And we’re back.
This should be the culmination of the Unbelievable Awesomeness series we set out to do, to put us and any
readers reader of ours back in a happy spot following the unfortunate way the season ended in New Orleans. Last week Gabby filled in for our Thursday regular feature, highlighting the 2007 recruiting trail and all the good news it brought. Two weeks prior, I recapped the Penn State game, and how good it felt to blow the doors off a Penn State team that hounded us in 2005, and, most importantly for Kirk Barton, hounded our Band. Gabby also pontificated on how Papa Laurinaitis’ put the rush on Northwestern with his bloodpumping introduction of the Buckeyes, even if causality can’t be proven (besides, we’re big fans of tautologies anyways). I started the series off exploring how the victory over Washington in Seattle over a team that just punked the Boise State Broncos got us over some anxieties from the way the last season ended.
And with all that said, it should be no surprise what no. 1 is on our list.
First a word on how we do not censor the obscenity “Michigan” with the usual asterisks for vowels. Our argument is: Michigan doesn’t deserve the extra calories used to hold down Shift with our left pinky and extend our middle finger for the 8 key1. That wastes valuable time and that’s precisely what Michigan would want you to do — to divert those calories that should be exerted towards Michigan’s eventual demise and extend it to the protracted way you would have to type out their name. Instead, we get such a bile in our mouth by saying that wretched word that we immediately have to follow it up with a period when the word is said in isolation. Doing so provides us some means of closure and serves as a rather curt literary device to end, if you will, the impact of that wretched word before its contemptible reach could spread to any other word in its immediate vicinity. When that most foul word is said in isolation, no context is given to it by the author (such as laughing at Michigan’s loss to Appy State or finding humour in their woes to the Buckeyes). Unless you stop that word dead in its tracks, it will spread pestilence and famine to anything close to it. This is the very essence of that word.
Because let’s be frank: we hate Michigan. We’ve never hated anything more in our lives. We never will hate anything more in our entire lives. For me, I began to hate Michigan the precise moment i stepped foot on Ohio State’s glorious campus2. I will continue to hate Michigan with every aching muscle in my tired body until I take my last breath. And why do we hate Michigan? Because they suck. And why do we say they suck? Because they are our enemies. And why are they our enemies? Because we hate them.
I said earlier: We’re huge fans of tautologies here.
But more to the point about the 2007 meeting, it served as an important juncture for Ohio State football in two important ways. First, the Buckeyes held on for dear life in many ways against the Wolvereenies the year earlier in Columbus. In a high scoring game where Mike Hart and Chad Henne had big games, the Buckeyes were able to outscore the Wolvereenies on precious Ohio soil and were able to do so with the big plays. Second, given Michigan’s run after the embarrassingly hilarious way it started its season, and given Ohio State’s avoidable home loss to the Illini the week earlier, this game would be for the Big Ten title and a trip to the Rose Bowl for the winner, though Ohio State had an outside shot for something bigger. Yet almost no one could foresee the chain of events that brought Ohio State back into the national title picture (we did, I know there’s another Buckeye blog out there that did as well).
However, the first point is the most important one here, or at least it was for fans. Ever since the 2006 game went final, serial motormouth Mike Hart had been talking about what would be different in the 2007 matchup. There’s probably a few more quotes out there from Motormouth, but two basically sum up whatever was flying out of his mouth in November 2006: “I’m going to get them next year” and “It would be a whole different game. Guarantee that!”, though the latter might have been said in the context of a possible BCS rematch between the two. As fans of Ohio State football know, and as fans of Wolveerenie football have been trying to forget, this would be Motormouth and company’s last chance to beat the Buckeyes, which was in large part what the group came back for their senior seasons to do.
As it happened, the Michigan offensive seniors weren’t the story of the day for this game, but rather an underclassmen who goes by a name that should be spoken in eternal reverence: Beanie. Beanie had a big game for the Buckeyes the year earlier on two important plays: First, “the young man known as Beanie” broke open a zone read option play for a 52 yard touchdown. Second, by putting the fear of God into that nationally ranked rush defense of Michigan, a play fake and dive on a 2nd and 1 play opened up Ted Ginn downfield for a TD strike from Troy Smith.
Yet there was no sharing glory for Beanie on offense, and there was no taking prisoners either. Beanie is soft-spoken by nature, but wanted this victory so badly he teared up in the locker room before the game. The tears afterwards would be tears shed by Michigan’s faithful in the stands. In a game where Todd Boeckman was drydocked for poor performance in a wet environment, Beanie led the way with 222 yards and Ohio State’s 2 TDs on 39 carries. Perhaps Beanie’s highlight was his 62yd TD scamper that followed immediately after a Ray Small punt return had been called back for a regrettable block in the back. His style on that play was emblematic of the performance for the game. Fancy footwork and futile efforts at tackling the Beanie. With each play you could sense Beanie telling Morgan Trent or Shawn Grable “No, you may not tackle the Beanie. You are naughty in mine eyes and must be stiffarmed into oblivion”. Beanie’s performance was among a personal best for any tailback against Michigan, though I don’t know if it was the best performance or what else Archie Griffin or Keith Byars did in the past. Certainly, though, it was a belated reciprocation of Tim Biakabutuka just 12 years earlier.
Michigan’s offense was also the story of the game, but not for the reasons it had intended. If anything Michigan’s offense had never been more denatured in any other game I’ve seen them against the Buckeyes. Per our biases, it began (and basically ended) at the offensive line for Michigan. Vernon Gholston in particular was a nightmare for whoever matched up against him, including All-American tackle Jake Long. Gholston had 3 sacks on the game, the last of which (as referenced in the picture above) sounded like, and looked like, he could be charged for vehicular manslaughter. God as my witness, I thought he killed Chad Henne. But even Gholston wasn’t the only one abusing Stephen Schilling and Jake Long; Cam Heyward, with Ironhead eyeblack donned for the game, was a difficult task for Jake Long. So was Dexter Larimore, a childhood Michigan fan, who got in for a sack. The picture referenced in this poorly written paragraph offers evidence why. And no, that’s not a screen play, that’s a draw play run left for Mike Hart. Could the right side have disengaged too quickly? Sure, maybe. Did the left side of the line totally wang it? Absolutely. This image is the truncated story of the day for the O-line/D-line Michigan/OSU matchup.
Ergo, with its offensive line giving it no chance in hell to do anything remarkable, Michigan’s offensive firepower was, well, anything but firepower. Chad Henne was hounded on pass plays, finishing 11 of 34 for 68 yards, and eventually having to go back to the locker room for a period after being knocked around. Ryan Mallett fared no better. Making matters worse for both quarterbacks is Mario Manningham’s dropped pass parade (even for the few times that Henne had enough time to deliver a well thrown ball), who made so many measurable drops I honestly lost count. Manningham finished with 5 catches for 34 yards. And, of course, Mike Hart, favourite of Buckeye fans, was only able to get 44 yards off of 18 carries (a career worst for games with 17 or more carries), a paltry 2.4 yards per attempt. The aggregate product for Michigan for the game? 91 yards. Yes, 91 yards. 15 total rushing yards when sacks were considered.
As Beanie mercilessly turned the knife in Michigan’s wounded body, diminishing Michigan’s chances at the end of the game with his 3rd down conversions, Buckeye fans started to celebrate. O-H-I-O cheers went around Michigan Stadium as dejected Michigan faithful headed for their cars. ESPN, wanting to reward me for having sat through the Illinois game the week prior, made sure to give us plenty of shots of Michigan fans crying in their seats at the end of the game. The end result: a 14-3 victory for the Buckeyes and a Big Ten title with roses (I think from Mama Laurinaitis) all around. Motormouth and company came back to win a Big 10 title, beat Ohio State and focus on something even grander. What they got was the ignominy of being the first Michigan class to finish 0-4 against the Buckeyes in 40+ years and giving their coach a career losing record against Ohio State (Carr entered the game 6-6 against the Buckeyes).
The season would end much better for Michigan than it did for us, but we have the bragging rights. Mike Hart stated going into the game that he’d rather lose to Appalachian State than he would lose to Ohio State, and now he can say he did both. That alone makes it the no. 1 moment of unbelievable awesomeness for the 2007 season.
Never forget who the real enemy is here, people. Never forget.
For video confirmation, Keith at Buckeye Commentary:
With music and a cinematic presentation, the always wonderful Lexco44: