Wolverines take title, roses in Ohio State loss
 
 
By Nick Houser The Lantern

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (U-WIRE) -- Playing for the 100th time, the story would not have been fitting for the outcome of the historic Ohio State and Michigan football game to end up as a blowout.

The Wolverines ran all over OSU in the opening 30 minutes behind quarterback John Navarre and running back Chris Perry.

Navarre, who was facing a winless record against the Buckeyes, turned the tide by making a little history of his own on the big day.

Playing at the Big House for the last time, he became the first Michigan quarterback to go over the 3,000-yard mark in a season. In front of an NCAA record crowd of 112,118 fans, he recorded two touchdowns and went 21-for-32 passing with 278 yards and one interception.

The attack was far from being one-dimensional. Perry ran through the OSU defense like no other back had done this season. He rumbled for 154 yards on 31 carries and two scores.

"I think Michigan, as we've said all along, does an excellent job of being balanced," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "The better you're able to throw it, it helps you run. The better you're able to run it, it helps your pass. I think they have a very good design."

OSU stayed behind quarterbacks Craig Krenzel and backup Scott McMullen. The seniors combined for a pair of second-half touchdowns to close the gap to a touchdown. McMullen went into action after Krenzel injured his left shoulder following a hit delivered by Michigan's Norman Heurer in the third quarter.

OSU's hopes of a Big Ten title were dashed, as well as a chance to play for another national title. The Buckeyes' record falls to 10-2 and 6-2.

The Wolverines captured the Big Ten title and accepted an invitation to play in the Rose Bowl. They improved to 10-2 on the season and 7-1 in the conference.

Michigan burned the Buckeyes one last time after the deficit was closed to a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. Perry rolled through OSU's defense once again and this time he reached paydirt from 15 yards out to make it 35-21 and put the game out of reach.

Just four minutes earlier, the Buckeyes had a chance to even up the score. Chris Gamble intercepted a Navarre pass on the OSU 37-yard line. The offense, with McMullen at the helm, could not do anything with the ball and went three-and-out, setting up the Wolverines' final score.

"To go three-and-out, that was pretty tough. We kind of lost the momentum. We didn't convert when we needed to," wide receiver Michael Jenkins said.

After trailing 21-7 at halftime, the Buckeyes saddled up and started down the comeback trail.

"Nobody gave us a chance, but the 70 guys in the locker room and coaches in the locker room said, 'You know it's us against the world, and we've just got to chip away and chip away,'" OSU offensive lineman Shane Olivea said.

Michigan chalked up a quick score on the opening drive the second half on a 30-yard touchdown run by Perry, which extended the deficit back to 21 points.

Holding the Wolverines to a punt on their next possession, OSU was in prime position for a quick score after Jenkins returned the punt to the Michigan 12-yard line. The return was negated by a block in the back, and it appeared the Buckeyes would self-destruct following a holding call on first down.

Then Navarre beat the defense on quick strikes. He connected with Braylon Edwards for a pair of second-quarter touchdowns of 64 and 23 yards. A third score to Edwards for 93 yards also in the third quarter was called back due to a holding call.

Krenzel went to Jenkins for a 26-yard completion to get into the red zone, which set up a touchdown toss to Santonio Holmes. The fade route to Holmes was similar to the play in which OSU scored on right before the half. The connection closed the gap to 28-14 with 6:44 left in the third.

Following the injury to Krenzel, McMullen entered the game and led the Buckeyes to another touchdown on a Lydell Ross 2-yard run at the beginning of the final stanza to make the score 28-21. The score was set up by a 40-yard toss to a wide open Holmes on the previous play.

The first score turned the tables on the OSU's game plan, which pushed the Buckeyes' defense back downfield 89 yards on 18 plays for the score.

Trying to shed the mystique of not being able to beat the Buckeyes, Navarre helped his squad go up by three touchdowns in the first half. After Steve Breaston lined up at quarterback and ran the option in from 3 yards out just before the end of the first quarter, the real signal caller took over.

"He was unbelievable. So often everyone credits the quarterback for the win and blames them for losing, but this was a total team win," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "The offensive line played tremendous and Chris Perry ran absolutely sensational."

(C) 2003 The Lantern via U-WIRE.


 
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