COLUMBUS – With all of the national hype surrounding the Michigan-Ohio State game Saturday, the third-quarter attendance announcement was no surprise.
The public address announcer told the fans that they were part of the largest crowd in Ohio Stadium history. The 105,708 attendance number edged out the 105,565 crowd at last season’s Texas-Ohio State contest.
The Buckeyes players took notice from the onset.
“I was extremely emotional because when I heard the roar of the crowd, I knew it was my last time to play in front of the best fans in the land,” Ohio State’s Brandon Mitchell said. “It is something to tell my children about. I’ll tell them how it was an honor to get the win for our team, our school and the city of Columbus.”
Even though the crowd was the largest in Ohio Stadium history, you wouldn’t have known it from the way the Michigan offense handled the noise.
The last time the Wolverines played in such a hostile environment, they had a shaky start at Beaver Stadium. The offense committed numerous false starts, but Saturday was different. Michigan had just one dead-ball penalty.
“To come in here and only have one penalty for illegal motion, when honestly you could not hear – I mean, to have 11 guys on the football field and perform like they did in that type of crowd, to me, is a remarkable thing,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “I think our kids just did a magnificent job of dealing with the pressure of the crowd offensively.”
Old-fashioned shootout: Saturday’s matchup featured the No. 1 and 3 scoring defenses in the nation.
With two devastating defenses going toe-to-toe, no one thought the game to be a shootout. But 81 points later, the contest ranked as the second highest scoring game in the rivalry. Only Michigan’s 86-0 rout in 1902 featured more points.
The game started with the Wolverines driving impressively down the field to score the opening touchdown, grabbing the quick lead.
But no Michigan fan watching the game expected the defense, which has been relied on to carry the team for the most part this season, to give up 42 points.
“You know, like I always say, whenever there’s a big play, you know, somebody’s out the gap,” defensive end LaMarr Woodley said.
Surprisingly, Michigan came out of the gates throwing the ball. Even though running back Mike Hart gained 142 yards on the ground, quarterback Chad Henne threw a season-high 35 pass attempts for 267 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Adrian Arrington – the longest scoring play the Ohio State defense has given up all season.
“You know, what I believe offensively is that you’ve got to have the kind of offense where you can score quickly,” Carr said. “That’s really what you work on. You work on two-minute offense. And you have to be a great offense.”
One for the money, two for the show: After Michigan scored on a Hart one-yard touchdown run to cut the Ohio State lead to 35-30, Carr contemplated a two-point conversion and kept the offensive unit on the field.
As Henne lined up behind center, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel called a timeout.
When the units returned to the field, Michigan’s offense stayed on the sideline, and kicker Garrett Rivas converted the extra point to trim the Buckeye lead to four.
“Well, the chart said two, and I was happy to have them use a timeout,” Carr said. “You know, we had a play call. They lined up, saw what we were in, and then called a timeout. And he was happy to have them use a timeout at that point. I just felt it was a little bit early.”