Roughly an hour after the Buckeyes defeated the Wolverines in 2006's unprecedented No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown at Ohio Stadium, Michigan junior tailback Mike Hart sat disappointed and angry when he met with the media. He told reporters that if Michigan played OSU again, "it would be a whole different game. … Guarantee that."
With that in mind, Hart and classmates quarterback Chad Henne and offensive tackle Jake Long chose to return for their senior seasons with hopes of winning a national championship and beating the Buckeyes for the first time in their careers on the way.
Neither happened. The Wolverines started the season with a shocking home loss to Football Championship Subdivision power Appalachian State and had any remaining national title hopes dashed a week later when visiting Oregon routed them.
All that remained for Michigan after those losses was trying to beat Ohio State and win the Big Ten, and heading into regular season finale that remained a possibility – if U-M could best the Buckeyes.
It didn't happen, and of course, vocal OSU captain Kirk Barton hadn't forgotten about what Hart said one year earlier.
"We heard about it," Barton said in the Nov. 24, 2007, edition of Buckeye Sports Bulletin. "Obviously it got a lot of coverage all year because the three guys all turned down the NFL so they could come back and beat us and ride off into the sunset.
"But I guess a funny thing happened on the way to the sunset."
One week after having its senior day spoiled by Illinois, Ohio State spoiled Michigan's. The Buckeye defense and Beanie Wells played the starring roles. The defense limited the Wolverines to 91 yards of total offense, U-M's first time totaling less than 100 yards since getting 97 against Purdue in 1962. Michigan was held to only eight first downs with three coming in the second half and two of those on pass interference penalties.
"Our defense was not going to let them control the game with the run," said OSU head coach Jim Tressel, who beat Michigan for the sixth time in seven tries.
Hart, who had dealt with an ankle injury in the weeks leading up to the game, finished with 44 yards on 18 carries. Henne battled through a nagging shoulder injury to complete 11 of 34 passes for 68 yards.
"We didn't think we were going to be this bad off," Hart said. "Give credit to the (Ohio State) defense. They came up with a great game and had a good scheme against us. The defense did a great job."
Henne was harassed by the Buckeyes all game, especially junior defensive end Vernon Gholston. The Detroit native sacked Henne two times (and U-M backup QB Ryan Mallett for another) and tied the OSU single-season record with 13 for the season.
"Vernon is a special guy, and this was an important day for him coming back home to play," Tressel said. "I'm sure Henne will see him in his sleep."
While the OSU defense did its job, Wells set career highs with 39 carries for 222 yards and scored both of the Buckeyes' touchdowns.
Michigan started the scoring with the lone points of the first quarter, a 33-yard field goal by K.C. Lopata with 1:37 left in the first 15 minutes. Wells then gave OSU all the points it would need with a 1-yard touchdown run with 10:08 remaining in the first half.
The other score came early in the third quarter. OSU sophomore Ray Small appeared to break things open when he returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown. But the Buckeyes were penalized for an illegal block on the play, pushing them back to their own 38-yard line.
But on the very next play, Wells provided the only second-half offensive highlight when he broke over left tackle, shed Michigan linebacker Shawn Crable near the line of scrimmage, ran over safety Brandent Englemon and turned on the jets for a 62-yard touchdown. With the Ryan Pretorius PAT, Ohio State held a commanding 14-3 lead at the 13:40 mark of the third quarter.
Statistically, linebacker Marcus Freeman led OSU with nine tackles. In addition to Gholson's trio of sacks, lineman Dexter Larimore notched one of his own. On offense, OSU QB Todd Boeckman completed 7 of 13 passes for 50 yards with an interception. Wide receivers Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline each nabbed two catches.
With the victory, Ohio State (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) clinched the program's first back-to-back outright Big Ten titles since 1954-55 and won its third straight conference crown. The only question mark facing the team after the victory was its bowl fate. The Buckeyes celebrated the win with roses, but there was still a chance the team could qualify for the BCS National Championship Game.
2001: No. 12 Illinois 34, No. 25 Ohio State 22 – A dramatic weekend that featured a suspended quarterback and a career day by a tailback ended with a loss for the Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium.
One day after the arrest and suspension of senior starting quarterback Steve Bellisari stemming from an alleged drunken driving incident, Jonathan Wells' 192-yard rushing performance was not enough to pull off an upset of the Fighting Illini. The loss ended Ohio State's chances of winning a Big Ten championship.
The Buckeyes (6-4, 4-3) started sophomore Scott McMullen with Bellisari sidelined, but in the end it was fellow sophomore QB Craig Krenzel who starred. With Illinois holding a 21-10 lead at halftime, Krenzel led a pair of third-quarter touchdown drives in leading OSU to a 22-21 lead.
Krenzel threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins with 5:43 left in the quarter and engineered a nine-play, 55-yard scoring drive that ended with a 1-yard Wells TD. Ohio State went for two-point conversions after both scores and failed both times.
In the end, though, Illinois was too much. Illini QB Kurt Kittner gave his team the lead for good in the fourth quarter in leading a 12-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by a 1-yard Carey Davis touchdown run. Krenzel later threw an ill-advised pass that was intercepted by linebacker Ty Myers and returned for a 5-yard touchdown to seal the Illini victory.
"It was a roller coaster ride for me and obviously the fans," Krenzel said in the Nov. 24, 2001, edition of BSB.
The loss overshadowed a big performance by Wells, who upped his season rushing total to 1,128 yards. He passed the 1,000-yard mark in the first quarter and became the 16th Buckeye rusher to do so.
"I wanted to put the team on my shoulders and lead us to a victory," Wells said. "I wanted to take control of the huddle and let the quarterbacks know I had their back."
Added Tressel: "He's really had a pretty darn good year. We asked our seniors to each have a career-best year and most of them have done a good job with that."
Krenzel completed 11 of 23 passes for 164 yards with a touchdown and two picks. McMullen threw for 42 yards on 4-of-13 passing with a touchdown. Jenkins was the top QB target, finishing with 10 receptions for 155 yards.
Defensively, OSU was led by Joe Cooper. He had 10 tackles. Tim Anderson, Simon Fraser and Mike Collins each recorded sacks.
1990: No. 21 Ohio State 35, Wisconsin 10 – The Buckeyes earned a road victory at Camp Randall Stadium, and Robert Smith made history in the win.
The tailback shattered Ohio State's freshman rushing record of 867 yards set nearly two decades earlier by Archie Griffin and became the first Buckeye freshman ever to go over the 1,000-yard mark. Smith also became only the 26th freshman in NCAA history to crack that 1,000-yard barrier.
Against the Badgers, Smith rushed for 171 yards and two touchdowns.
"I think Archie Griffin represents Ohio State and Ohio State football to a lot of people," Smith said in the Nov. 24, 1990, edition of BSB. "What he has done for Ohio State, and the football program especially, will never be repeated.
"No matter how many yards I gain this season, how many yards I beat the record by, I don't think there's ever any way I could ever repeat what he's done for Ohio State. I feel honored just to be mentioned in the same company."
Griffin was pragmatic about his record being broken. He congratulated Smith on the sideline after the game.
"I broke some records and, somewhere along the line, I knew there would be someone who would come along and break mine," he said. "Honestly, I didn't think this particular record would last this long.
"But I think it's a great honor to have the record broken by Robert. He's a great athlete and a great young man who is just beginning to show his talents."
Wisconsin led 10-7 late in the second quarter before the Buckeyes (7-2-1, 5-1-1) finished with a flourish by scoring the game's final 28 points. Ohio State took a 14-10 lead into halftime thanks to a 2-yard touchdown run by Raymont Harris with 1:10 left in the first half.
The final three TDs came in the fourth quarter. Smith had the first two on runs of 15 and 1 yard, respectively, and Jeff Graham closed the scoring by returning a punt 81 yards for a touchdown.
"I'm glad it's over," Cooper said of the game. "We were flat, but the football team is not going to be very emotional after (a 27-26 upset of No. 6 Iowa last week) and Michigan coming up next week. We did some good things, but we turned the ball over way too many times (three lost fumbles and one interception) to beat a good football team. I'm just glad it's over."
In addition to Smith, quarterback Greg Frey threw for 149 yards on 8-of-16 passing with an interception. Graham added three receptions for 75 yards. Defensively, Steve Tovar led OSU with 10 tackles. Vinnie Clark recovered a fumble, and Tim Walton intercepted a pass.
1984: No. 11 Ohio State 21, Michigan 6 – Earle Bruce couldn't hold in his excitement after senior quarterback Mike Tomczak led the Buckeyes to a win over their rivals on senior day.
"Mike Tomczak is the greatest comeback story that we've ever had at Ohio State," Bruce said in the Nov. 24, 1984, edition of BSB. "On May 5, in the spring game, he broke his leg. On May 31, it didn't look like he was going to be able to make it (for the 1984 season). On Sept. 4, it didn't look like he was going to be able to make it.
"But he stuck in there and – goodness gracious sakes – he had the greatest spring I've ever seen a quarterback have at Ohio State. He's been a one-legged guy for a long time. Today, he did a good job for us."
"A great job for us," Bruce said. "And he's one reason we're going to the Rose Bowl – you better believe it. He's been a magnificent player at Ohio State and he's contributed a lot to our football team. I'm just happy he came to Ohio State, because he's the kind of quality young man that makes it possible. He's done a lot for this team."
Tomczak was next to Bruce in the postgame interview room and simply grinned and patted his head coach on the back in appreciation.
"It was a great team victory, and what more can you ask for – being a senior, being a captain of the team and the quarterback," Tomczak said. "It hasn't hit me yet. It won't hit me for a while, but our goal is accomplished. At the beginning of the year, we set out to go to the Rose Bowl and win the Big Ten championship and we did that. Whatever lies ahead, we're ready for it."
The Buckeyes (9-2, 7-2) punched their ticket to Pasadena by outplaying the Wolverines throughout the game. Ohio State took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by Keith Byars before U-M made back-to-back field goals to narrow its deficit to 7-6.
The difference in the game then came thanks to an impressive catch by Mike Lanese with 10 minutes left in the game.
Ohio State failed to move the football to even within field goal range since the first quarter and didn't appear any stronger on the first two plays after getting the football back with 10:48 left in the fourth quarter.
Tomczak was sacked for a 4-yard loss on first down and then Byars rushed for two. On third-and-12 from the OSU 43-yard line, Tomczak dropped back and saw Lanese covered. Tomczak had to throw behind Lanese to avoid the coverage, and Lanese extended his arms to make a great catch for a 17-yard gain.
"Boy, was that a catch. He's got great hands," Bruce said.
"That's the kind of catch you need to keep the team going," Byars said.
Tomczak then completed his next four pass attempts for 27 yards, and Byars ran three times for 13 more – including a 2-yard touchdown run that extended OSU's lead to 14-6 with 6:08 left in regulation.
On the next play from scrimmage, Michigan quarterback Chris Zurbrugg completed a pass to Sim Nelson, who had the ball popped loose by Buckeye linebacker Pepper Johnson. William White recovered it, giving OSU the football back just 10 seconds after Byars' TD.
On the first play of the ensuing drive from the U-M 37, Byars broke through a giant hole in the middle of the line and took off to the right and down the sideline for a 20-yard pickup, his longest run of the day.
Byars ran for three more yards before Ohio State took a delay of game penalty. John Wooldridge then broke up the middle for a 17-yard gain, and Byars took care of the final two yards, putting the Buckeyes up 21-6 with 4:43 remaining.
That touchdown would put the game's final points on the scoreboard.
Byars finished with 101 yards on 27 carries. Tomczak completed 11 of 15 passes for 139 yards. Lanese caught three passes for 44 yards. Defensively, Larry Kolic led the way with 12 tackles.
1979: No. 1 Ohio State 18, No. 13 Michigan 15 – The then-largest regular season crowd in college football history – 106,255 – packed Michigan Stadium and watched the Buckeyes earn a hard-fought win over their archrivals.
Ohio State started the scoring in the second quarter when Vlade Janakievski booted a 23-yard field goal. Michigan responded with a 59-yard touchdown pass from John Wangler to Anthony Carter before Janakievski added another field goal, this one from 25 yards with eight seconds left in the second quarter.
The Buckeyes took the lead in the third quarter. Art Schlichter put OSU ahead 12-7 when he found Chuck Hunter for an 18-yard TD pass. OSU's ensuing two-point conversion attempt failed. U-M responded with a TD of its own to take a 15-12 lead on a 1-yard TD run by Roosevelt Smith.
Ohio State took the lead for good in the final minutes. Jim Laughlin was the hero, coming through with a big play. After the Buckeyes forced Michigan to punt deep inside its own territory, Laughlin broke through the line untouched and blocked Brian Virgil's punt. Todd Bell scooped it up and ran 18 yards for a touchdown.
Janakievski's PAT failed, but it did not matter. Ohio State (11-0, 8-0) earned its trip to the Rose Bowl.
1973: No. 1 Ohio State 55, Iowa 13 – Winless Iowa provided little opposition as the Buckeyes (9-0, 7-0) closed their home portion of the schedule with a lopsided victory. Archie Griffin set a then-school record with 246 rushing yards, breaking his old mark of 239 that he set a year earlier against North Carolina. Bruce Elia rushed for only 11 yards but scored four short-yardage touchdowns.
1962: Ohio State 26, Oregon 7 – The Ducks came to Columbus with a 6-1-1 record but could not solve the Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes scored in each quarter. Bill Mrukowski moved from defense to quarterback and scored two touchdowns – each on 4-yard runs.
Oregon committed three turnovers and allowed OSU's trio of fullbacks to rush for a combined 214 yards on 37 carries. The Buckeyes (5-3) finished with 316 yards rushing.
1956: No. 7 Iowa 6, No. 6 Ohio State 0 – Ohio State's hopes of becoming the first Big Ten team to win three straight outright titles were dashed in Iowa City. The game's lone points were scored on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Kenny Ploen to end Jim Gibson in the third quarter. The Buckeyes (6-2, 4-1), meanwhile, were limited to 147 yards of total offense.
In order to share the Big Ten title with the Hawkeyes, Ohio State would need to beat visiting Michigan in the season finale.
1951: Ohio State 0, No. 3 Illinois 0 – Underdog OSU held a pregame meeting, locking out head coach Woody Hayes in doing so, before playing its best game of the season and handing the Fighting Illini their only blemish of the season. The Buckeyes moved to 4-2-1 with their senior day performance. Illinois would finish the season 9-0-1, capping it with a 40-7 beatdown of Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
1945: No. 9 Ohio State 27, Illinois 2 – The Buckeyes turned a tight game into a rout, scoring 20 points in the fourth quarter on homecoming. Despite playing in cold, rainy conditions for the second straight week, Ohio State (7-1) ground down an opponent. Ollie Cline led the rushing attack with 122 yards and two touchdowns. The other two OSU scores came on a 11-yard run by Hal Daugherty and a 15-yard TD pass from Paul Sarringhaus to fullback Chuck Gandee.
1934: Ohio State 34, Michigan 0 – For only the seventh time in 31 games, the Buckeyes bruised and battered the visiting Wolverines. Ohio State (6-1) had a happy homecoming and posted its highest margin of victory since beating U-M 14-0 in 1921.
The Buckeyes led 13-0 at halftime after scoring a touchdown in each of the first two quarters. Dick Heekin scored from the 1 to start the scoring, and Buzz Wetzel extended the lead with a 5-yard TD run. Ohio State piled on the points in the fourth quarter.Frank Antenucci recovered a fumble in the end zone for a score, and OSU added a pair of TD passes – a 66-yard connection between Frank Fisch to Merle Wendt and a 33-yard strike from Tippy Dye to Frank Cumiskey.
1928: Ohio State 39, Muskingum 0 – In John Wilce's final home game as head coach of the Buckeyes, Ohio State (5-1-1) crushed overmatched Muskingum. The Buckeyes would finish the season a week later at Illinois.
1923: Chicago 17, Ohio State 3 – In the final road game of the season, the Maroons sent the Buckeyes to a defeat. Under legendary head coach Amos Alonzo Stagg, Chicago would finish the season 7-1. Ohio State fell to 3-3-1.
1917: Ohio State 13, Illinois 0 – Ohio State earned the league title with a blanking of previously unbeaten and visiting Illinois at Ohio Field. The Buckeyes (7-0) led 3-0 after three quarters before adding 10 insurance points in the final minutes. Chic Harley starred again, kicking a pair of field goals and throwing a 20-yard touchdown pass to Howard Courtney. He even kicked the extra point after the touchdown.
1906: Ohio State 9, Case 0 – The Buckeyes won their third straight and moved to 6-1 with a road win at Case. Ohio State still had home games with Wooster and Ohio Medical left on the schedule.
1900: Ohio Medical 11, Ohio State 6 – OSU lost for the first time that season in a game that almost didn't happen. The Buckeyes (7-1) considered dropping the game from their schedule after accusing Ohio Medical of professionalism. That issue was dropped and the game was played when Ohio Medical dropped one player from its team.
1894: Ohio State 6, Cincinnati 4 – Ohio State narrowly won on the road for second time in four attempts in 1894. The Buckeyes improved to 4-5 on the year.