Losing to Ohio State always hurts.

But for a senior quarterback with a separated shoulder and a senior running back with a bad high ankle sprain, the pain had to be nearly unbearable.

“I think they were in a lot of discomfort,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “(Quarterback) Chad (Henne) got hit and knocked down once, I’m not exactly sure where it was, but from then on, he was hurting. The same thing happened to (running back) Mike (Hart).

“I wasn’t in their shoes, but it was pretty obvious there was some discomfort there.”

Hart and Henne both indicated before the season that their winless record against the Buckeyes was a major factor in their return to Michigan. But Hart hasn’t recovered from an ankle injury he suffered against Purdue five weeks ago, and Henne’s shoulder hasn’t healed in the four weeks since the Illinois game.

“He wanted to come back, and I didn’t think he threw the ball like I had hoped he would in the pre-game,” Carr said. “We have no excuses here, but I think it’s fair to acknowledge that Chad was not throwing the football like he has. And Mike Hart was not at full speed – I mean, that’s fundamental.”

Henne and Hart both attempted to play Saturday, but both had to remove themselves from the game at different points.

Hart appeared to aggravate his ankle on Michigan’s second offensive series and pulled himself out for the rest of the series. He alternated subbing himself in with sitting out throughout the rest of the game, never looking close to full health throughout.

With fewer than four minutes remaining in the third quarter, Henne didn’t come out on offense, instead jogging to the locker room with the Wolverine trainers. He didn’t appear to be at full strength earlier in the game, under-throwing deep balls and looping his passes on out patterns.

Freshman Ryan Mallett came in for Henne and played one series. He gained a first down at the 50-yard line before the drive stalled.

But Henne returned from the locker room just after the beginning of the fourth quarter and immediately inserted himself back into the game.

“Chad Henne has led a few comebacks around here,” Carr said. “And he wanted to play, and I listened to him because I think he deserved that.”

Henne couldn’t lead a comeback in this one, even though some of his linemen didn’t notice that he was in pain.

“He’s tough,” right tackle Steve Schilling said. “If he was hurt, he didn’t show it.”

Henne finished 11-of-34 for 68 yards, the only time he’s finished with fewer than 100 yards in a game in his career (excluding last weekend’s two-series game against Wisconsin). Hart wasn’t more productive, gaining just 44 yards on 18 carries – the lowest total of his career in games where he’s attempted more than nine rushes.

Dropping the ball: Even when Henne played through the pain (and the weather) and got the ball to his receivers, it wasn’t always caught.

Juniors Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington might have had their worst games of the season.

Manningham dropped four passes, including several key completions that would have resulted in first downs and extended Michigan drives. Arrington dropped a key pass on 2nd-and-11 in the fourth quarter that would have been good for at least 20 yards and put Michigan in Ohio State territory.

The weather might have been an excuse, but Carr didn’t want to use it.

“I think there were balls that were dropped,” Carr said. “I didn’t think the weather was that negative. We just dropped some balls that we normally catch, that’s all I can tell you.”

Weathering the weather: After struggling against Michigan State and Wisconsin, punter Zoltan Mesko returned to form Saturday, even in terrible weather conditions.

In a game where field position meant more than usual, Mesko did as much as he could to help the Wolverines’ cause. He punted a career-high 12 times and averaged 45.9 yards per kick.

Mesko boomed a career-long 68-yarder in the second quarter that was downed at the four-yard line. The height of his punts, combined with the weather conditions, bothered the Buckeye returners. Ohio State muffed two kicks and scrambled to recover them.

“I thought there was a period there where he was absolutely unbelievable,” Carr said. “The kick he made at the end of the half really changed the momentum of the game.”

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