On this date in Ohio State football: Nov. 23, 1996
Taking a look back at a game Ohio State played on this date:
Michigan 13, Ohio State 9
Setup: Some Ohio State football fans of a certain age can be excused for being nervous at this time of year, and it has nothing to do with the availability of fresh turkeys. Rather, the unbeaten record that the Buckeyes takes into Saturday's game against Penn State is giving a case of the shakes to some OSU backers age 35 or older. They've seen late-season implosions before, though it has been a while. The Buckeyes of the 1990s under coach John Cooper had their issues — that's a good way to put it — in late-season games and fans learned to approach such events with a wariness not unlike Charlie Brown encountering Lucy Van Pelt with an invitation to place-kick a football. In 1993, '95 and '96, Ohio State was unbeaten entering the regular-season finale against Michigan, only to see the Wolverines snatch victory away — and slap the face for good measure. Each of those losses stung, though perhaps no game personified Ohio State fans' frustration more than the 1996 game in Columbus. OSU entered No. 2 in the national polls, having clinched a Rose Bowl berth at Indiana the week before, and came in a 17-point favorite against a Wolverines team on a two-game losing streak. What could go wrong? Arrrgh.
Stars: Chris Howard of Michigan became the first player to top 100 yards rushing against Ohio State that season, gaining 92 of his 105 yards in a flip-the-script second half. OSU's Pepe Pearson led all players with 117 yards, but he was held to 10 yards on eight carries after halftime. Quarterback Joe Germaine passed for 148 yards in his first start of the season, but notably neither he nor Stanley Jackson could generate an OSU touchdown despite two first-half trips inside the Wolverines' 5-yard line.
Turning point: The Buckeyes led 9-0 at halftime on the strength of three Josh Jackson field goals, but the game irrevocably turned on one simple pass play early in the second half. On the second play of the third quarter, Michigan quarterback Brian Griese threw a short slant pass to Tai Streets just as cornerback Shawn Springs slipped. Streets caught the pass and turned upfield on a 69-yard touchdown that flipped the momentum. After that, Ohio State's top-ranked offense could muster only 84 second-half yards.
Impact: Ohio State busted one ugly late-season trend, at least, when it rallied to beat Arizona State 20-17 in the Rose Bowl — a victory that undeniably would have meant a national title for the Buckeyes. As it was, Florida claimed the championship with a Sugar Bowl thrashing of Florida State, which had upset the Gators the week after Michigan had stunned OSU.
Quotable: “You can't blame the man (Cooper). He does the coaching, but we go out there and play. It's the players. We've got to execute. Even if the fans might say he made a bad call or we should have scored on the goal line … maybe I shouldn't have slipped.” — Springs