Ohio State scored four second-half touchdowns to pull away after a slugging first half in which the Buckeyes held a 14-7 lead. It gave head coach Jim Tressel seven victories over U-M in eight tries and extended OSU's winning streak over the Wolverines to five games – a school record in the rivalry.
"It's hard to believe because it's so difficult," Tressel said of the streak. "I remember looking up the statistic about three or four years of what the winning streaks were because you always have to have something in the back of your mind that you're shooting for."
Both teams found offense had to come by in the first quarter. At the 4:30 mark, Ohio State had only 8 yards and Michigan had minus-18. The Wolverines had the best chance to score in the early going. Safety Stevie Brown picked off a pass from freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor and returned it to the Ohio State 13-yard line. However, the Buckeye defense pushed the Wolverines back to the 22 and U-M kicker K.C. Lopata eventually pushed a 35-yard field goal attempt wide to the left.
OSU junior tailback Chris "Beanie" Wells eventually broke the stalemate when he burst through the heart of the Michigan offense for a 59-yard touchdown. He found a huge hole left by pulling left guard Jim Cordle and found nothing but daylight to the end zone. Senior placekicker Ryan Pretorius added the extra point to give OSU a 7-0 lead with 3:57 left in the first quarter.
The Buckeye struck again early in the second quarter when junior receiver Brian Hartline found himself behind Brown and Pryor found Hartline for a 53-yard touchdown pass. Pretorius' PAT made it 14-0 with 13:10 left before halftime.
Michigan kept the game close by answering with a touchdown of their own before the break. Quarterback Nick Sheridan drove the Wolverines 65 yards in 14 plays, utilizing counter plays and some hurry-up offense, and running back Brandon Minor capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown on fourh down. Lopata made the extra point to make the score 14-7 with 2:51 left in the quarter, which it remained at halftime.
The Wolverines had the ball to start the second half and drove into OSU territory, causing some nervous murmurs from the Ohio Stadium crowd of 105,564. Their fears were unfounded, however, and the OSU defense forced a punt and the offense quickly found itself in the end zone. Michigan downed the punt at the OSU 9, but Wells took the first-down pitch from Pryor around left end into U-M territory for a 42-yard gain. Wells came out after the run, and redshirt freshman Dan "Boom" Herron entered. The backup took the next carry and exploded through the middle of the defense en route to a 49-yard touchdown.
Pretorius added the extra point to extend the lead to 21-7 with 11:04 left in the third quarter. The Buckeyes were never threatened again after the 91-yard, 39-second touchdown drive.
"I thought that was the turning point," Tressel said. "They punted us down to our 9 and then two plays later we scored. That was huge. That was a big run by Beanie and a big run by Boom Herron, and that really made a difference."
Junior Ray Small set up Ohio State's next score by retuning a third-quarter punt at his own 12 and returning it to the U-M 8-yard line. It only took the Buckeyes one play to score when Pryor found a diving Brian Robiskie for a touchdown with 3:54 left in the period.
The Buckeyes piled on two more scores in the fourth quarter. Herron added a 2-yard touchdown run on the second play of the quarter. And then after Michigan fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, senior quarterback Todd Boeckman capped his Ohio Stadium career by finding Hartline for an 18-yard score.
Boeckman's teammates were excited to see the senior, who had lost his starting job to Pryor earlier in the season, have a final moment to shine. As Boeckman raced to the end zone to celebrate with Hartline, he was lifted into the air by Cordle.
"I was getting a little worried when Jimmy picked me up because I didn't know if he was going to drop me," Boeckman said with a laugh. "It was very emotional being out there. It's been a tough year for myself, but it felt pretty good to be out there and throw that touchdown."
Wells led OSU's offensive attack with 134 yards on 15 carries. Herron added two touchdowns and 80 yards on eight carries. Pryor completed only 5 of 13 passes but threw for 120 yards and a pair of scores.
Despite the slow start, Ohio State dominated the stat sheet. The Buckeyes accounted for 416 yards of total offense, and OSU's defense held U-M to only 198. Minor led Michigan with 67 yards rushing on 14 carries. Sheridan completed 8 of 24 passes after entering the game for injured starter Steven Threet.
In his final appearance at the Horseshoe, senior linebacker James Laurinaitis had a game-high 12 tackles and recorded his fourth sack of the year. Junior safety added 10 tackles, and senior linebacker Marcus Freeman notched seven stops, including 2½ for a loss, to go with a fumble recovery.
The Buckeyes (10-2, 7-1) clinched a share of the Big Ten championship – their fourth in a row. They shared the title with Penn State, which blasted Michigan State 49-18 in the hours following OSU's victory. The Nittany Lions would head to the Rose Bowl, while the Buckeyes returned to the Arizona desert to play in the Fiesta Bowl against Texas.
The win was the largest in the series in 40 years. The Buckeyes crushed the Wolverines 50-14 during their 1968 national championship season.
Michigan finished the season 3-9 and did not qualify for a bowl appearance. That snapped a streak of 33 straight seasons capped with a postseason berth.
"It's disappointing to not be as successful as we would have liked with our record," Rodriguez said, "but there is no panic with it being the first year. We have a lot of things to overcome, and I am confident that the work we do Sunday through Friday will show up on Saturdays soon."