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Published: Monday, 11/16/2009

Taking a peek back in time

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Wikipedia, perhaps the most revolutionary yet irresponsible Web site available for obtaining information, lists two historic sporting events from Nov. 22, 2003.

One of them - the first NHL game played outdoors - has gone on to be a repeated experience. The other has not.

Come Saturday, 2,191 days will have passed since the last time the University of Michigan was licensed to boast of a victory over its rival Ohio State. Had you put away one quarter every day since then you'd have a milk jug overflowing with $547.75 to spend on sweet seats for Saturday's noon kickoff at the Big House.

In actuality, six years is a relatively small window in this famous rivalry that dates back to 1897. The Blade began its operation long before then, meaning we've been on site for most of the 105 installments of The Game. So entertain us while we thumb through the annals to see what exactly happened on that historic 2003 afternoon in Ann Arbor.

It's the 100th game between these teams and OSU is 100 percent guaranteed of receiving an invitation to defend its national title should it defeat the Wolverines for a third straight year. The Wolverines, in victory, will clinch a Rose Bowl berth unless they make a considerable leap from ninth to second in the BCS standings. With both teams coming in with one Big Ten loss, the outcome of this game will determine the outright league champion. The last outright conference title for UM came during its national championship season in 1997. OSU last won it outright in 1984. The Wolverines were co-champs in 2000 and the Buckeyes were co-champs in 2002.

Michigan quarterback John Navarre threw for 278 yards to help the Wolverines win the outright Big Ten title. Michigan quarterback John Navarre threw for 278 yards to help the Wolverines win the outright Big Ten title.
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Much like a year ago, OSU's suffocating defense has covered for a feeble offense that has lacked punch without star back Maurice Clarett, who was dismissed from the team before the year for falsifying a police report - a trivial transgression compared to the weapon crimes he committed three years later that currently have him imprisoned in Toledo. Far from dominant, the fourth-ranked Buckeyes under third-year coach Jim Tressel have weathered a few scares to build a 10-1 record, its only blemish being a seven-point loss at Wisconsin in October. Efficient yet underwhelming senior Craig Krenzel is at the controls of OSU's offense, which has scored 20 or fewer points five times. Eventual first-round draft picks Chris Gamble and Will Smith head a defense that permits just 50 rushing yards per game.

The Wolverines, ranked one spot below their opponent at No. 5 in the AP poll, have won five straight after a three-point loss at Iowa in early October moved the Wolverines' record to 4-2. Ninth-year coach Lloyd Carr employs a diverse offense averaging 37 points per game. Senior quarterback John Navarre has enjoyed his finest season, spreading completions to Braylon Edwards, Jason Avant, and soon-to-be Big Ten freshman of the year Steve Breaston. An offensive line that hasn't missed a start all year has been instrumental in the 15 rushing touchdowns and nearly 1,500 yards amassed by senior tailback Chris Perry. Guys like Pierre Woods, Leon Hall, Grant Bowman, Carl Diggs, and Marlin Jackson headline a defense allowing fewer than 16 points per contest.

An NCAA record crowd of 112,118 witnesses UM hog more than seven minutes of the quarter on an 18-play drive. Proving the roots of the Wildcat formation trace to before 2008, offensive coordinator Terry Malone instructs Breaston to line up at quarterback on third-and-goal and the freshman evades A.J. Hawk for a three-yard touchdown. OSU's ensuing drive ends with a punt, and UM takes over at its 26.

UM 7, OSU 0

Showing its offense isn't only methodical, UM uses just three plays to add to its lead with 13:33 left on the clock. On second down from its 36, Navarre finds Edwards open at midfield, and the junior wearing the esteemed No. 1 jersey breaks tackles by Will Allen and Nate Salley and goes the distance for a 64-yard score.

"We missed a tackle or two," Tressel said after the game. "When you miss a tackle on guys who can go, they go."

OSU can't convert a third-and-1 at midfield and punts. A sloppy possession follows as the Buckeyes rack up 30 penalty yards and UM 20. It ends beautifully, though - at least for the home team - when Navarre and Edwards hook up on the 10th play for another score, this time on third-and-9 when Edwards beats Gamble on a post route for a 23-yard TD to put the Wolverines ahead by three touchdowns.

Krenzel, the molecular genetics major, develops the right formula on OSU's next possession, playing a hand in all 81 yards - 69 on 8 of 9 passing; 12 on one carry. Facing a seven-man blitz on third-and-2 from UM's 8, Krenzel lobs a pass over Jeremy LeSueur and Santonio Holmes comes down with it giving the Buckeyes their first points with 44 seconds remaining.

Content with a 14-point lead, Carr lets the remaining seconds trickle down before halftime. Heading into the lockerroom, Carr is approached by ABC sideline reporter Todd Harris and this exchange ensues:

Harris: How come you didn't go with anything when you had two timeouts left in the half?

Carr: Why would you ask a dumb question like that?

Halftime stats: Navarre, 12 of 19 passing for 179 yards; Edwards, four catches for 103 yards.

UM 21, OSU 7

Perry wears a wrist band on his left arm with the handwritten message "MOM" as an honor to his mother, Irene Perry, who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Irene spent some of the afternoon listening to the game on a radio as she sat under a tree outside of the stadium.

"She serves as my inspiration all the time," he said. "I wouldn't be in the position I'm in if it wasn't for her."

And the Wolverines wouldn't be in the position of 28-7 if not for Perry's 30-yard TD run on the first drive of the half in which he shakes Salley at the 20 and trucks Dustin Fox at the goal line.

After squandering an opportunity upon reaching UM's 28, the Buckeyes force the Wolverines to punt from their end zone and take over with 43 yards in front of them. Krenzel scrambles 14 yards to offset an earlier holding call and then finds Jenkins for a 26-yard gain to UM's 13. Two plays later Holmes gets a step on Hall and hauls in a pass at the back of the end zone with 6:55 to go. Holmes, a freshman from Florida, was demoted from the starting lineup as punishment for his misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge the week before. On this day, though, he can't seem to be apprehended.

"Our seniors have been talking to me about being a playmaker," he said. "I tried. We were making the best of what the defense made available to us and we were fighting for our season."

A holding penalty negated an 86-yard touchdown reception by Edwards earlier in the quarter that would have put UM ahead 35-7.

UM 28, OSU 14

With Krenzel removed from the game with a right (throwing) shoulder injury, Scott McMullen leads OSU on an 11 play, 93-yard scoring drive. A 40-yard reception by Holmes sets up Lydell Ross' two-yard scoring run.

Things get interesting when Gamble intercepts Navarre at OSU's 36. But the Buckeyes don't benefit, and UM accepts a punt at the 12. On third down from his 46, Navarre hits seldom-used Tyler Ecker for a 30-yard gain. Perry follows with gains of nine and 15 yards, the latter which he goes untouched around the left side for a touchdown with 7:55 remaining in the game. With Krenzel back, OSU is unable to chip away at the two-touchdown deficit and sees its national title aspirations fall. Meanwhile, the Wolverines are headed to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl.

"This is an awesome feeling," said a tearful Navarre. "I am more proud of the team that I play for than I have been for anything else in my life."

Final stats: Navarre, 21 of 32 passing for 278 yards; Edwards, seven catches for 130 yards; Perry, 31 carries for 154 yards, five catches for 55 yards. Krenzel, 20 of 33 passing for 221 yards; Michael Jenkins, nine catches for 132 yards; Holmes, eight catches for 121 yards.

UM 35, OSU 21

Perry finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting, and UM fell to co-national champion Southern California 28-14 in the Rose Bowl, finishing the year ranked sixth. OSU survived two fourth-quarter touchdowns by Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl before prevailing 35-28. The Buckeyes finished the season No. 4, two spots ahead of the Wolverines.

Contact Ryan Autullo at:

rautullo@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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