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Smith delivers as Ohio St beats Michigan, clinches title berth

Nov 19, 2006 - 12:20 AM COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ticker) -- Michigan was playing with heavy hearts. Troy Smith made them heavier.

Smith threw touchdowns to four different receivers as top-ranked Ohio State beat the second-ranked Wolverines for a third straight year, 42-39, to win the Big Ten Conference title and book a spot in the Bowl Championship Series title game.

The Heisman Trophy favorite, Smith completed 29-of-41 passes for 316 yards with an interception for the Buckeyes (12-0, 8-0 Big Ten), who improved to 5-1 against the Wolverines (11-1, 7-1) under coach Jim Tressel and extended the nation's longest winning streak to 19 games.

"I would think he clinched the Heisman Trophy, I don't think there'd be any question about that," Tressel said. "I think he's the best player in college football."

"Words can't express how I feel right now," Smith said. "I'll probably be wearing this smile for the rest of this week. I love every single one of my teammates with the deepest passion you can probably have for another person."

Smith improved to 3-0 against Michigan, which was stunned by the death of legendary coach Bo Schembechler on Friday of heart failure. A former Buckeye assistant who addressed the Wolverines on Thursday, he was honored before the game.

"Bo was just trying to get us hyped up," Michigan quarterback Chad Henne said. "He's been in many Michigan-Ohio State games, just saying go out there and play our best, play to your capability. I mean, just keep fighting. And that's what we definitely did today, but we just came up on the short end."

"When I told the team on Friday, I tried to tell them that, you know, he would not have wanted to be a distraction," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "And I told our team we weren't going to use Bo and his passing away as a motivational deal. That would have been to dishonor him. And I simply told them the way we could honor him is to coach and play in a way that would have made him proud."

In the first matchup as the top two ranked teams in the land in their 103-game history, the squads combined for 81 points and 900 yards. They entered the contest combining to yield just under 20 points and 494 yards.

"We go into a game feeling like we can handle whatever comes our way offensively," Carr said. "I think it goes back to defensively, what I believe is that you can't give up big plays and be successful, and we've done a great job of that throughout this season, but we just didn't do that today. And that was, in my mind, the difference."

Michigan scored on an impressive opening drive on a one-yard run by Mike Hart, but Ohio State scored 21 straight points and led thereafter en route to its first outright Big Ten title since 1984.

The Wolverines pulled within 35-31 on a one-yard run by Hart with 14:41 to play and got the ball back when defensive end LaMarr Woodley recovered a fumbled exchange between center Doug Datish and Smith at the Michigan 32 with 12:01 to go.

But Mario Manningham dropped an easy pass across the middle that would have gone for big yardage on first down, and the Wolverines went three-and-out.

On Ohio State's ensuing possession, Smith threw an incomplete pass on 3rd-and-15 from the Michigan 38 with 6:49 left. But Shawn Crable delivered a helmet-to-helmet hit on the right sideline, giving the Buckeyes a first down. Three plays later, Smith delivered a dagger, a 13-yard pass to Brian Robiskie in the front left corner of the end zone.

"I don't question any of the calls except that I do feel like when a quarterback's in the pocket and he's getting hit, I think, you know, the rule has to protect him," Carr said. "But when a quarterback is scrambling, when he's running around, especially some of the guys we get in college football, I'm not sure I'm clear on, you know, exactly what that rule is.

"But that was a big play in the game, because if we don't have a penalty, then they probably are going to punt the ball or it's going to be fourth down and 15. But I'm not complaining about the call. I do have some questions about, you know, that situation."

Michigan pulled within three points on a 16-yard pass from Henne to Tyler Ecker and a two-point pass to Steve Breaston with 2:16 left, but Ted Ginn Jr. recovered the onside kick and the Buckeyes ran out the clock.

Henne went 21-of-35 for 267 yards and two touchdowns and Hart had 23 carries for 142 yards and three scores for the Wolverines, who likely will play in the Rose Bowl but remain in the hunt for the other BCS title berth.

"We lost today and we put ourselves in that situation and we have to sit back and wait," Woodley said. "You know, if we would have won, we knew right away where we were going to be playing and what day. All we can do is sit back and wait now."

"I think Michigan is a very deserving football team," Tressel said. "There can't be many teams in the nation better than Michigan, but I'm not going to get into it. My opinion doesn't have a vote. The guy from the BCS is here. He has all the votes, I don't have them."

Ohio State took the lead, 14-7, on a 52-yard run by true freshman Chris Wells with 12:29 to play in the second quarter. Crable had Wells caught for a loss but Wells escaped his tackle and took off for the end zone.

Smith capped a 91-play drive that took just four plays with a 39-yard strike to childhood friend Ginn, opening a 21-7 advantage with 6:11 left in the half. Michigan countered on a 37-yard TD toss from Henne to Adrian Arrington, but Smith restored the two-score advantage with an eight-yard pass to Anthony Gonzalez with 20 seconds remaining before the break.

The Wolverines began the second half impressively, forcing the Buckeyes to punt after a three-and-out and marching 60 yards for a touchdown in five plays, the final a two-yard run by Hart. He had 59 yards on four straight rushes to cap the drive.

Michigan defensive tackle Alan Branch picked off a deflected pass by Smith at the Ohio State 25 three plays later, leading to a 39-yard field goal by Garrett Rivas that pulled the Wolverines within 28-24 with 8:41 to play in the third quarter.

But Antonio Pittman ran up the middle 56 yards for a score just 37 seconds later to restore the advantage to two scores. In the final minute of the third quarter, Smith - operating in the shotgun - lost the snap off his helmet and Branch recovered at the Buckeye 9.

On the first play of the fourth, Breaston appeared to score on a reverse but the TD was overturned on replay. However, Hart powered it in from one yard out on the next play, and after the Buckeyes took a timeout as Michigan set up for a two-point conversion, Rivas kicked the extra point to make it 35-31.

"I guarantee if we play them again it would be a whole different game," Hart said. "We should have got them the first time around. We didn't. So if it doesn't happen, that's our faults. You know, but if we played them again, it would be a whole different game. Guarantee that."

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