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Big-play Buckeyes roll on
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published November 19, 2006
[AP file photo]
Ohio State fans celebrate on the field Saturday after their team beat No. 2 Michigan.
Ohio State 42
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Troy Smith and Ohio State did it all, overwhelming Michigan with offense, winning the Big Ten title and streaking into the national title game.
The top-ranked Buckeyes put their dazzling speed on display Saturday with a barrage of big plays - and they needed every one to beat an inspired Michigan team 42-39.
The first No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in this storied rivalry was played a day after Michigan lost feisty former coach Bo Schembechler, who died Friday. The teams couldn't have honored his memory with a better game, although it wasn't the type he and Woody Hayes played when they battled for a decade.
"There were a lot of good playmakers out there today," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "It was a fastbreak game the whole way."
The Wolverines and Buckeyes may have another shot at each other. Depending on how the BCS standings fall, Michigan (11-1, 7-1) can still make it to the title game in Arizona.
Two defenses that came in allowing 20 points per game combined were unable to stop each other's attack. It was the second-highest scoring game in the 103-game series, which dates to 1897; the most points scored were 86 in 1902, the fourth meeting, which Michigan won 86-0.
This one was surely more entertaining.
Smith played a near-perfect first half and finished 29-for-41 for 316 yards, a third straight magical performance against Michigan that might have locked up the Heisman Trophy for him.
And while Smith and the Buckeyes twice jumped out to 14-point leads, the Wolverines wouldn't stay down, led by Mike Hart's 142 yards and three scores.
When Smith tossed his fourth touchdown pass - a 13-yarder to Brian Robiskie with 5:38 left on a drive aided by a Michigan roughing-the-passer penalty on a third-and-long incomplete pass - Ohio State (12-0, 8-0) was up 42-31, but it still could not rest.
Chad Henne connected with Tyler Ecker for a 16-yard TD and with Steve Breaston on a two-point conversion to make it 42-39 with 2:16 to go. Michigan's onside kick was caught by Ohio State's Ted Ginn Jr., and all that was left was for Ohio State to run out the clock.
Tressel's blazing Buckeyes will play for the national title for the second time since the 2002 season in Arizona on Jan. 8. Who they will play will be determined in the next two weeks.
Michigan made quite a good case to be that team.
Though that's probably little solace for Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, a Schembechler protege, who has now lost five of six to Tressel and Ohio State.
"We gave up too many big plays," Carr said. "Those are mistakes, in a game like this, in any game, that will get you beat."
A video tribute to Schembechler, an Ohio State alum, was shown on the scoreboard before kickoff and the crowd of 105,708 responded with a respectful ovation.
Ohio State turned the ball over three times but made up for it by gouging Michigan's defense - a unit that was allowing 231 yards - for 503 yards. Chris Wells had a 52-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Antonio Pittman broke one for 56 yards in the third to make it 35-24.