Ohio State defensive end Vernon Gholston stood at midfield as the two teams filed off the field.

Brian Merlos
Ohio State defensive end Vernon Gholston collected three sacks and acquainted himself with the Wolverine offensive line as he blew around the edge throughout the game. (RODRIGO GAYA/Daily)

He had every right to take a breather after abusing the Michigan offensive line to the tune of three sacks, but he had one last sprint left in him.

After giving a brief postgame interview, the Detroit native took off to the southwest corner of Michigan Stadium to celebrate with the Buckeye band and the rest of his team.

Gholston’s performance was just a sample size of the pressure Wolverine quarterback Chad Henne faced from the Buckeye defense.

“I’m sure (Chad) Henne will see Vernon in his sleep,” Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. “He’s a great football player, and our whole defense put a lot of pressure, and that’s the difference in the game.”

Gholston won’t just be roaming around in Henne’s subconscious. Most of the five offensive linemen designated to protect him should have those nightmares, too.

Michigan could muster just three points on 91 total yards of offense, and at least part of the problem – if not the majority of it – started with the offensive line.

“It’s tough when things aren’t going your way, and it’s frustrating when you can’t seem to get anything going,” said right tackle Steve Schilling, who was replaced by Mark Ortmann in the fourth quarter. “But we definitely had our opportunities, we just didn’t take advantage.”

Those Wolverine opportunities were infrequent, but whenever the offense appeared to have a small spark of momentum, sacks and penalties stymied drives.

Late in the third quarter, on freshman Ryan Mallett’s only drive of the game, the Wolverines drove the ball to midfield before miscues doomed the offense.

First, tight end Carson Butler was called for holding, pushing Michigan back to the 41. On the next play, Mallett hardly had time to look downfield before Gholston blew by Schilling and threw Mallett to the ground for a six-yard loss.

That possession was just one of two second-half Wolverine drives that made it into Ohio State territory. The second ended just as badly as the first.

After wide receiver Greg Mathews set up Henne and the offense with a nice punt return to the Buckeye 46-yard line, the offense lost three yards in three plays.

In 15 possessions, the Wolverines went three-and-out 11 times and gained just 38 yards in the second half. The Buckeyes tallied a touchdown on nearly 200 yards after halftime.

“Whenever we tried to get something going, we either got penalties or sacked,” running backs coach Fred Jackson said. “A lot times we had it, we just shot ourselves in the foot, and that’s the truth.”

But it wasn’t just the obvious mistakes, like the drops or penalties. It started with the offensive line and the run game.

Hart, still hindered by an injured ankle, hardly got the ball before the Ohio State defense was in his face. That’s the way Tressel planned it.

“Our defense was not going to let them control the game with the run, and we did a pretty good job of moving the chains a little bit,” Tressel said.

And with Henne struggling to move the Wolverines through the air, the Buckeyes keyed in on the Michigan ground attack.

Ohio State held the Wolverines to 15 rushing yards, a part of the game the Michigan offensive line prides itself on dominating.

“They’re really good,” Schilling said of the Buckeye front four. “They’re big and strong and they came ready to play.”

As Gholston ran to the corner of the south end zone after the game, it must have felt just as wide open as his path to Michigan’s backfield.

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