Once again, the strong-armed Smith came up with a brilliant effort against the Buckeyes’ biggest rival.
The clincher was his 13-yard pass to Brian Robiskie on a quick-stop reception at the left goal-line marker with 5:38 left that pushed the lead to 42-31.
In a series famed for “three yards and a cloud of dust,” Smith set career highs for completions (29) and attempts (41) while passing for 316 yards and four scores with one interception. He was sacked once and added 12 yards rushing on four carries.
A year ago, in Ohio State’s 25-21 victory in Ann Arbor, Smith engineered two scoring drives in the final eight minutes and finished with 300 yards passing and 37 more running.
As a sophomore, Smith passed for 241 yards and ran for 145 more as the Buckeyes upset the No. 5 Wolverines 35-21.
A 6-foot-1, 215-pound senior working on a second degree, Smith is usually ranked at the top among Heisman favorites because he leads the nation’s top team and has had a sterling season. He went into the Michigan game with just four interceptions in 256 pass attempts while passing for 26 touchdowns.
He completed 21-of-26 passes in the opening half for 241 yards, including scoring passes of 1 yard to Roy Hall, 39 yards to Ted Ginn Jr., and 8 yards to Anthony González.
After Michigan’s defense switched to a sixth defensive back to counter the Buckeyes’ multiple-receiver sets, Smith had more difficulty in the second half. He hit only 1-of-7 passes in the third quarter as the Buckeyes maintained a 35-24 lead. He also fumbled a high shotgun snap.
But when needed the most, Smith came through. He scrambled for 9 yards and a first down on second-and-8 at the 19 with the Buckeyes clinging to a 35-31 lead and 9½ minutes remaining.
On third-and-15 at the Michigan 38, Smith avoided the rush and rolled right. Just as he released a pass that was incomplete to Ginn, Michigan linebacker Shawn Crable’s helmet-to-helmet hit resulted in a personal foul and a first down.
After Smith hit Robiskie on a sliding 9-yard catch, Smith ran 2 yards for the first down. On the next play, he dropped in the pocket and waited, waited, waited while Robiskie ran to the end zone and suddenly stopped. Smith’s hard throw touched off a wild celebration by the largest crowd (105,708) in Ohio Stadium’s 84 years.
This was the 103rd meeting of these rivals. In Sunday’s AP poll, Ohio State was again rated No. 1 and Michigan dropped to No. 3. Maybe there will be a rematch in the Fiesta Bowl in January 2007, when the National Championship will be determined—U-M was still rated No. 2 in the BCS standings.