Saturday, November 27, 2010

BUCKEYES MAKE IT SEVEN STRAIGHT AGAINST MICHIGAN SATURDAY, 37-7

Ohio State wide receiver DeVier Posey celebrates after hauling in a 33-yard touchdown pass in Saturday's 37-7 win over Michigan at Ohio Stadium. (The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
COLUMBUS — 'That school up north' shall rise again.

But it isn't going to be this year.

Eighth-ranked Ohio State — behind incredible "Senior Day" performances by juniors Terrelle Pryor and Dan "Boom" Herron — won their seventh straight game against arch-rival Michigan on Saturday, 37-7, giving the Buckeyes a share of their record-tying sixth Big Ten title in a row.

It was also the ninth win in 10 tries against Michigan for Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel.

"Well if we were sitting here eight out of 10, we would've been unhappy I promise you that," Tressel said of the accomplishment. "It was huge."

Pryor finished with 269 total yards and two touchdown passes in the victory, while Herron tallied 175 on the ground, becoming the first OSU runner to eclipse 1,000 yards in a season since Chris "Beanie" Wells did it in 2008.

"That was definitely one of my goals this year," Herron said of the milestone. "I am very grateful to accomplish that today. I couldn't have done it without the great play from the offensive line or without Coach Tressel giving me the opportunity."

One player who had surpassed that milestone long ago, Michigan sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson, looked like he was going to be a major problem for the Buckeyes defense early on as he was running with great fortune like he has all season long.

However, on Michigan's second offensive series of the contest, Robinson — after guiding his Wolverines on a 10-play, 73 yard drive — coughed up the football near the first down marker with 3:53 to play in the first quarter. The fumble would be recovered by Ohio State defensive end Nathan Williams at the Buckeyes' 9 yard line.

The Buckeyes offense answered the Michigan miscue with a 10-play, 70-yard plus drive of their own — which included a big 39-yard pass connection from Pryor to Dane Sanzenbacher — setting up a Devin Barclay field goal from 33 out to give Ohio State an early 3-0 lead.

Moments later, the Buckeyes would make the Wolverines pay an even steeper price for another mistake. After going three plays and out on the ensuing drive, Michigan punter Seth Broekhuizen shanked a kick for a net of 18 yards to the Buckeyes' 35.

It took just five plays — including a highlight reel third down scramble and pass from Pryor to senior Taurian Washington — for the Buckeyes to punch in the first touchdown of the game, a seven-yard hook up from Pryor to Sanzenbacher.

Down 10-0, Michigan wouldn't go away quite yet.

The Wolverines used another long drive — this time 11 plays — to get themselves into scoring position. The Wolverines, following a 20-yard jaunt by Robinson that ended at the Ohio State 1, would punch in their first points of the game on a Michael Shaw plunge, cutting the Ohio State lead to 10-7.

Then the Buckeyes would pop Michigan's inflating balloon.

On the ensuing kickoff, sophomore tailback Jordan Hall fielded the kick at the 15, headed down the left sideline, zigzagging a few times, before finishing the long jaunt in the end zone.

Jordan Hall is congratulated by OSU AD Gene Smith following his 85-yard kickoff return Saturday. (TBT/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
The Buckeyes would never look back after that.

"That was definitely huge," Hall said of the return. "Coach Tressel always says that special teams can change the momentum and that's what we needed. When we were in the huddle, (Tressel) was like 'take it to the house.'

"I said, 'I can do it.'"

Tressel pointed to the touchdown return as a major shift in momentum.

"I don't know about turning point, but that was a critical point," Tressel said of Hall's return. "(Michigan) worked very hard getting their touchdown, and all of a sudden, it took us 20 seconds to answer.

"You know, Jordan Hall is a great football player. I wish there were more opportunities for him to have the ball in his hands because, man, he can play."

The theatrics by Hall seemed to fuel the entire team, especially the offense, who didn't look to have it all together early on.

Perhaps the Buckeyes most impressive drive came late in the second quarter — on their first series following the Hall return — as they drove 62 yards on six plays, including two huge third-down pickups.

The first conversion came when the Buckeyes were facing third-and-11 at their own 37. Pryor dropped back in the pocket and fired a shot over the middle which Sanzenbacher leaped for and hauled in at the  Michigan 38 for a gain of 25 yards.

The second conversion of the drive came on third-and-5 at the Michigan 33, when Pryor delivered another strike over the middle, this time to junior receiver DeVier Posey, who raced the rest of the way for the score and the 24-7 lead.

Posey would be flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for making an 'O' sign on his gloves and displaying it to the Ohio State crowd.

"I don't think we'll ever be able to wear those gloves again," Posey laughed. "I think Coach might tell us to trash them after today."

Ohio State's defense played more of a bend, but don't break style in the first half, giving up more than 250 total yards of offense, but surrendering just seven points, while causing two costly fumbles.

Robinson gained 101 yards on the ground in the first half, and also added 76 through the air.

In the second half, though, the Buckeyes defense put the clamp down on Robinson and the Wolverines, giving up just 93 yards and zero points, with the Michigan star signal caller totaling just 15.

"I thought our guys put themselves in position to make great plays (in the second half)," OSU senior linebacker Brian Rolle said. "They're a great offense, a great quarterback, I just feel our guys played within the scheme and we limited the big plays."

With the Buckeyes defense keeping the Wolverines in check, the Ohio State offense would put it in ground-pound mode the rest of the way.

After a Travis Howard interception of Michigan backup quarterback Tate Forcier at the Ohio State 30, the Buckeyes would drive 70 yards on six plays, culminating in a 32-yard touchdown run by Herron.

Moments later, following a Michigan punt which rested inside the Buckeyes two-yard line, Herron would explode again, this time for a 98-yard touchdown run, which would be negated by a questionable holding penalty inside the Michigan 10, making it an 89-yard gallop on the stat sheet.

The run would put Herron over 100 yards on the day and 1,000 for the season. It also tied Gene Fekete (1942) for the longest play from scrimmage in school history.

Now the Buckeyes (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten) will wait and see which bowl game they will be invited to.

Coach Tressel said that he feels his team certainly belongs in their record ninth BCS Bowl game.

"Yeah, I think we're a top 10 team," Tressel said. "I don't even pay attention to all the different things and that stuff, but, yeah, I think there's 10 BCS teams, right?

"But who cares what I think."