazor for 68 yards.
Michigan came right back with Henne connecting with Jason Avant on a 4-yard scoring pass. Hart’s 1-yard plunge made it 14-7.
Ohio State then regained the momentum by scoring 13 straight points in the second quarter, with Smith burrowing in on a 2-yard keeper for a touchdown to get the lead for good.
“We always hope we’ll play our best game against Michigan,” Tressel said. “Offensively, defensively and special units, we were in concert. Everybody had a part in it.”