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Big Ten: Bigger scare than usual for Ohio St.

©Associated Press
November 17, 2002

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Battered but still unbeaten after another scare on the road, Ohio State is one win away from playing for its first national title since 1968.

And as usual, Michigan is standing in the way.

"It's the biggest game of the year. It's our archrival, and if we win we go to the Fiesta Bowl," linebacker Cie Grant said after Saturday's 23-16 overtime win over Illinois.

The Buckeyes nearly lost that rare opportunity as the Illini, whose chance to spoil Ohio State's perfect season fell short when Illinois quarterback Jon Beutjer had his final pass batted down at the line of scrimmage in overtime.

Ohio State won on an 8-yard touchdown run by Maurice Hall.

The Buckeyes improved to 12-0 for the first time, but to get to the national championship game on Jan. 3, they'll have to beat Michigan in Columbus this Saturday. The Wolverines ended OSU's bids for perfect seasons in 1995 and '96.

"We're going to get focused on Michigan, because we know if we lose that, none of this means anything," said OSU receiver Michael Jenkins, a former Tampa Leto standout who caught a 50-yard touchdown to give the Buckeyes a 13-10 lead in the third quarter.

Illinois sent the game to OT tied at 16 when John Gockman kicked 48-yard field goal on the last play of regulation. Illinois came close to sending the game to a second overtime but Walter Young bobbled a third-down pass as he went out of bounds in the end zone.

* * *

IOWA 45, MINNESOTA 21: The visiting Hawkeyes clinched at least a share of their first conference title since 1990 and reached 11 wins for the first time.

Brad Banks threw for two touchdowns and ran for two and Fred Russell ran for 194 yards as the Hawkeyes forced six turnovers. Jermelle Lewis added 101 yards rushing for the Hawkeyes, undefeated in conference play for the first time since 1922.

"It was really a special win," said Kirk Ferentz, 11-24 in three seasons as Iowa's coach before this year. "A great day for our team, staff and coaches and for the entire state of Iowa."

Iowa wins the Big Ten outright and qualifies for the Rose Bowl if No. 2 Ohio State loses to Michigan at home next week. Iowa and Ohio State do not meet.

The Hawkeyes, whose only loss was to Iowa State of the Big 12 on Sept. 14, won't play again for 61/2 weeks and their bowl fate might not be decided until the final BCS standings are released Dec. 8.

"We'll take anything right now," Banks said. "We'll just see how things weigh out."

Asad Abdul-Khaliq was 18-for-30 passing for 205 yards, two interceptions and two short touchdown runs for the Golden Gophers.

MICHIGAN 21, WISCONSIN 14: The host Wolverines made sure they didn't ruin their season before trying to spoil Ohio State's.

Chris Perry ran for a career-high 175 yards and a touchdown for the Wolverines, who visit Ohio State next week trying to wreck their rival's national championship hopes.

"It makes it a huge game," Michigan's Marlin Jackson said. "We can spoil their whole season, and last year they beat us, so it would be a great win for us."

Michigan's Markus Curry broke up a potential TD pass to Jonathan Orr in the end zone with 1:29 left. Wisconsin's final pass was incomplete.

After the Badgers tied the score at 14 late in the second quarter, Michigan went ahead 21-14 on its first drive of the second half on John Navarre's 8-yard score to Braylon Edwards.

PENN ST. 58, INDIANA 25: In a season of sensational performances, Larry Johnson topped himself.

Johnson gained 327 rushing yards, scored a career-high four times and broke a 31-year-old school record for the visiting Nittany Lions.

He broke his single-game school rushing mark for the third time this season and broke PSU's season record in the second quarter. Lydell Mitchell's mark of 1,567 yards was set in 1971; Johnson has 1,736.

Yet when asked if he should be regarded as one of the best PSU, Johnson was modest.

"No. You could ask me that 100 times and I'd say the same thing," he said.

Johnson scored on runs of 69, 43, 1 and 41 yards and outgained Indiana 327-275. He opened the third quarter with a 1-yard TD run and added a 41-yarder early in the fourth quarter to make it 45-25.

PURDUE 45, MICHIGAN ST. 42: Kyle Orton threw a 40-yard touchdown to John Standeford with three minutes left for the visiting Boilermakers. A win next week against Indiana would make Purdue bowl eligible for the sixth straight year. Orton, who came off the bench to lead a 24-14 win over MSU last season, replaced Brandon Kirsch on fourth-and-8 and threw the winning score. Kirsch left after a hard hit by Mike Labinjo. The Boilermakers gained 307 yards rushing, 555 total.

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