There’s a saying that Michigan-Ohio State games in the past have been won and lost on Monday mornings.
But yesterday morning at Michigan’s weekly press conference, reporters’ lunches were the only things that were lost.
With each Michigan player that stepped to the plate, media members waited anxiously for that elusive home run – a quote or anecdote that could be sent immediately to the Ohio State bulletin board.
Needless to say, all seven Michigan players weren’t swinging for the fences, and when they were thrown a meaty fastball right down the middle of the plate, they either took it for a strike or bunted back to the pitcher.
“I think we are always a little reserved in what we say,” Michigan captain Bennie Joppru said.
Yes, but not quite like this.
Michigan downplayed absolutely every possible angle of interest. Do the Wolverines want to spoil unbeaten Ohio State’s run to the national championship (the Buckeyes are No. 2 in the Bowl Championship Series standings this week)?
“We’re not worried about going down there and upsetting them and ruining their chances,” said Michigan linebacker Carl Diggs, a Warren, Ohio native. “We just want to stay focused on our team goals and do what we need to do to win the game.”
The team goals must not include avenging last season’s 26-20 defeat to the Buckeyes at the Big House – a game that lost Michigan the Big Ten championship and sent the senior class out with a loss in its last home game.
“Last year was last year, and this is a different team,” Michigan safety Charles Drake said. “This is a new season and a new team. We are not really worried about what happened last year.”
You get the point, and not that it even needs to be said, but the Ohio State camp remained quiet as a mouse yesterday as well.
Whatever happened to the Terry Glenns, the David Bostons and the Charles Woodsons in this storied rivalry?
Before the 1995 game – one in which Ohio State was ranked No. 2 in the country and would have gone to the Rose Bowl with a win – Glenn, a star wide receiver, definitely hit a long ball.
“I think we should keep Michigan down (there) where they belong like the rest of the teams (in the Big Ten) and go up (to Ann Arbor) and kick their butts like we did everybody else,” Glenn said. “Michigan is nobody.”
The Wolverines upset Glenn and the Buckeyes 31-23 at the Big House. Two years later in 1997, Boston – another Ohio State receiver – opened his mouth before the game, one in which Ohio State had a chance to knock off an undefeated Michigan team.
“We’re going to go up there and upset them,” Boston predicted. “I think we’re better than Michigan.”
Boston didn’t back up his words, as Woodson shut him down and Ohio State lost 20-14. Michigan went on to win the Rose Bowl and the national title. After the game, Woodson likened his matchup with Boston to “a father chastising his son.”
It seems like both teams are trying to avoid the pattern of talk-and-lose.
Loss of a leader: Michigan coach Lloyd Carr announced yesterday that sophomore cornerback Zia Combs’ football career is over. Combs, known as an emotional leader of the defense, was knocked unconscious during the Wolverines’ 24-21 win over Penn State. Carr said that Combs would stay in school at Michigan and finish his degree.
Injury update: Carr said that safety Julius Curry could possibly return this week and bring the safety unit back to full strength. Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said that freshman tailback Maurice Clarett, who has been banged up with a shoulder injury, “expects to play” Saturday against Michigan.
Catch a classic: ESPN Classic is broadcasting six Ohio State-Michigan games during the next week. 1969’s clash will be broadcast tody at 1 p.m, the game from 1986 will air Friday at 9 p.m. and Sunday, from noon until 8 p.m., games from 1979, 1977, 1974 and 1987 will air in that order.