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August 13, 2007 - Image 40

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Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2007-08-13

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28 The Michigan Daily - Orientation Edition 2007

sports@michigandaity.com
734-764-8585

Antonio Pittman breaks away for a touchdown during Ohio State's 42-39 win in Columbus.

By STEPHANIE WRIGHT
DailySportsEditor
Nov. 20, 2006 - COLUMBUS -
With everything on the line, Michi-
gan walked away from its biggest
game of the year empty-handed.
But it might get a second chance.
On Saturday, the second-ranked
Wolverines let their undefeated
season, a Big Ten title and a guaran-
teed spot in the National Champi-
onship game slip away with a 42-39
loss to No.1 Ohio State.
As of yesterday, only the 12-0
season and conference champion-
ship were out of reach.
If everything goes the Wolver-
ines' way, they can still make it to
Glendale, Ariz., to compete for a
National Championship on Jan. 8.
Although Michigan would wel-
come the chance to play Ohio State
again, the turn of events is likely
little consolation.
Its dream season is still over.
For the third straight year, the
Wolverines had to watch their bit-
ter rival enjoy a victory in college
football's greatest rivalry.
This time, thefBuckeyes were also
celebrating an undefeated regular
season and a chance to win their
second national title in five years.
As the scarlet-and-gray-clad
crowd poured onto the field to cel-
ebrate Ohio State's win, Michigan
players and coaches quietly made
their way toward the locker room,
many wiping tears from their eyes.
"It meant everything to us,"

tailback Mike Hart said. "We lost.
That's the only thing. We didn't
score enough points on offense.
We lost."
Michigan's third straight loss to
Ohio State capped off a tragic week-
end for the program.
Saturday's game came just one
day after legendary Michigancoach
Bo Schembechler passed away at
age 77. But just as the Wolverines
refused to use his death as motiva-
tion, they wouldn't accept it as an
excuse in the hard-fought loss.
"That's part of our lives, but
certainly it had nothing to do with
what happened (Saturday)," Michi-
gan coach Lloyd Carr said. "It was
part of the weekend, but we lost to
a better team."
In what was supposed to be an
epic battle between Ohio State's
explosive offense and Michigan's
impenetrable defense, the Buckeyes
unquestionably had the edge.
For the third straight season,
Ohio State signal caller Troy Smith
carved up the Wolverines' defense.
The Heisman frontrunner all but
locked up the award by amassing
316 yards and four touchdowns on
29-for-41 passing against one of the
nation's top defenses. Smith also
became the first Ohio State quar-
terback since the 1930s (William H.
"Tippy" Dye) to beat the Wolver-
ines three times.
Most pundits expected Smith to
rack up yards against Michigan's
secondary, easily the weakest part
of its vaunted defense. Butcvirtually

no one foresaw the Buckeyes' run-
ning backs burning the Wolverines
for 187 yards.
Ranked No.1Iinthenation against
the run all season, Michigan had
allowed just one team (Minnesota)
to gain more than 100 yards on the
ground in its first 11 games.
Ohio State amassed 108 of its
rushing yards on two big plays up
the middle, a 52-yard touchdown
run from Chris Wells in the second
quarter and a 56-yard touchdown
run from Antonio Pittman in the
third.
On both plays, the out-of-posi-
tion Wolverines missed tackles that
sprung the Buckeye tailbacks loose.
"We just had mistakes," senior
co-captain LaMarr Woodley said.
"Just as far as the defense, too many
mistakes. When you have mistakes,
the other team capitalizes on them.
You give up big plays and stupid
penalties, (and) it allows the team
to continue their drive."
The costliest of Michigan's five
penalties was linebacker Shawn
Crable's helmet-to-helmet hit on
Smith with six minutes left in the
game.
Down 35-31, the Wolverines
looked as if they had stopped Ohio
State's drive until Crable was whis-
tled for roughing the passer. That
penalty turned a possible fourth-
and-15 into a first-and-10 at the
Michigan 23-yard line.
Three plays later, Smith threw
his fourth touchdown pass to give
Ohio State an 11-point lead with five

minutes to go.
But that penalty wouldn't have
been as critical if Michigan had
been able to slow down the Buck-
eyes in the first half.
From Ohio State's opening drive
(which included four third-down
conversions) to its final possession
of the frame (a surgical 80-yard
drive that gave it a 28-14 halftime
lead) the Wolverines couldn't con-
tain the Buckeyes' offensive attack.
And it cost them dearly in the
end. Michigan's 14-point halftime
deficit turned out to be too much for
it to overcome.
"We gave up too many big plays,"
Carr said. "Any time you give up
two long runs and a long pass, it's
going to be hard to beat anybody,
much less a team like we played
(Saturday). Big plays simply were
the biggest factor in the game."
To a certain extent, that cut
both ways. Michigan's offense put
together its share of big plays, too.
The Wolverines looked unstop-
pable on their opening drive, which
included a pair of 20-plus yard
catches by receiver Mario Man-
ningham, who finished the day with
six receptions for 86 yards.
Quarterback Chad Henne
remained poised in the face of Ohio
State's pass rush, completing 21-
of-35 passes for 267 yards and two
touchdowns. Even so, Hartstole the
show offensively. Against the Big
Ten's second-stingiest run defense,
the junior amassed 142 yards and
three touchdowns on 23 carries in

typical form, spinning by defenders
and dragging multiple Buckeyes to
notch extra yards.
"Their defense played good,
but they're not as good as people
thought, I guess I could say," Hart
said. "We knew we were going
to be able to run the ball, but we
didn't put enough points on the
board. There's nothing special
about that defense."
In an otherwise impressive
day, the Wolverines' offense was
marred by its inabilityto capitalize
on Ohio State's big mistakes. The
Buckeyes started to self-destruct,
committing three turnovers in the
second half.
But Michigan managed to score
just 10 points off those turnovers
- not enough when it was trying
to come back against the nation's
top team.
The Wolverines' 39 points, their
third-highest total of the season,
should have been sufficient to
secure them a victory, especially
with their highly touted defense.
Eventhoughitwasn't,Michigan's
National Championship dream isn't
quite out of reach.
But if the Wolverines don't make
it to Glendale, Ariz., they knowthey
only have themselves to blame.
"We put ourselves in that situ-
ation, and we have to sit back and
wait," Woodley said. "If we would
have won, we knew right away
where we were going to be playing
and what day. All we can do is sit
back and wait now."

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