Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith had 4:17, and a good idea of what he wanted to do with the time, as he leaned into the huddle at the Buckeyes'...
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith had 4:17, and a good idea of what he wanted to do with the time, as he leaned into the huddle at the Buckeyes’ 12-yard line Saturday afternoon.
Michigan led by two points and Ohio State needed at least a field goal to claim a share of the Big Ten title, a possible Bowl Championship Series berth and, perhaps most appealing to the Buckeyes, a triumph over their biggest rival. With that late-autumn trinity facing him, Smith said, he reminded his teammates, “This is what we all came to Ohio State for.”
At that, he stepped off his march. He seemed incapable of missing, flipping the ball to receivers Ted Ginn Jr., Santonio Holmes and Anthony Gonzalez. He completed 7 of 8 passes as he guided the Buckeyes on a crowd-silencing, game-winning drive. He left it to halfback Antonio Pittman at the end, and Pittman scored the deciding touchdown with 24 seconds remaining in No. 9 Ohio State’s 25-21 victory over No. 17 Michigan.
Until then, a crowd of 111,591, the fourth largest in Michigan Stadium history, had expected to witness a spoiler, similar to those in 1993 and 1995, when the Wolverines (7-4, 5-3) blemished otherwise unbeaten Buckeyes seasons. Instead, Ohio State enjoyed what is now its best run against Michigan in more than four decades.
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“Another great Ohio State-Michigan game,” said Jim Tressel, who became the second Buckeyes coach to beat the Wolverines four times in his first five chances. “Our kids wanted it so badly. I’m awfully proud of them.”
The final drive hinged on Smith’s legs as much as on his arm. On the fringe of field-goal range at the Michigan 30, he was flushed from the pocket and forced right. Gonzalez was well downfield — and on the wrong route, he would later say. The coverage had dictated that he run a fade. He ran an out instead.
But Gonzalez worked back toward Smith, who was shuffling and scuffling. Smith said he told himself to “stay alive, keep your feet.” Tressel said it had become “your basic scramble drill.” Finally, Smith fired it toward the goal line. Gonzalez leaped and caught the ball at the 4, in a show of athleticism that rivaled the backfield wizardry that had made it possible.
“There will be a lot of youngsters out there in the yard Thanksgiving weekend making the same move he made, in the pile of leaves,” Tressel said of Smith. “That’s the fun of college football.”
Smith completed 27 of 37 passes for a career-high 300 yards. He ran for a touchdown and passed for another.
Ohio State (9-2, 7-1) shared the Big Ten title with Penn State (10-1, 7-1), which claimed the conference’s automatic BCS berth because it beat Ohio State.