Boren lined up 5 yards off the line of scrimmage to the left of the center. At the snap, Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner faked a handoff left and rolled back to his right. Boren keyed on the tight end, shading to his left until it became clear the Wolverine would stay in to help double team Michael Bennett.
At that moment, he pounced. Within six steps, Boren was in the face of Gardner. A moment later, he was pumping his fist and celebrating over the prone quarterback he had just dumped 9 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
About 50 yards away behind the north end zone, camera shutters clicked. Though Boren didn't know it at the time, a legend was born.
"It's pretty cool knowing that picture will always be by my name," Boren said. "It's one of those things when you're playing, you don't really notice it. After the game, I saw it and I was like, ‘It's really cool.' I didn't think it would be that big of a picture, except it blew up, and I was kind of happy it did."
The picture of Boren over Gardner is not only a fan favorite, it is posted liberally inside the team's Woody Hayes Athletic Center training facility. It was one of the key plays as Ohio State posted a 26-21 come-from-behind victory vs. the Wolverines last season, a triumph that allowed the Buckeyes to finish their undefeated campaign.
Speaking Tuesday evening at the Celebrities for Diabetes event at the Ohio Union that benefitted the Central Ohio Diabetes Association, Boren admitted that he barely remembered last year's victory – not because it wasn't memorable but because it flew by in a haze of emotions.
"Actually on the way up here, we hit a lot of traffic with the snow and everything, and I was thinking this week I want to go back and watch the game just because it was a blur," he said. "I knew I'd have to go back and talk about the rivalry here, and last year, going 12-0 and that hit and everything, everything is a blur. I remember it was such a fun game, a hyped up game. I'm just thankful we came out with a win."
Of course, Boren has seen the rivalry from just about every perspective. He grew up a Michigan fan considering his father, Mike, and mother, Hope, were both varsity athletes at U-M, with Mike a star linebacker who finished his career among the all-time tackle leaders.
By now, the story is pretty well known. Zach's older brother, Justin, first chose Michigan and played two years before Lloyd Carr's retirement. When Rich Rodriguez took over the Wolverines, Justin decided to transfer back to Columbus and join the Ohio State side, converting what had been a maize and blue family into scarlet and gray.
Zach went on to play as a freshman at OSU in 2009 and was a fixture on the Buckeyes for all four games from '09-12, earning three pairs of gold pants that hung from his mother's necklace at the diabetes event. Having seen it from so many perspectives, Boren calls it the "greatest rivalry in all of sports."
"There's nothing that compares to Ohio State-Michigan," he said. "It's strictly business this week. You know that you have to put in 110 percent effort because you know you're going to get everything from that other team, just like Michigan knows they're going to get our best shot. It's one of those things that you put in a little extra film work, put the pads on a little tighter during the week just to get ready for the game on Saturday."
A third Boren brother, reserve center Jacoby, is still on the Ohio State roster for this week's contest. Zach, of course, is biased now, but he still has a strong prediction for this weekend's clash in Ann Arbor.
"I like ‘em," he said of the Buckeyes' chances. "This team has bonded really well, and I think all of us as fans have seen them grow from week one to week 12 now. I'm expecting big things from them. I think they're one of the best teams in America. I think they'll go out and show it this week and the following week after that."