ANN ARBOR - A legend has been born.
Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith is carving out a nice little niche while carving up hated rival Michigan.
Smith understands that if you bludgeon the Wolverines, nothing else really matters.
And all else is forgiven.
For the second consecutive year, Smith turned Michigan's defense into mincemeat.
This time it took a stirring fourth-quarter comeback from Smith to rally the mistake-prone Buckeyes to a 25-21 victory at the Big House.
Ohio State's Troy Smith slips between Michigan's Morgan Trent, left, and Alan Branch for first down. The junior quarterback, who completed 27 of 37 passes for 300 yards, led the Buckeyes to their second straight win over the Wolverines and their fourth win in five years against UM.
Smith was superb down the stretch.
His arm was golden.
His feet were his salvation.
Smith's performance rekindled memories of Rex Kern, another No. 10 who quarterbacked the Buckeyes to the national championship in 1968.
Coach Jim Tressel may even consider trading in his old Kern jersey for a newer Smith model.
"There will be a lot of No. 10 jerseys and a lot of kids on Thanksgiving weekend trying to make those moves on a pile of leaves," Tressel said.
Smith's effort was indeed special.
He started strong, hitting nine of his first 10 passes, and finished strong, completing nine of his final 12 on the way to a career-high 300-yard passing day.
Trailing by nine points with 7:49 to play, Smith engineered a five-play, 67-yard scoring drive in a little more than a minute.
He made a nifty move to undress a Michigan defender on his way to a 14-yard run on a third-down play, and then hit Santonio Holmes with a 26-yard touchdown pass to pull the Buckeyes within 21-19 with
6:40 to go.
Smith started the winning drive at the OSU 12.
He made a series of clutch plays on the 88-yard drive, hitting 7 of 8 passes for 77 yards, including a 26-yarder to Anthony Gonzalez to set up the game-winning score, a three-yard run by Antonio Pittman, with 24 seconds remaining.
Smith was sizzling on the final two series, hitting 9 of 12 passes for 130 yards and one touchdown.
"Troy took the game into his hands and made some great plays at the end," Ohio State offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said. "This is one of the hardest places in the world to win, and Troy did it. That tells you a lot about how well he played."
Smith, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound junior, has almost single-handedly won each of his first two starts against the Wolverines.
A year ago, he shredded Michigan's defense for 386 total yards in a 37-21 win in Columbus. Smith passed for 241 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 145 yards and another score in one of the rivalry's legendary individual performances.
His effort yesterday topped that.
Smith rallied his team from a nine-point deficit in the final quarter on the road to earn a share of the Big Ten championship.
Smith also scored his 11th rushing touchdown of the season, accounted for 337 total yards and was sacked just once.
"I just kept plugging away and trying to make plays," Smith said. "In the end, everything worked out just fine."
Smith, who has had his share of problems off the field, has special skills on it.
His speed and scrambling ability make him a dangerous threat.
Michigan hasn't figured out a way to stop him yet.
Smith has an opportunity to go 3-0 against the Wolverines next year in Columbus.
Until then, his legend will continue to grow.
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