Santonio Holmes grabs a TD pass in front of Michigan's Marlin Jackson, capping a 12-play, 97-yard drive for Ohio State.
COLUMBUS - In the first half, Ohio State's offense ran onto the field, its back to the goal-line, the ball on its own 1-yard line.
In the second half the Buckeyes once took possession after a Michigan punt was downed at the OSU 3.
UM could not have asked for better field-position advantages, but the Wolverines' defense could not have done less with them.
"The way we have always tried to play defense at Michigan, if you have any kid of [bad] field position the odds are we are going to stop you," said UM coach Lloyd Carr. "But we couldn't stop them. Give Ohio State's players the credit. They played great today."
Indeed, the Buckeyes turned that adverse field position into touchdown drives of 99 and 97 yards, all but breaking the Wolverines' backs during yesterday's 37-21 OSU win at Ohio Stadium.
Despite accomplishing eight straight wins, a high national ranking and at least a share of the Big Ten championship, there had been indications before yesterday's game that all was not well with the Michigan defense.
In its last two wins, both at home and both against non-contenders, the Wolverines had yielded 940 yards of total offense, including 558 rushing yards. Michigan State ran for 368 yards and four touchdowns, and Northwestern managed 215 yards passing.
Those games included plays of 64, 68 and 72 yards by UM's opponents.
Ohio State didn't take long to pile on yesterday as Troy Smith connected with Tony Gonzalez for a 68-yard score on the fifth play of the game.
Smith scrambled as Michigan applied heat from front and back, double-pumped twice, and let go a bullet at the instant before being hit. Gonzalez had a step on Ernest Shazor, although the UM strong safety could hardly be blamed. ABC-TV had a clock on the play and Smith had 8.1 seconds between snap and reception, far too long to expect a defender to stay on a receiver.
So the Buckeyes were able to strike quickly, and they were also able to master the long field.
"I thought we did some great things offensively in the first quarter," said Carr, whose team led 14-7 early. "But after that Ohio State made all the big plays ... way too many big plays."
The 99-yard drive took 12 plays and 4 1/2 minutes, with a perfect third-down pass from Smith to Santonio Holmes - maybe Smith's best throw of the season - serving as the big play.
The 97-yard drive in the waning seconds of the third quarter, which was highlighted by a 46-yard scramble by Smith, took 10 plays and more than six minutes and put the Bucks up 34-14.
"Those took a lot out of us," Marlin Jackson, Michigan's best cover corner, said of OSU's two long marches. "Troy Smith did a great job. He killed us throwing it and running it. I can't remember how many times we were in man coverage and I turned around and there he was, running the ball and breaking tackles."
Smith accounted for almost 400 yards of offense, passing for 241 yards and two touchdowns and running 18 times for 145 net yards.
The Buckeyes produced more than just those two big drives - OSU had 446 yards of total offense and four individual plays accounting for 34, 42, 46 and 68 yards.
But the two long, grind-it-out drives were the killers for Michigan's defense.
"You never want to lose to Ohio State with so much on the line," Jackson said. "To come out for a game like this and not perform is really disappointing."
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.