Late Saturday morning, in the minutes before Michigan took the field, the Wolverine locker room hummed with emotion. Winters sat on a bench by himself, softly crying. Senior defensive tackle Trent Zenkewicz felt tears wetting his cheeks as he addressed the room. "The seniors have got 60 minutes left to play here," Zenkewicz said. "I don't care what the scoreboard says, I want everybody in this room spent when it's over."
Zenkewicz approached freshman cornerback Charles Woodson, a terrifically skilled player who would be assigned to cover the dangerous Glenn, one-on-one, for much of the day. "Hey, I know you're only a freshman, but you better play your ass off for us," Zenkewicz said. It was hardly soothing talk. "No time to mince words," Zenkewicz would say later. Glenn caught just four passes for 72 yards and, for the first time since the Kickoff Classic, did not score a touchdown. Woodson, meanwhile, had two interceptions.
The afternoon belonged in small parts to Woodson, to the Michigan defensive line that hounded Hoying, to Wolverine quarterback Brian Griese, who threw three interceptions but also a touchdown and, most important, didn't lose the game, which a young quarterback can so easily do. But far more than to all of those, it belonged to the Michigan offensive line and to junior running back Tshimanga Biakabutuka, who rushed 37 times for 313 yards, the second most in a game by a Wolverine, behind Ron Johnson's 347 in 1968.
The 6'1", 210-pound Biakabutuka's performance was enthralling not only for its statistical weight but also for its tenacity. On Michigan's second possession Biakabutuka broke three tackles in the secondary and ran 44 yards to the Ohio State six-yard line. Near the end of the third quarter he went 38 yards to the Ohio State 25, running the final 15 yards with Buckeye defensive backs Shawn Springs and Ty Howard hanging from him like steer wrestlers. Twice he left the game with an injury—he pulled a calf muscle in the second quarter and had the wind knocked out of him in the third—and twice he returned.
It has been a strange journey to renown for Biakabutuka, who is still better known for the number of syllables in his last name than for the number of yards he has gained. He was born in Kinsasha, Zaire, and raised from the age of six in Quebec. On Saturday, Tshimanga's younger brother, Beya, a high school junior and also a running back, became the first member of his family to see Tshimanga play college football in person. His father, Mulenga-Wa, is a teacher on a Cree Indian nation reservation nine hours by car from the Biakabutuka house in Longueuil, Que., and makes the trip home only rarely. His mother, Misenga, who doesn't understand football, left two weeks ago for Zaire, where she is selling clothing that she designed. "I did not want her to go," Tshimanga said. "There is a lot of political unrest, but she will do what she does."
Clearly, Biakabutuka keeps things in perspective, which he did even as he stood exhausted in the Michigan locker room, even as he signed fistfuls of autographs for his teammates. "You can say that Eddie George is still the best running back, because he has more yards than I do," he said. "But say we are the better team. We proved that today." He turned to Velly Janvier, a friend from home who came with Beya to Ann Arbor for the game. "Please," he said, lifting his right arm as if with great effort, "help me take my pads off."
Across the room from Biakabutuka was senior offensive tackle Joe Marinaro, one of the linemen who opened yawning holes all day. Marinaro snatched his home uniform top, dark blue with number 73 in maize, off the floor of the locker room and held it in the air, clenched in a meaty fist. "The jersey goes home," he said, and he stuffed it into the small locker above his dressing cubicle.
Long after the game, he fell into his usual seat, off in a corner of the Michigan coaches' dressing room. Usual, except that Bo Schembechler hadn't spent a postgame in this chair since he retired as Wolverine coach after the 1990 Rose Bowl. Why he had felt compelled to descend from the press box and come into the locker room after a game for the first time in six years, he wasn't quite certain. It probably had something to do with the Michigan coach's being one of his guys (Schembechler hired Carr in 1980) and the opponent's being Ohio State. "I was into this game more than any one since I left," said Schembechler. "Think of how much that team lost today."
His eyes danced with the telling of stories from the Wolverines' past. He told of how, in November 1969, his first Michigan team had upset a Woody Hayes-coached Ohio State team 24-12, bouncing those Buckeyes from the Rose Bowl, from all the bowls in those all-or-nothing, prealliance days. "There were some similarities to this game," Schembechler said. Another first-year coach, another upset of Ohio Stale. Schembechler rose and stood in the middle of the room, praising Biakabutuka and Woodson, praising even George and Glenn.
Only as Schembechler was leaving, walking the length of the players' locker room toward a door to the stadium, did Carr return from an hour's worth of congratulations and interviews and stroking of recruits. The two met in the middle of the long, empty room, amid small piles of discarded tape. They shook hands at first and then grabbed each other in a hug, mitts slamming against backs, like two brothers in a very exclusive fraternity.