COLUMBUS - It had been awhile since anyone had slammed the door on Michigan phenom Mike Hart.
The freshman running back established a school record by rushing for 150 or more yards in five straight games entering yesterday's fray with archrival Ohio State.
But the Buckeyes held him to 61 net yards on 18 carries, and that was a big reason OSU posted a 37-21 upset at Ohio Stadium.
Part of the story was that an 82-yard punt return by Ted Ginn Jr. gave Ohio State a two-touchdown lead midway through the third quarter and forced Michigan into a pass-first mode.
"Ginn's punt return changed the complexion of the game," said Michigan coach Lloyd Carr.
But the other part of the story was Ohio State's defensive effort.
"We hit a few plays early," Carr said, referring to Hart getting about half of his yardage on UM's first two possessions of the game, both touchdown drives. "But Ohio State has a big, physical front. Their linebackers are very good and they always seemed to have eight guys in the box until it was third-and-long."
One of those crowding the line was always a safety and, as UM quarterback Chad Henne said, "It made it so there was nowhere to run."
Hart owned the Big Ten lead in rushing and all-purpose yards entering the game. He had been averaging 131 yards per game on the ground.
"Ohio State ran a lot of stunts and blitzes and we made a lot of mental mistakes," said UM senior center David Baas. "We stumbled on offense and we never recovered."
SAME RESULT: Henne became the third true freshman quarterback to start for Michigan against Ohio State, and he suffered the same fate as his predecessors.
Rick Leach lost to the Buckeyes 21-14 in 1975 and Rich Hewlitt was on the short end of an 18-15 decision in 1979. Both of those games were in Ann Arbor.
Henne lost despite throwing for 328 yards and two touchdowns. His 27 completions went to seven receivers. Michigan drove for TDs on its first two possessions, with the first coming on a four-yard toss from Henne to Jason Avant.
But the Wolverines accomplished little offensively over the next 2 1/2 quarters.
"It seemed we had the right plays called the first couple series, but they just brought more pressure and created some problems," Henne said. "They were bringing guys from everywhere and we just got a little confused."
SECURITY: Police inspected the bags of each Michigan player as they entered the stadium yesterday, and athletic director Bill Martin wasn't happy about it.
"We're walking to the locker room and were met by Ohio State patrolmen," Martin said. "They said we couldn't go in until they searched our bags. I've never had that happen before."
Ohio State spokesman Steve Snapp said the bags of all visiting teams are inspected as they enter the stadium - as are the bags of the OSU players.
Snapp said the U.S. Homeland Security Department has identified Ohio Stadium as one of the top 10 terrorist targets in the country.
RELIEF: It has been a tough couple weeks for Ohio State's football program in the aftermath of allegations of improper benefits by former running back Maurice Clarett. It was enough to bring an NCAA investigator to campus last Monday.
Coach Jim Tressel was asked what yesterday's win meant in light of all that.
"We've got 112 players, I think, and 15 or 20 coaches, strength guys and academic guys and all those kind of things ... and they've all worked hard and you feel great for them because you feel, at least for this day, that everything's just right," he said.
KICKING IT: Ohio State had first-and-goal at the Michigan 1-yard line on two straight possessions during the second quarter, but managed only a 21-yard field goal by Mike Nugent.
"When we didn't make that [first] fourth-down touchdown attempt, I felt very confident that we were going to get it back in good field position because I sensed our defense was playing well," said Tressel, who tried to play up-the-middle power football at the goal-line on both possessions. "And I felt that we would score the next time. Unfortunately, it was just a field goal."
NUGENT NO. 3: Nugent added a second field goal, this one from 42 yards, on the last play of the first half to give the Buckeyes a 20-14 lead.
Nugent, who added a 48-yarder later in the game, is 20-for-23 this season, including 11-of-12 from 40 yards or longer.
His 13 points yesterday boosted his career point total to 341, good for third all-time at OSU behind Pete Johnson (348 points, 1973-76) and Dan Stultz (342, 1997-2000).
BUCKEYE BITS: The crowd of 105,456 was the second-largest in Ohio Stadium history behind the 105,539 who witnessed the OSU-Michigan game in 2002. ... After Michigan had pulled to within 34-21 early in the fourth quarter, OSU went three-and-out on its next possession. But Kyle Turano uncorked a career-long 71-yard punt with little, if any, wind in his favor to restore the Buckeyes' field-position advantage. ... Ohio State's 99-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter was its longest since a 98-yard scoring drive against Toledo in 1998. ... The OSU offensive line allowed zero sacks by a Michigan defense for the first time since 1990. ... QB Troy Smith's 386 yards of total offense ranks third all-time behind 412 by Art Schlichter vs. Florida State in 1981 and 388 by Joe Germaine at Penn State in 1997. ... Cornerback Ashton Youboty had his fourth interception of the season and added four pass break-ups. ... Linebacker A.J. Hawk had 11 tackles to bring his season total to 136. ... Safety Donte Whitner started less than two weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, and had his first career sack.
UM NOTES: Receiver Braylon Edwards caught 11 passes for 172 yards and one touchdown. It was the third time he had surpassed the 100-yard mark against Ohio State. The senior moved into third place on the Big Ten's career receiving yardage list with 3,432 yards and finished the regular season with school marks for receptions (870) and receiving yards (1,310) ... Free safety Willis Barringer from Toledo Scott missed the game with a left-knee injury. ... Senior cornerback Marlin Jackson made his 38th career start in the secondary, tying Brad Cochran (1982-85) for the school record. ... Linebacker LaMarr Woodley set a career high with 12 tackles, including seven solo hits. ... Linebacker Lawrence Reid added a season-high 10 tackles.
Contact Dave Hackenberg at: email@example.com or 419-724-6398.39.96196 -83.00298