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Ann Arbor, Mich. The lofty dreams of the 1995 Ohio State Buckeyes Rose Bowl berth, perfect record, national championship came crashing to the Michigan Stadium turf with a sobering thud Saturday afternoon.
Wolverine tailback Tshimanga Biakabutuka ripped the OSU defense for 313 rushing yards as the Wolverines stunned the Buckeyes 31-23 before 106,288 fans. The loss sends Ohio State to the Citrus Bowl for the second straight year and all but dashes any hopes of playing for the national title.
"I'm obviously disappointed," said OSU coach John Cooper. I don't know if I've ever been as disappointed in my life as I am right now.
Biakabutuka broke off a 22-yard run on the game's first play and never let up. His 313 yards are the most ever gained in a game against Ohio State by a single back.
"If you can't stop the running game in this league and you can't run the football yourself, you're going to get beat," Cooper said. "That's what happened to us today."
Ohio State was held to 106 yards on the ground, 124 below its season average. The Wolverines, meanwhile, reeled off 381 rushing yards, nearly twice as many as the Buckeyes had allowed any opponent this season.
"We didn't tackle," said OSU safety Rob Kelly. "We didn't get him down and that's what it all came down to. "I apologize to the fans. It was a disgrace out there today."
Biakabutuka, who had 195 yards at halftime, continually broke free from would-be tacklers.
"We didn't wrap up," Cooper said. "Time after time we had people there to make the tackle but we didn't wrap up."
Despite being pushed around on both sides of the ball for the first thirty minutes, the Buckeyes found themselves trailing by just a pint at halftime. Josh Jackson's third field goal of the half with two seconds remaining cut Michigan's lead to 10-9 at the intermission.
But any momentum Ohio State enjoyed going into the second half was erased on the first play. Quarterback Bobby Hoying, looking for Terry Glenn on the left sideline, was intercepted by true freshman Charles Woodson at the Michigan 49-yard line.
"That was my fault," said Hoying, who finished 22 of 45 for 286 yards. "I made a terrible read. I thought Terry was going to get around him and I underthrew him. The momentum changed."
On Michigan's ensuing drive, Biakabutuka ran 41 yards on six straight plays and quarterback Brian Griese dove in from two yards out to give the Wolverines a 17-9 lead.
Buckeye tailback Eddie George cut the lead to 17-15 with a 1-yard dive late in the third quarter. But Michigan, relying heavily on its running game, pulled away with two rushing touchdowns in the fourth period.
"We missed some opportunities," said George, who broke Keith Byars' OSU single-season rushing record of 1,764 yards with 104 yards on 21 carries. "We dropped some balls and failed on some protections. We didn't tackle. Those things catch up with you."
The sure-handed Glenn, who earlier in the week guaranteed a Rose Bowl appearance, dropped two passes that should have been routine catches.
Despite its mistakes, Ohio State was in position to mount a game-tying drive in the closing minutes. The Buckeyes drove to Michigan's 34-yard line, but Woodson's second interception on fourth-and-ten with less than a minute remaining sealed the Wolverines' victory.
"The odds were against us at the end," Hoying said. "But we still, with our offense, should've gotten the job done. That's why I feel so bad now."
The Buckeyes' loss sends Northwestern to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 46 years. For OSU's seniors, the invitation to Pasadena will never come.
"It's a terrible feeling," Hoying said. "I can't explain it. The thing I have to live with is there's no Rose Bowl. There's no Big Ten championship. I'm a senior. It's tough.
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