ANN ARBOR, Michigan (Ticker) -- Jim Tressel was true to his word.
Jonathan Wells made Tressel's proclamation of 10 months ago come true, rushing for 129 and three touchdowns to give Ohio State a 26-20 victory over 11th-ranked Michigan and hand the Big Ten Conference title to Illinois.
When Tressel was hired as Ohio State coach in January, he promised Buckeyes fans that they would be proud of his team when it visited Ann Arbor in November. Putting a turbulent two-week period in the past, Ohio State snapped a six-game slide at Michigan Stadium, winning here for the first time since 1987.
"I'm proud of these kids. They played tremendously proud," Tressel said. "I didn't promise this win. I promised you'd be proud of this team."
Michigan (8-3, 6-3 Big Ten) finished one game behind Illinois, which earned the conference's automatic Bowl Championship Series bid. Illinois clinched at least a share of the title with a win over Northwestern on Thursday.
"The Big Ten championship was on the line and we just didn't get it done," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "When you turn the ball over five times, you're not going to beat anybody good."
The Buckeyes built a 23-0 halftime lead behind Wells, who carried 25 times and had all but seven of his yards before intermission.
"They've really been disrespecting us and saying we're not their rivalry team," said Wells, who played sparingly in the second half due to leg cramps. "If it wasn't a rivalry before, it is now."
John Navarre threw a pair of second-half touchdown passes to Marquise Walker to make the score close, but it was not enough to overcome four interceptions.
Walker had a huge game with 15 catches for 160 yards, but he dropped a touchdown pass in the third quarter that would have made the score even closer.
Safety Mike Doss had two of the interceptions for Ohio State (7-4, 5-3), which was in contention for the Big Ten title until last weekend's loss to Illinois. But a victory over its hated rival was sweet consolation.
Tressel managed to succeed where his predecessor so often failed. John Cooper won nearly 72 percent of his games at Ohio State, but was just 2-10-1 against the Wolverines and was fired after last season.
Tressel came from Youngstown State, where he developed the reputation of a disciplinarian. He showed that last week, when he suspended Steve Bellisari after the quarterback was charged with drunken driving two days before the Illinois game.
Bellisari was reinstated on Sunday, but was just the fourth-string quarterback on Saturday. His roommate, Michigan native Craig Krenzel, started in his place and completed 11-of-18 passes for 118 yards with one interception.
"I was surprisingly calm," Krenzel said. "I said I was more calm than before my first high school start."
In order to keep the pressure off Krenzel, Tressel stressed the running game. Wells was up to the task, scoring on runs of one, 46 and 11 yards.
The Buckeyes jumped in front early when Doss intercepted a tipped pass from John Navarre and returned in 36 yards to the Michigan 4, setting up Wells' first score.
Wells raced 46 yards 53 seconds into the second quarter to make it 14-0.
Defensive tackle Tim Anderson intercepted a pass that led to Wells' third score before Ohio State added a safety when a snap sailed over the head of backup Jermaine Gonzales in a shotgun formation. Rather than risk Ohio State recovering a fumble for a touchdown, Gonzales batted the ball out of the end zone.
Michigan showed some signs of life in the third quarter, cutting the deficit to 23-7 on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Navarre to Walker. Navarre completed 21-of-46 for 205 yards.
The Wolverines had a chance to draw closer in the third quarter, but Walker dropped a potential touchdown pass and Hayden Epstein missed a 27-yard field goal attempt.
A special teams mistake by Ohio State allowed Michigan to narrow the margin. Following a blocked punt, B.J. Askew scored on a two-yard run with 10:02 left in the fourth quarter.
Doss ended another Michigan drive with an interception, leading to a 33-yard field goal by Mike Nugent that made it 26-13.
Walker caught an 11-yard TD pass with 2:26 left, but Ohio State recovered the onside kick and Michigan got back the ball with just seconds remaining and was unable to score.
Navarre completed 21-of-47 passes for 206 yards.
Walker has 171 career receptions, breaking Anthony Carter's school record of 161 set from 1979 to 1982.