ANN ARBOR - Aside from its late failure to contain Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith, the most telling factor in Michigan's loss to Ohio State yesterday was its failure to effectively run the football.
Much had to do with the season-long injuries that have plagued sophomore tailback Mike Hart, who left the game early in the second half after aggravating his nagging hamstring injury.
Michigan can also point to a plethora of injuries on its offensive line, and to the Wolverines' inability to settle on an adequate replacement in the backfield.
The bottom line was that the lack of a ground threat severely hampered UM's offensive balance, and its ability to fully capitalize on several Buckeye mistakes.
Sophomore QB Chad Henne went 25-of-36 for 223 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions, but Michigan got just 32 net yards on 24 rushes. Hart managed just 15 on nine carries.
"Offensively, we did not run the football," said Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr, who is now 1-4 head-to-head against Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel. "Of course that, in some way or another, is going to make it very difficult to win."
"If we have to pass, we have to pass," Henne said. "We passed the ball, but we should have been a little bit more balanced."
Ohio State, maligned earlier in the season for its lack of production in the same department, got 118 yards on 35 attempts, including 85 on 23 carries from sophomore tailback Antonio Pittman, who has 1,195 yards on the season.
TO GO OR NOT TO GO? Carr did not second-guess himself on his decision to pooch punt out of field-goal formation on a crucial fourth-and-4 situation from the OSU 34 with 4:18 remaining in the game.
This despite gambling successfully on fourth-and-inches from his 38 earlier in the fourth quarter. On that roll of the dice, Henne sneaked for two yards to extend the drive, which culminated in a UM field goal for a 21-12 lead.
"I didn't give any thought to it because [OSU's Josh] Huston is a great field goal kicker," Carr said of the latter play-it-safe option. "We gained  yards on that play in the exchange, which is really almost three first downs.
"They needed a field goal to win there, so I never gave that a thought. Had we gone for it and not made it, they're on the -yard line and maybe two or three first downs away from field-goal position. That was an easy call."
GOING BOWLING: After watching Ohio State rally from a 21-12 deficit for a 25-21 win in the final 6:40 yesterday, Michigan's regular season ended in disappointing fashion with a 7-4 overall record, which could have been worse. The Wolverines beat both Michigan State and Iowa on the road in overtime, and needed a TD pass with one second left on the clock to top eventual Big Ten co-champion Penn State.
The fourth loss means substantially reduced bowl-game options for Michigan, which speculation has UM making a stop in Tampa on Jan. 2 for the Outback Bowl. Other options may be the Alamo Bowl, Dec. 28 in San Antonio, or the Capital One Bowl, Jan. 2 in Orlando, Fla.
"The only thing we can do now is look forward to who we're going to play in the bowl game," UM linebacker Lamarr Woodley said, "and hopefully send our seniors out on a good note by winning that game."
ODDS AND ENDS: Adding to Michigan's injury woes, offensive guard Leo Henige sustained a fractured lower leg, according to head coach Lloyd Carr. ... With three catches against Ohio State, senior receiver Jason Avant tied Anthony Carter (1979-82) on Michigan's all-time receptions list at 161. Avant, who had a two-yard touchdown grab, has eight TDs on the season. ... Yesterday's announced crowd of 111,591 was the fourth largest in Michigan Stadium history.
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