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COLLEGE FOOTBALL / 1996

Michigan Is Thorn in Rose Bowl

Big Ten: Ohio State's hopes for a national title fly the coop, 13-9.

November 24, 1996|CHRIS DUFRESNE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Joe Germaine's desperation pass on the game's last play might have fallen into anyone's hands.

But it didn't.

The interception that cinched Michigan's 13-9 upset over Ohio State on Saturday--the one that will send the Buckeyes down in the polls and Coach John Cooper back to his shrink--was cruel and unusual punishment.

After Michigan safety Marcus Ray secured victory with his interception as time expired, and got to his feet after being mobbed by teammates, he ran off the field screaming into a microphone, "I never wanted to play for Ohio State and I never will!"

Ray, the latest Buckeye killer, is from Columbus. Eastmoor High. Archie Griffin's alma mater.

Cooper might have expected to wake at this point in a cold sweat, figuring it was only one of those Michigan night terrors.

But it was all happening again, in full consciousness and light, at Ohio Stadium in front of 94,676 fans.

It had all happened again, same as last year, when Ohio State had also entered the game undefeated and ranked No. 2 and needed only a victory against archrival Michigan to stake its national title claim.

Michigan won, 31-23.

Stunning? You'd say so, except that Michigan does it all the time to Ohio State. For the third time in the last four seasons Ohio State has entered the Michigan game unbeaten and lost.

Is it really so enjoyable to wreck another team's season?

"I hate to say it, but yeah," Michigan tailback Chris Howard confided. "We gave them a little gift for the Rose Bowl."

Oh yeah, the Rose Bowl. Ohio State, crushed and humiliated at 10-1, moves on to Pasadena having clinched the Rose Bowl berth a week ago.

Whoopee, aren't the Buckeyes excited.

"Right now, honestly, I'm in denial," Ohio State linebacker Greg Bellisari said. "I can't believe this just happened."

How did this happen? Oh, same old things.

Cooper isn't 1-7-1 against Michigan for nothing.

The Buckeyes entered the game in knots, as usual, thinking they could win with their eyes shut and without a passing game.

After wasting three first-half touchdown chances, settling for three Josh Jackson field goals and a 9-0 lead, the Buckeyes started scoreboard watching and prayed the clock would save them.

On the second play of the second half, Michigan quarterback Brian Griese, subbing for injured Scott Dreisbach, caught Ohio State in a slip-up and connected with Tai Streets on a 68-yard scoring play.

Funny, but at halftime, Buckeye cornerback Shawn Springs was telling his coaches he could cover Streets like a blanket.

"The lesson I learned was that you have to wait to talk trash until after the game," Springs said later.

Springs had man coverage on the play, but slipped as Streets made his break on the post pattern.

"Once I slipped, I just got up and tried to find him," Springs said.

Springs would locate his man in the end zone.

The play would swing momentum like Poe's pendulum.

"It seemed from that point on, they were a different football team," Cooper would offer of Michigan, which improved to 7-3.

When Remy Hamilton's 44-yard field goal crept over the crossbar to give Michigan a 10-9 lead on the last play of the third quarter, you could almost hear Cooper's collar tightening.

Ohio State, which had outgained Michigan, 220 yards to 62 in the first half, was locked up on offense.

The Wolverines began forging holes in the interior line, grinding out the game on the ground. Howard would gain 86 of his 105 rushing yards in the second half. Michigan outgained Ohio State, 237-84, after intermission.

What was the Buckeye offense doing? On consecutive fourth-quarter possessions, they started on their own 46 and Michigan's 45 and ended up punting both times.

Asking the Buckeye defense to save the season was asking too much.

In the game's coup de grace, Michigan took possession at its 12 with 6:52 left and ran the ball 11 consecutive plays on the weakened Ohio State defense.

The gut-punch was Howard's 23-yard burst on the first play. Howard carried nine times for 57 yards on the drive that consumed 5:33 and ended with Hamilton's 39-yard field goal with 1:19 left.

Forced to score a touchdown on its final drive, Ohio State never got close.

In a bit of a gamble, Cooper gave sophomore Germaine his first start at quarterback. He had been platooned all season with Stanley Jackson.

Germaine played most of the game, and all of the second half, but finished having completed only 12 of 31 passes for 148 yards.

His last desperate pass, intercepted by Ray, left the quarterback crushed.

"I'll never forget this," Germaine said of the loss. "I'll remember everything, and keep it for future reference."

Germaine and his teammates will most remember three blown first-half chances and the possible 21-0 lead from which Michigan might never have recovered:

--In the first quarter, Ohio State was first-and-goal at the Michigan two and had to settle for a 21-yard Jackson field goal.

--In the second, from the Michigan 19, Jackson overthrew receiver Michael Wiley, who was streaking on a slant toward the end zone.

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