Smell The Roses

Jim Tressel and Lloyd Carr tried their best to take themselves out of the story.

In the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, which has been as much about Woody and Bo as blocking and tackling, the coaches are always center stage.

Tressel became the first Ohio State coach to beat Michigan six times in seven years, and the seventh-ranked Buckeyes' 14-3 victory Saturday over their archrival gave them consecutive outright Big Ten titles for the first time in a half-century.

Chris Wells ran for a career-high 222 yards and two touchdowns and the Vernon Gholston-led defense dominated Michigan's banged-up offense, helping Ohio State win its fourth straight in the series to match the school's longest winning streak.

The Buckeyes (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) are likely headed to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1997. They have hopes of climbing back into the BCS title game, but several teams ahead of them would need to go down.

``Our defense was not going to let Michigan control the game on the ground,'' Tressel said. ``I wish our offense could have scored more, and that we could have been a little more consistent, but today, 14 points was enough to win the Big Ten.''

On the one-year anniversary of famed Michigan coach Bo Schembechler's death, a coin with his likeness was on one side and an image of Ohio State's late great coach Woody Hayes was on the other.

The Buckeyes, of course, went with Hayes for the coin toss, won it and went on to physically beat up the Wolverines in a way he would've been proud.

A win would've put the 23rd-ranked Michigan (8-4, 6-2) in Pasadena for the fourth time in five years, but the loss might send it to a bowl game prior to New Year's Day.

The Game could be Carr's last regular-season game at Michigan, where the national championship he won in 1997 is a distant memory while his loss to Appalachian State this year and 1-6 record against Tressel are often mentioned.

``You don't examine a coach on how he does against one team,'' Tressel said. ``Lloyd has been there for 13 years, and he has an excellent record.''

Carr led many to believe he would retire after this season when he altered his contract last winter and made sure all of his assistants were given unprecedented, two-year deals in the spring. Speculation has run rampant about 62-year-old coach's future.

``There will be a day to discuss that, and this isn't it,'' he said.

Carr is scheduled to have his usual Monday news conference.

Cornerback Morgan Trent said Carr did not address his future before or after the game.

``We'll just have to wait and see like everyone else,'' Trent said.

Perhaps for the last time, Tressel got the best of Carr by keeping things close to his sweater vest on a wet day.

Tressel let Todd Boeckman throw just two passes in the second half after the junior quarterback threw an interception and fumbled twice, neither of which Michigan recovered.

Wells had a career-high 39 carries, the most by a Buckeye against Michigan, and he ran for more yards than anybody had for Ohio State in the history of the series.

``He wanted to take this game on his shoulders and carry us,'' Tressel said. ``And, that's what he did.''

The Buckeyes held Michigan to 91 yards, the first time the Wolverines failed to reach 100 yards since 1962. That same year, the Wolverines were shut out by Ohio State and they had scored at least at least six against Ohio State until Saturday.

``The story today was the Ohio State defense,'' Carr said.

Michigan quarterback Chad Henne, tailback Mike Hart and tackle Jake Long ended their stellar careers 0-4 against Ohio State and with a woeful offensive performance in their final game at the Big House.

``We just have to take it,'' Long said.

Michigan got off to a solid start with a 3-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Buckeyes controlled the game by stopping a one-dimensional offense and handing the ball off to Wells.

Wells put Ohio State ahead with a 1-yard run early in the second quarter and a 62-yard score made it 14-3 on the Buckeyes' first snap after halftime.

The Wolverines struggled on offense in part because Henne was ineffective with a shoulder injury. Hart was unable to find room to run against a defense that didn't have to respect the pass and could concentrate on stopping Hart.

When the Wolverines did try to throw, Gholston made life miserable for them with three of Ohio State's four sacks.

``I'm sure Chad Henne will be seeing him in his sleep,'' Tressel said.

Henne, whose throws were usually high or wide, left the field for one series in the third quarter and returned in the fourth. When he made accurate passes, star receiver Mario Manningham and teammates didn't hold on frequently enough.

Henne finished 11 of 34 for 68 yards and didn't speak to reporters after the game.

Hart had 18 carries for 44 yards, his first game this year under the 100-yard mark. He seemed to be relatively healthy after being sidelined with a badly sprained right ankle.

``We have no excuses here,'' Carr said. ``But I think it's fair to acknowledge Chad didn't throw the ball like he has and Mike Hart was not at full speed.''

Hart said he was fine.

``It was good enough to play and it definitely wasn't a problem,'' he said.

Ohio State has claimed three Big Ten titles in a row, earning the last two outright for the first time since 1954-55. Its the longest streak of conference championships since Michigan won five in a row from 1988-92.

The Buckeyes last won four straight against Michigan in 1960-63 and also did it from 1934-37.

``It's special for our kids,'' Tressel said.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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