Yes, Smith had started several games before his first game under center against Michigan. But his breakout performance came against OSU's archrival. Smith, who had appeared only as a kickoff returner in the 2003 edition of The Game, destroyed U-M and finished with a whopping 386 yards of total offense.
Smith's demeanor before the game told his teammates that something special was about to happen.
"He had a great determination before the game – you could see it in his eyes," Ohio State center Nick Mangold said in the Nov. 27, 2004, edition of Buckeye Sports Bulletin. "He gave all of us guys up front a little gift before the game, just to show that he appreciates what we do. That shows what kind of poise and determination he has."
It did not take long for Smith to assert himself in the victory. A little more than a minute into the game, Smith piled up 76 yards of total offense and had given Ohio State a 7-0 lead on a 68-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Gonzalez.
Michigan rebounded with a pair of touchdowns on its first two offensive possessions, one on a 4-yard pass from Chad Henne to Jason Avant and another on a 1-yard run by Mike Hart, but the Buckeyes (7-4, 4-4 Big Ten) dominated from there. Ohio State took a 20-14 lead into halftime on a 2-yard touchdown run by Smith and a pair of field goals by Mike Nugent from 21 and 42 yards, respectively.
As the OSU offense got on track, so did the Buckeye defense. The unit allowed Michigan to rack up 399 yards of total offense, but Michigan did not score again until the fourth quarter after the game's outcome had essentially been decided.
"They were punching us in the mouth a little bit," OSU linebacker Bobby Carpenter said. "They had us on our heels coming out there. I think the biggest thing was we kind of rallied together and said, ‘Hey, this is the Ohio State-Michigan game right here. We're not going to let them push us around. This is our season right now. We're not playing to go to a national championship (game) or BCS bowl, we're playing to beat Michigan.' And I think everyone responded."
Ohio State added 17 more points after the break on an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown by Ted Ginn Jr., a 12-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Santonio Holmes and a 48-yard field goal by Nugent.
Smith completed 13 of 23 passes for 241 yards with two touchdown passes. Henne, his counterpart, completed 27 of 54 throws for 328 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Ashton Youboty and Nate Salley recorded the picks for OSU.
Smith also led all rushers with 145 yards, besting the total of U-M's Hart. He had 61 yards on 18 carries. Ginn was OSU's receiving leader with 87 yards on five catches. Michigan's Braylon Edwards caught 11 passes for 172 yards.
A.J. Hawk led the OSU defense with 11 tackles. Donte Whitmer recorded the game's lone sack a mere 11 days after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. 1999: No. 10 Michigan 24, Ohio State 17 – The Buckeyes played their best game in weeks, but it was not enough to get them to a postseason bowl after losing to the Wolverines at Michigan Stadium.
"I'm really proud of the effort we gave today," Ohio State head coach John Cooper said in the Nov. 27, 1999, edition of BSB. "Unfortunately, we didn't give that kind of effort all season long."
A week after suffering its worst home defeat in 32 years in a 46-20 loss to Illinois, the Buckeyes (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten) appeared inspired against the Wolverines. Ohio State even led 14-7 at halftime before Michigan pulled away after the break. A trio of costly turnovers – two interceptions by Steve Bellisari and a fumble by Vanness Provitt – and 13 penalties helped do the Buckeyes in.
Michigan scored the game-winning touchdown with 5:01 remaining on a 10-yard pass from Tom Brady to Marquise Walker.
Ohio State's points came on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Bellisari to Kevin Houser in the first quarter, a 1-yard TD pass from Bellisari to Jamar Martin in the second quarter and a third-quarter 27-yard field goal by Dan Stultz.
The end of the season represented a unceremonious goodbye for the Buckeyes' 14 seniors. They were a part of two Big Ten championship teams and two final No. 2 rankings. Unfortunately for them, they ended the seniors ended their college careers without a bowl trip.
"We're going to miss those senior football players and hopefully none of us at Ohio State will ever have to go through a season like this again," Cooper said.
1993: Michigan 28, No. 5 Ohio State 0 – Ohio State's Rose Bowl dreams were dashed because of an upset loss to the host Wolverines.
Head coach John Cooper called it his most embarrassing moment in nearly three decades as a college coach. Dan Wilkinson said the team didn't deserve to go to the Rose Bowl because of its efforts. Bobby Hoying said he just felt empty inside, and Korey Stringer couldn't bear to look his teammates in the eyes.
Each were dealing with the aftermath of yet another loss to Michigan. The 20 seniors who played their final regular season games never beat the Wolverines.
"Going through an entire career and not beating Michigan, it makes you sick to your stomach," senior offensive lineman Jason Winrow said in the Nov. 27, 1993, edition f BSB. "It's very disheartening. That was the second-to-last thing I wanted to accomplish in my career as far as team goals were concerned.
"We wanted to beat Illinois, beat Michigan, win the Big Ten championship and then go to the Rose Bowl. We went out and beat Illinois; we have a tie for the Big Ten championship, so we are going to have Big Ten rings coming to us. But the pinnacle would have been to beat Michigan. Now I know how the past couple of classes have felt. To never beat Michigan is a feeling I can't describe right now"
Cooper had also not yet beaten Michigan at Ohio State. As head coach at Arizona State, he defeated the Wolverines in the 1986 Rose Bowl but fell to 0-5-1 as the leader of the Buckeyes against U-M.
"They just beat us every which way," Cooper said. "Offense, defense, the kicking game, you name it. It was one of the most embarrassing games, I think, since I've been coaching college football."
Added junior free safety Walter Taylor: "It's a disgrace to our team. To go out losing 28-0 is embarrassing. I'm in total shock."
The Buckeyes were outgained 421-212, and Ohio State's rushing attack managed only 58 yards on 28 carries. Conversely, Michigan's rushing attack piled up 281 yards. Tyrone Wheatley finished with 105 yards, and Michigan scored a pair of rushing touchdown on a 1-yard run by Jon Ritchie in the second quarter and a 5-yard Ed Davis run in the third. U-M quarterback Todd Collins completed 14 of 20 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. The first came on a 25-yard strike to Mercury Hayes in the first quarter and the second was on a 3-yard pass to Che Foster in the second quarter that gave U-M a 21-0 lead at halftime.
Ohio State's quarterback duo of Bobby Hoying and Bret Powers completed 14 of 30 passes for 154 yards with four interceptions. Powers completed as many passes to Wolverines as Buckeyes, with three going to each. All of Powers' interceptions came in the first half.
Michigan also did a good job of stifling Ohio State's big play threat in Joey Galloway, who had only three receptions for 47 yards. 1982: Ohio State 24, No. 14 Michigan 14 – Turnovers told the tale as the Buckeyes upset the Wolverines at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State forced Michigan to lose three fumbles and intercepted three U-M passes.
"We just gave them the ball game," Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler said in the Nov. 27, 1982, edition of BSB. "We handed it to them."
The first Michigan miscue came on its first offensive drive. The Wolverines drove all the way to the OSU 5-yard line before OSU's Curt Curtis recovered a fumbled snap to halt the threat.
Michigan scored a touchdown on its next drive, but the Buckeyes (8-3, 7-1 Big Ten) responded with a touchdown to knot the game after another U-M turnover. Rowland Tatum intercepted a Steve Smith pass, giving the Buckeyes the ball at the Michigan 29. Vaughn Broadnax later rushed 6 yards for a touchdown to tie the game and give Ohio State its first touchdown against Michigan at home sicne 1972.
Another fumbled snap halted Michigan's next drive, and the Buckeyes then marched down the field to take the lead. Tim Spencer gave Ohio State a 14-7 lead with 33 seconds left before halftime with a 2-yard burst for a score.
Michigan tied the game in the third quarter after marching for a score following a Mike Tomczak fumble. However, Spencer, who finished with 124 yards on the day, answered that score in the fourth quarter with a 1-yard dive to give OSU a 21-14 lead. The Buckeyes later iced the game on its next possession with a 33-yard field goal by Rich Spangler.
The win sparked a huge celebration at Ohio Stadium. Actually, the party started before time had run out in the fourth quarter. Fans rushed the field in the waning seconds and tore down one of the goal posts, forcing the officials to penalize the Buckeyes 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct with 0:05 remaining.
After the game, Ohio State announced it would play in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego against BYU. 1976: No. 4 Michigan 22, No. 8 Ohio State 0 – The Buckeyes (8-1-2) disappointed an Ohio Stadium crowd of 88,250 – then the largest crowd to watch a game at the venue – by falling to the Wolverines in a showdown of top-10 teams. Ohio State had only one serious scoring drive, but it was abruptly ended when U-M defender Jim Pickens intercepted a Jim Pacenta pass in the end zone. The Wolverines' ground attack won them the game. All 366 of U-M's total yardage came on rushes. 1971: No. 3 Michigan 10, Ohio State 7 – A crowd of 104,016 at Michigan Stadium, at the time the largest in college football history, saw the Buckeyes fall to the Wolverines. Injury-ravaged Ohio State, who featured an offense that had no returning starters from the 1970 meeting with Michigan, was outgained 335-138 in total offense. Even so, the Buckeyes (6-4) led 7-3 in the second half on an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown by Tom Campana. Michigan answered the touchdown with a game-winning score on a 21-yard run by Billy Taylor. 1965: Ohio State 9, Michigan 7 – Nothing but pride was on the line, but Ohio State earned its fifth win over Michigan in six years in front of a Michigan Stadium crowd of 77,733. The Wolverines reached the red zone four times without scouting touchdowns, while Ohio State crossed midfield only twice yet scored twice. A 5-yard touchdown pass from Don Unverferth to Bill Anders gave OSU a 6-0 lead, and the Buckeyes (7-2) erased a 7-6 deficit in the fourth quarter with a 28-yard field goal by Bob Funk with 1:15 remaining. 1954: No. 1 Ohio State 21, No. 12 Michigan 7 – The Buckeyes (9-0) earned a trip to the Rose Bowl by earning a dramatic win over Michigan at Ohio Stadium. In front of a national television audience, Ohio State rallied from an early 7-0 deficit. The Buckeyes tied the game on a Fred Kirss touchdown reception in the second quarter and took the lead for good on a 99-yard drive that was capped by a touchdown reception by Dick Brubaker. Hopalong Cassady closed the scoring with a late touchdown that set off a big celebration in Columbus. The Rose Bowl berth was the first for a Woody Hayes-coached team. 1948: No. 1 Michigan 13, No. 18 Ohio State 3 – The Wolverines silenced an Ohio Stadium crowd of 82,754 by beating the Buckeyes. Ohio State led 3-0 on a 30-yard field goal by Jimmy Hague with 9:29 left in the first quarter, but the Buckeyes (6-3) would not score again. The Wolverines took the lead for good with a touchdown in the second quarter before added another score in the fourth quarter. Michigan won the national championship but did not play in the Rose Bowl. Because of the conference's "no repeat" policy, second place Northwestern went to Pasadena and beat California 20-14. 1943: No. 4 Michigan 45, Ohio State 7 – The Buckeyes were overwhelmed by a Michigan team that featured 41 Navy and Marine trainees. Ohio State trailed only 13-0 at halftime before the Wolverines took command. The Buckeyes finished the 1943 season with a 3-6 record. 1937: No. 19 Ohio State 21, Michigan 0 – Ohio State closed the season with a shutout win at Ann Arbor. The Buckeyes (6-2) braved cold and windy weather. Senior halfback Jim Miller, who played sparingly during his time at Ohio State, and Dick Nardi each scored touchdowns. 1926: Ohio State 7, Illinois 6 – The Buckeyes ended the season 7-1 after bouncing back from a loss to Michigan with a narrow win against Illinois. Myers Clark's drop-kick conversion after a second-quarter touchdown proved to be the game-winning play. Illinois scored a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, but Forrest "Frosty" Peters missed the extra point attempt. 1920: Ohio State 7, Illinois 0 – Ohio State traveled to Champaign, along with many fans who "borrowed" U.S. Army trucks that had been stored near Ohio Stadium, and left with a shutout win against the Fighting Illini. The game featured two goal-line stands – one by each defense – and one score. It came when Cyril "Truck" Myers caught a touchdown pass from Noel "Dopey" Workman. The Buckeyes (7-0) were now Rose Bowl bound and would play California. 1915: Ohio State 34, Northwestern 0 – The Buckeyes ended the season with a blanking of visiting Northwestern. Ohio State finished the season 5-1-1 and fans were already excited about the 1916 season – the first that freshman Chic Harley would be eligible to play. 1909: Oberlin 26, Ohio State 6 – Ohio State traveled to Oberlin and dropped their third game against six wins. All that was left for the Buckeyes was a home game vs. Kenyon on Nov. 25.