- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
What would Bo
have said? One day. I leave you guys alone for one lousy day, and you forget
everything I taught you.
Having retired in 1990, Schembechler kept an office in the Wolverines' football complex, which bears his name. His death, a day after delivering a pep talk to the players, had to affect the team's equilibrium. "It affected me," said defensive end LaMarr Woodley, a frequent visitor to the old coach's office. "He coached me up Wednesday of this week," said the senior, "telling me how I need to get the defense going."
It was Schembechler who hired the current Michigan coach, Lloyd Carr, as an assistant in 1980. Carr, to his credit, declined to deliver a win-one-for-the-Gipper speech--to use the death of his friend and mentor "as a motivational deal. That would have been to dishonor him," said Carr, a notorious stoic who was nearly overcome by emotion in his postgame press conference. Instead, he told the Wolverines that the best way to honor Schembechler was "to play in a way that would have made him proud."
They did that, those ghastly defensive statistics notwithstanding. Despite trailing 21--7, then 28--14, then 35--24, even 42--31, the visitors stubbornly refused to go away. Like Schembechler, who had his first heart attack on the eve of his first Rose Bowl 37 years ago and was fortunate, according to his physician, to have made it to his 77th birthday, they would not go gentle into that good night. This game was not decided until Ohio State wideout Ted Ginn Jr. gathered in Michigan's onside kickoff with 2:16 left.
It took the Buckeyes three snaps to drain the clock and begin a celebration so raucous that it was easy to forget that they still need one more victory, on Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz., to clinch the team's second national title in five seasons. The question now becomes, Who takes the field against them?
News of Schembechler's death went public around noon eastern time. At 1:30 that afternoon Ohio State coach Jim Tressel stood before his team, discussing the sad news. "I wanted to emphasize to them that Bo was a Buckeye" before he took the Michigan job, Tressel told SI. "He was born in this state, coached here under Woody, got his master's degree here. I wanted them to fully understand his ties" to OSU.
After a moment of silence at the Horseshoe, the crowd on Saturday remained standing for a gracious tribute. "The Big Ten has lost a legend and icon," intoned the P.A. announcer. " Ohio State has lost an alumnus and friend."
The desire to pay respects to this "icon" wrong-footed some Buckeyes fans, who are in the habit of decanting anti-Wolverines bile at this time of year. They were also quieted by the crisp, seven-play, 80-yard scoring drive directed by Michigan quarterback Chad Henne on the game's opening possession. This was our first clue that the Wolverines' game plan was not an homage to Bo: Henne passed on four of his first six snaps.
Then, the deluge. Using the pass to set up the run, Ohio State did what no team had done all season, mulching the proud Michigan defense and scoring touchdowns on four of its five first-half possessions.
"Our film study showed us that we might have our best chance if we spread them out," said Buckeyes wideout Anthony Gonzalez, whose eight-yard touchdown grab gave his team its 28--14 lead just before halftime.