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Ohio State Gives Cooper a Big Win : Big Ten: Buckeyes' 22-6 victory is Cooper's first against Michigan, and it might have saved his job.

November 20, 1994|From Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Rest assured that Ohio State has moved up at least a notch or two on Michigan Coach Gary Moeller's list of top rivals.

Moeller has contended that Michigan State, because it is an in-state rival, and another annual foe, Notre Dame, had supplanted the traditional season-ending game with Ohio State as the biggest on Michigan's schedule.

But Ohio State's 22-6 victory Saturday, ending a seven-year drought against the Wolverines, might have changed all of that.

"Competition is what Ohio State-Michigan is all about," said Moeller, a former Ohio State football captain. "You have to know these people down here. This is the biggest thing in this state. Ohio State football is king."

Ohio State, teetering on the brink early in the fourth quarter, needed a blocked field goal by Marlon Kerner and Luke Fickell's intercepted pass to score 10 points and put the game away.

Ohio State, 9-3 overall and 6-2 in the Big Ten, locked up second place in the conference and a berth in the Florida Citrus Bowl Jan. 2 against the Southeastern Conference runner-up.

The Buckeyes hadn't beaten their nemesis since Earle Bruce's final game as coach in 1987. John Cooper, Bruce's successor, was 0-5-1 against the Wolverines and there was speculation his job could be in jeopardy with another loss.

"I didn't beat Michigan. This football program beat Michigan," Cooper said. "It doesn't get any better than this. It ranks No. 1."

Cooper's only previous victory over Michigan had come in the 1987 Rose Bowl while he was the coach at Arizona State. He had been reminded of that fact again and again in his seven years at Ohio State.

"With all the criticism we've faced, it feels great," Cooper said.

Michigan (7-4, 5-3) will go to the Holiday Bowl Dec. 30 to play Colorado State, the Western Athletic Conference champion.

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