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Ohio State downs Michigan

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and team celebrate after defeating rival Michigan Saturday in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and team celebrate after defeating rival Michigan Saturday in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Carlos Osorio, Associated Press

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Several Ohio State Buckeyes were smiling and sweating in a cramped interview room, sporting Big Ten championship hats and T-shirts.

They can thank Troy Smith.

Smith threw for a career-high 300 yards and a touchdown and scored once on the ground, leading No. 9 Ohio State to a 25-21 win over No. 17 Michigan on Saturday and a share of the conference title.

Antonio Pittman's 3-yard run with 24 seconds left capped an 88-yard drive that included a series of spectacular plays by Smith.

Smith spun to avoid a sack and made an 11-yard pass early in the drive and eluded another loss with quick feet, buying enough time to complete a 26-yard pass to set up Pittman's winning run.

"There will be a lot of No. 10 jerseys and a lot of kids on Thanksgiving weekend trying to make those moves in a pile of leaves," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said.

Smith completed 27 of 37 passes and ran for 37 yards, getting sacked only once, a year after his spectacular performance led the Buckeyes to a win over Michigan. Smith ran for 145 yards and a TD and threw for 241 yards and two more scores in last year's 37-21 win over the Wolverines.

"Troy is probably the best we've seen," Wolverines defensive tackle Pat Massey said. "Troy was a difference maker out there."

Ohio State (9-2, 7-1 Big Ten) overcame a slew of mistakes just in time to clinch a piece of the Big Ten title for the first time since winning the 2002 national championship.

While the Buckeyes traveled home by bus, they found out they had to share the championship with Penn State, which won at Michigan State 31-22.

The Nittany Lions will earn the automatic Bowl Championship Series bid because they beat Ohio State, which still could get an at-large bid in the BCS.

Regardless, Pittman said the Buckeyes will be remembered as champions.

"We'll get our names and our picture on the wall," he said.

The Buckeyes rallied for their sixth straight victory despite two turnovers and a shanked punt that led to scores, a missed extra point and field goal, mishandled punt returns and two pass interference penalties in the end zone.

Michigan (7-4, 5-3) was essentially playing mistake-free football when it led 21-12 midway through the fourth quarter before Smith stunned a crowd of 111,591 at Michigan Stadium. On the last two drives, Smith was 9-of-12 for 130 yards and a TD.

"I just think we wanted it more than those guys," said Santonio Holmes, whose 26-yard TD reception pulled Ohio State to 21-19 with 6:40 to go.

Michigan then drove to Ohio State's 34 and chose to have Garrett Rivas pooch punt, instead of kicking a long field goal into the wind.

Smith started the winning drive at the Buckeyes 12 with 4:18 left and perhaps his biggest play was a 26-yard pass to a leaping Anthony Gonzalez to Michigan's 4 after he was almost sacked.

"Guys came off the edge, and I was just trying to stay alive," Smith said. "I saw Gonzalez pop open down the sideline, and I just tried to get him the ball as fast as I could."

Michigan got to midfield on its last drive, but its comeback hopes ended when receiver Tyler Ecker caught a short pass and tried to gain yards instead of running out of bounds.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Buckeyes ran across the field and celebrated with their fans in the corner of the Big House.

"There is nothing that can make you feel better after losing this game," said Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, who dropped to 6-5 in the series — 1-4 against Tressel.

Michigan's loss could end its nine-year streak of playing in January bowls, and linebacker LaMarr Woodley said the defense shoulders the blame.

"When you look back on any of our losses, we gave up big plays down the stretch," he said.

Chad Henne, who had to throw because Michigan couldn't run, was 25-of-36 for 223 yards and a TD.

Mike Hart, who aggravated an ankle injury early in the second half, was held to 15 yards rushing and his replacement, Kevin Grady, ran for just 11 yards.

Ohio State led 12-7 at halftime and probably would've held Michigan scoreless had Maurice Wells not fumbled — on his only carry — at the Buckeyes 36 early in the second quarter.

Woodley split two Buckeyes blockers and knocked the ball out of Smith's hands to set up Rivas' 27-yard field goal to make it 12-10 early in the third quarter.

Another Ohio State miscue, an 18-yard punt, helped Michigan take its first lead.

Grady's 2-yard run, a play after a pass interference penalty in the end zone, and Henne's 2-point conversion run gave the Wolverines an 18-12 lead late in the third.

After Josh Huston missed a 46-yard field goal, Rivas' 19-yard kick gave the Wolverines a 21-12 lead with 7:49 left.