Friday, December 13, 2002
No. 18 Michigan 38, No. 12 Ohio State 26
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Michigan finally made a late lead last.
Drew Henson threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score as No. 18 Michigan made a 19-point lead stand up in a 38-26 victory over No. 12 Ohio State on Saturday, giving the Wolverines a share of the Big Ten title.
Michigan had lost three games this year after leading going into the fourth quarter -- each by seven or fewer points.
The Buckeyes (8-3, 5-3), who could have tied for the league title with a win, scored the first nine points and the last 14 to make it interesting. But Michigan stopped Ohio State tailback Jonathan Wells at the Buckeyes' 18 on a fourth-and-1 run up the middle with just over three minutes left to seal the outcome.
Henson, who completed 14 of 25 passes for 303 yards with one interception, then scored on a 1-yard bootleg with 1:18 remaining.
Michigan (8-3, 6-2) took a 31-12 lead into the fourth quarter on a 17-point flurry in the third quarter. David Terrell caught his second TD pass of the day from Henson, Hayden Epstein kicked a 25-yard field goal, and Julius Curry sped 50 yards after intercepting Steve Bellisari's pass.
As in all three of the losses, Michigan played conservatively, choosing to run Anthony "A-Train" Thomas on first and second downs and then relying on Henson to pass against the Big Ten's top pass rush. Needing 166 yards to become Michigan's career rushing leader, Thomas was limited to 60 yards on 29 attempts.
The Buckeyes almost made them pay for that approach, with Wells scoring his second touchdown on a 2-yard run to cut the lead to 31-19 and Bellisari hitting Ken-Yon Rambo on an 18-yard pass to draw Ohio State to 31-26 with 7:03 remaining.
After gaining 19 yards on Henson's screen pass to Thomas -- the same combination that hooked up on a 70-yard connection for Michigan's first score -- the Wolverines were forced to punt.
Ohio State gained 9 yards on three plays and coach John Cooper elected to go for it on fourth down. But on a deep handoff from Bellisari, Wells ran into linebackers Victor Hobson and Larry Foote and noseguard Eric Wilson.
The game was played in cold weather and snow flurries before a record crowd of 98,568 in expanded Ohio Stadium.
Cooper's record fell to 2-10-1 against Michigan as Ohio State's coach. It was the eighth time as head coach of the Buckeyes that he his team has lost an outright title or a share of the Big Ten title with a loss to Michigan.
Michigan won for the fifth time in the last six years in the series, all under coach Lloyd Carr. Four of those victories came with Ohio State having the better record.
The game started out as if that would all change. In the opening 5 minutes, Ohio State had two fumbles, threw an interception and had a punt blocked -- and still led 9-0.
Nate Clements took the opening kickoff, faked a handoff on the reverse, and went 80 yards before stepping out of bounds.
Four plays later, on fourth and inches from the Michigan 11, Wells bolted up the middle for the touchdown. Dan Stultz then shanked the extra-point wide left.
On Michigan's first possession, Henson's pass for Terrell bounced off the receiver's helmet and ricocheted to Ohio State cornerback David Mitchell, who returned the ball 21 yards to the 15 before fumbling. Teammate Donnie Nickey fell on the loose ball.
After Ohio State settled for Stultz's 37-yard field goal for a 9-0 lead, Henson tossed TD passes on the Wolverines' next two possessions.
The first covered 70 yards on a simple screen that Thomas turned into a score by breaking two tackles and outrunning two defenders to the end zone.
Ohio State recovered both of the fumbles. Michigan's Brandon Williams blocked B.J. Sander's punt, but Ohio State's Joe Cooper picked up the loose ball and rumbled for a first down. On the very next play, Bellisari threw a pass directly to Michigan linebacker Larry Foote.
Three plays after Foote's interception, Henson rolled right and then rifled a bullet to Terrell, who cut from the right corner back to the middle of the end zone to beat two defenders.
The Buckeyes gambled on a fake punt early in the second quarter, Sander's pass was dropped in the open field by Donnie Nickey. Michigan also faked a field goal, but backup quarterback John Navarre was stopped short after gaining five yards.
Bellisari was 21-of-47 passes for 251 yards with three interceptions.
|Michigan celebrates a win, but Northwestern's win erases the Wolverines from the Rose Bowl picture.|