One Happy Hawk
Once again, outside linebacker A.J. Hawk led the Buckeyes in tackles, tallying 11 as OSU disposed of the Wolverines.
"It feels great to come out and get a great win like this," said Hawk, who was selected as a first-team All-Big Ten pick for the second straight year today. "This should give us a lot of momentum going into the bowl game. I know a lot of people doubted us coming into this game, but we felt like we had a pretty good game plan and if we executed we could get it done."
Hawk said the mood on the sideline was fine despite the way Michigan drove easily for two touchdowns and a quick 14-7 lead.
"We weren't panicking," Hawk said. "We knew we could stop them when we needed to. We just needed to get a few things fixed. We had a great scheme coming in. Our coaches got us on the sideline and we got calmed down and realized what we had to do to stop them."
The stats will show that Michigan's Braylon Edwards, picked as the Big Ten offensive player of the year, burned OSU for 11 catches and 172 yards. But Edwards only had one touchdown catch against the Buckeyes.
"I think our defensive line did a good job of getting pressure on (quarterback Chad) Henne," Hawk said. "Whenever you do that, it causes trouble for the quarterback. We also have to give a lot of credit to our corners and safeties. They really played well in pass coverage. A lot of people did real well."
At the same time, OSU held freshman Michael Hart, the Big Ten's leading rusher, to just 61 yards on 18 carries.
"We were stopping them for the most part on the run and they just didn't come back to it that much," Hawk noted.
As a junior, Hawk and his classmates moved to 2-1 against Michigan.
"Any time it's a Michigan game, it's the biggest rivalry in college sports," he said. "It was a great feeling to come out here and for the seniors' last game in the ‘Shoe, to send them off right, they deserve it. Things haven't gone like we would have liked, but a win here could help out and give us some momentum.
"We still have a game this year to play and we're going to be ready for that. We want to bring some of the excitement we had here. We played with a lot of passion on defense and our offense played really well. As a team, we really came together here."
Hawk was asked if it was "weird" to have the OSU offense play such a large role in the win.
"It's not weird because we know what they're capable of," Hawk said. "Troy (Smith) had a huge game and Santonio (Holmes) played well and the line blocked well. It was guys making plays when they had to. That's what Ohio State is all about. They really got it done today."
OSU defensive coordinator Mark Snyder tipped his cap to Michigan for making several big plays on UM's first touchdown drive. The Wolverines moved 87 yards in nine plays. The two key plays were a 16-yard toss from Henne to Edwards on third down and then a 39-yard gain to Hart on a screen play.
"We doubled Braylon on the first third down and we didn't execute it very well," Snyder said. "That kept us on the field. We got that fixed, then they executed the screen for 39. That was good coaching on their part. That was the one that broke our back. Then, they come out and ran the sprint-out. We came and showed the kids, `This is what they're doing. We have to take away the screen.' But the kids executed."
Michigan would score again after a 43-yard drive, keyed by a bad OSU punt. But the Buckeyes then held UM's high powered offense to just one touchdown over the game's final 50 minutes.
"It feels great," Snyder said of the win. "It just feels awesome. We did not allow them to become unpredictable. They were very predictable and it starts with stopping the run. Again, that's a credit to the kids and the coaches who coached them."
Big Play In Punt Game
When the game was over, most pundits were looking at Ted Ginn Jr.'s 82-yard punt return for a touchdown as the one that broke Michigan's back. Sure enough, that Ginn return gave the Buckeyes 27-14 lead early in the third quarter.
However, OSU was still nursing a 34-21 lead midway through the fourth quarter when OSU punter Kyle Turano uncorked one of the biggest punts of his career. Turano, whose 21-yard punt in the first quarter opened the door for a UM touchdown, came up big in the clutch. From his own goal line, Turano hit a high and deep 71-yard punt that sent UM's Steve Breaston all the way back to his own 15-yard line.
"It felt real good," said Turano, a senior from nearby Worthington Kilbourne. "I went through all of my fundamentals. Once again, I had another perfect snap, which I have been getting all year from Kyle Andrews. I went through my fundamentals and got the ball off."
But just as big was the play turned in by OSU coverage man Antonio Smith, a sophomore walk-on from nearby Columbus Beechcroft. Smith weaved his way through traffic, grabbed hold of Breaston and was able to stop him for just a 5-yard return at the Michigan 20-yard line. Instead of having great field position, the Wolverines were backed up in their own end.
"It was a great play from our punt team and our punter," Smith said. "It was a great punt. He had a lot of hang time. We were able to get down there and make a play.
"I grabbed him and I knew I just could not let go. I was hanging on for dear life. A couple guys tried to knock me off. That's just one of those things. You just have to hang on."
It was just Smith's sixth tackle of the season, but few were any larger. Michigan turned the ball over on downs shortly thereafter, allowing OSU to pad its lead on Mike Nugent's 48-yard field goal with 7:15 left.
"It was exciting for me," Smith said. "This is my first year really playing and my first time to get in there against Michigan. They're a great team and it's a great rivalry. It was a great experience. Our sidelines were great and the fans were great."
Turano added, "Our coverage on all special teams were magnificent. Antonio Smith and Sirjo Welch, they've been making some big plays the last few weeks. They are great guys to have on your side."
And as for winning against Michigan as a senior, Turano said, "This is huge. Right now, I don't even know how to explain it. This is probably the biggest thing I'll ever be a part of in my life. It's just a great feeling."
"He played good last week," offensive coordinator/line coach Jim Bollman said. "I thought he deserved a shot to be in there."
It was Downing's second career start. He also started the Michigan State game at left guard when Datish replaced Nick Mangold at center.
Bollman was happy with the play of the offensive line, which did not allow Troy Smith to be sacked by Michigan.
"A couple times, I thought we had a little bit more trouble than I would have liked," Bollman said. "A couple of times, we got overloaded on some protections. But they haven't been a huge outfit all year. They kind of held suit to that today."
Nuge Says Proper Goodbyes
It was announced today that Nugent – in addition to being a first-team All-Big Ten pick – is also one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Award. Nugent was also a finalist for the Groza in 2002.
After hitting three field goals against Michigan, Nugent is 20 for 23 on field goals this year. He is also a perfect 27 of 27 on PATs. He has kicked 6 of 8 field goals from 40-49 yards; 5 of 6 from 50+ yards including two 55-yarders. Nugent either holds outright or shares 18 school records and is within seven points of tying Pete Johnson's OSU career scoring mark of 348 points.
Nugent talked about the spectacle of Saturday's Michigan game.
"That was by far the loudest I have ever heard that stadium," he said. "The fans just did a great job and that gives us a lot of confidence. It was the first quarter and on third down, I couldn't hear the guy next to me.
"I've been dreading what would be my last moment at the stadium and it was one of the best moments I got to experience in my career. We've been through some ups and downs, but I think we showed potentially how good we are. On both sides of the ball, everybody just did an outstanding job."
Nugent was the last senior introduced before the game, bringing the crowd to its feet as the whole stadium chanted "Nuuuuuge!"
"I just loved it," he said. "My parents were down there and they got to see what I get to see when I come out there.
"We came through the Tunnel of Pride and we got to see so many guys who had been here before us and made it this great tradition. I got to see Vlade Janakievski and Dan Stultz and Tim Williams. It just shows how much those guys care about you."
Nugent was asked what its like to be viewed as automatic.
"It makes me happy because that was my number one goal when I signed my (letter of intent)," he said.
He was also asked to compare his three different wins against Michigan.
"They are all really different because of the circumstances that were going on," he said. "I'd say it's tough to beat two years ago. But still, today, was unbelievable. It's great being 3-1 against Michigan. My greatest feeling was beating Miami (Fla.) in the Fiesta Bowl, but this may be one of those things that is right up there with it. Just the fact that we were underdogs today and we heard they had the roses on the sideline ready to go. I'm just so happy that everybody played so well today."
As noted above, Nugent's last kick in Ohio Stadium was critical. It took a tenuous 13-point lead out to a 16-point margin, meaning UM would have needed two eight-point touchdowns to tie or three scores to win the game in regulation.
"At the time, it felt good that I hit another field goal," he said. "I didn't realize what that made the score."
Nugent talked about his fellow seniors.
"Six or seven of us just kind of grew up together," he said. "We got to play in the North-South game together. It's just fun knowing guys then and seeing how hard we've worked to get where we are today."
Nugent will participate in ESPN's Home Depot College Football Awards Show on Thurs., Dec. 9, at 7 p.m.
The other finalists are Boise State's Tyler Jones and Eastern Michigan's Andrew Wellock.
Jones, a senior, is 19 for 22 on field goals and 57-58 on PATs. Jones has scored more points than any other Division I-A place-kicker with 115 on the season.
Wellock, a sophomore, has spent much of the season on top of the NCAA rankings with over 1.9 field goals per game. He is 21 of 23 on field goals, 6 of 7 from 40 plus. He is 33 of 34 on PATs. After this week's game against Northern Illinois, Wellock is the EMU single-season points scored leader with 95.
The Lou Groza Award is named for NFL Hall-of-Fame Kicker Lou "The Toe" Groza, who played 21 seasons with the Cleveland Browns. Groza won four NFL championships with Cleveland and was named NFL Player of the Year in 1954. Groza, of course, attended Ohio State but never played on the varsity squad for the Buckeyes.