Ohio State stays perfect to win ”The Game”

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The only thing Urban Meyer lost during his first season at Ohio State was his cool — at the end of the last game.

Carlos Hyde ran for 146 yards and the

fourth-ranked Buckeyes’ defense shut out No. 20 Michigan in the second

half to grab a bruising 26-21 win on Saturday, completing an improbable

12-0 season for the Buckeyes.

Meyer got emotional as the final seconds

ticked off, embracing his players on the sideline at a raucous Ohio

Stadium. Too emotional, he said later.

“I’ve got to keep a little more

composure, I guess,” he said sheepishly. “In the coaching manual, I

think it’s chapter 13, it says, `Keep cool.’ I lost it there for a

couple of minutes.”

Well, give the guy a break.

Almost no one — up to and including

Meyer — expected such a rapid turnaround for the Buckeyes, who were

just 6-7 last season with a loss to their archrivals in a transitional

year when they were facing heavy NCAA penalties. A month after Meyer

took the job last November, they were socked with a bowl ban after this

season — and still ran the table.

“You get all the wins you can,

especially against the Team Up North, especially at home on top of

that,” said exuberant Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller.

Ohio State (12-0, 8-0 Big Ten) is

ineligible for a BCS national title but still has an outside shot at

finishing No. 1 in the final Associated Press Top 25 if other contenders

lose. Michigan (8-4, 6-2) will now await a minor bowl bid.

“At this point in time, Ohio State can

go and play with anybody in America,” Meyer said. “I wouldn’t say that

five weeks ago, but you’ve seen the growth, what we did today and the

growth of our defense.”

Drew Basil matched his season output

with four field goals and the defense did the rest, forcing three

turnovers in the second half.

It was played before 105,899, the largest crowd ever to witness “The Game” in Columbus.

Meyer and his players were mobbed by

thousands of fans who flooded the field after the Buckeyes’ ninth

victory in the last 11 years in the rivalry (the 2010 win was later

vacated by the sanctions).

The crush of people precluded Michigan’s Brady Hoke from the traditional postgame handshake with Meyer.

“No big deal. Not a big deal,” Hoke said over his shoulder as he left his postgame news conference. “Not a story.”

Hyde also ran for a touchdown. Miller

completed 14 of 18 passes for 189 yards and a score to Corey Brown, who

had eight catches for 95 yards.

The Buckeyes had already clinched the

Big Ten’s Leaders Division, but aren’t allowed to play in next

Saturday’s conference title game. Michigan needed a win to capture a

share of the Legends Division with Nebraska, which will meet Wisconsin

for the championship.

Hoke had won his first game as a head coach in the rivalry.

“I like the W better,” he said.

Now, about all Ohio State can hope for

is that every other top team in the nation — including the only other

unbeaten, top-ranked Notre Dame — loses and loses badly. A team banned

from the postseason has never finished No. 1 in the AP Top 25 poll, and

the Buckeyes are not eligible for the Bowl Championship Series rankings

or coaches’ poll.

Michigan’s Denard Robinson had a

brilliant first half, scoring on a 67-yard run, but was largely

invisible in the second. He totaled 122 yards on 10 carries, but had

lost 2 yards on his four carries after halftime.

“We know the reason we lost the game,” Robinson said. “We had three turnovers in the second half. That’s not acceptable.”

Devin Gardner, the other half of

Michigan’s quarterback tandem, was 11 of 20 for 171 yards with an

interception and a 75-yard touchdown pass to Roy Roundtree.

For the Buckeyes, the game will be

remembered for the staunch defense played when most needed. Michigan had

26 plays for 219 yards in the first half, then ran 21 plays for a net

of 60 yards in the second.

“It feels great,” defensive back

Christian Bryant said. “Taking it out for the seniors — that was our

motto for the season — and that’s what we did.”

For the Wolverines, there will be

lingering questions for Hoke, who wore short sleeves in the freezing

temperatures — just like Woody Hayes used to during the 1960s and 1970s

in the rivalry.

With his team ahead 21-20, Hoke called

timeout on fourth and 2 near midfield on Michigan’s first possession of

the second half. Robinson then tried the middle, but ran into linebacker

Ryan Shazier for a two-yard loss.

That cost the Wolverines the lead as

Ohio State drove to the Michigan 11 before settling for Basil’s 28-yard

field goal, putting the Buckeyes up 23-21.

“We’ve got to have each other’s back,”

Hoke said. “We didn’t get it and (our own) defense went out there and

did a nice job.”

Gardner fumbled when hit by Johnathan

Hankins with 8:19 left, with Travis Howard pouncing on the loose ball

after several players had a shot at it. Taking over at the Wolverines’

10, the Buckeyes could not move the ball and were forced to settle for

Basil’s fourth field goal of the game, a 25-yarder with 6:26 remaining,

for a 26-21 lead.

Basil came into the game just 4 for 6 on the year.

The last turnover ended the Wolverines’ hopes.

Gardner tossed a floater that was

intercepted by C.J. Barnett, ending the Wolverines final threat as Hyde

carried the ball repeatedly and the Buckeyes played keep-away to the

finish.

Between the first and second quarters,

Ohio State honored its 2002 national championship team. After a

highlight clip was shown to a roaring crowd, several players hoisted

coach Jim Tressel to their shoulders and carried him out of the end

zone.

No boos were heard, or else they were

drowned out — even though it was Tressel’s NCAA violations, he failed

to report players exchanging team memorabilia for cash and tattoos,

which will keep this year’s unbeaten Buckeyes home in the postseason.

Asked if — should his team end up as

the only unbeaten in the nation — it should be crowned No. 1 in the AP

poll, Meyer said: “I’m not going to get into the `what ifs.’ You can’t

control what you can’t control. … We’re 12-0 and I’m going to see to

it when you walk into that Woody Hayes (practice) facility that this

team will never be forgotten. Because they deserve that.”