Ohio State gets past turnover plagued Michigan 21-10

Published 11:12 pm Saturday, November 21, 2009

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Terrelle Pryor is thankful he chose to play at Ohio State, instead of for Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines.

Pryor threw a touchdown for the final score in the third quarter and avoided making many mistakes to help the ninth-ranked Buckeyes beat Michigan 21-10 Saturday for its sixth straight win in the series and an outright Big Ten title.

“I’m glad I’m on this side,” Pryor said.

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Ohio State (10-2, 7-1) has won five straight conference championships and will play in the Rose Bowl with a five-game winning streak.

“When you’re undefeated in November, good things are going to happen over the holidays,” coach Jim Tressel said.

Michigan wouldn’t know.

The Wolverines lost their last five games and beat only Delaware State after September to finish 5-7. College football’s winningest program has endured consecutive losing years for the first time since the 1962-63 seasons.

Freshman Tate Forcier threw four interceptions and fumbled in his end zone, spoiling Michigan’s chances of an upset it needed to become bowl-eligible.

“I lost that game,” Forcier wrote in a text message to The Associated Press about an hour after the game. “This offseason, I’m gonna make sure myself and every single person on this team works the hardest we have ever worked.

“We’re gonna come back a a new team. I’m not going to let this happen again.”

Michigan’s flop followed a school-record nine-loss year in Rodriguez’s debut in Ann Arbor.

“I’m tired of being humbled,” Rodriguez said.

He said earlier in the week the Wolverines would not be “doomed” if they were shut out of the bowl picture. But he desperately needed the feel-good victory to take some heat off him — especially with an NCAA investigation looming over his program.

Does Rodriguez fear losing his job?

“No,” he said.

Tressel, meanwhile, can probably coach the Buckeyes as long as he wants with the success he’s had overall and especially against their rival.

He improved to 8-1 against Michigan and extended Ohio State’s longest winning streak that matches the best run in the rivalry since Michigan also won six in a row in the 1920s.

Forcier fumbled on his first drive and Cameron Heyward recovered to give Ohio State a 7-0 lead. He threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter.

“Turnovers and rushing game are always going to be the key to this game,” Tressel said.

Ohio State turned the ball over only once, on Pryor’s deflected pass, and outrushed Michigan 251-80.

Dan Herron had 96 yards rushing, Brandon Saine ran for 84 yards and scored on a 29-yard run on a play in which his team was misaligned, and Pryor finished with 74 yards on the ground.

“They couldn’t stop the run,” Pryor said.

Pryor wasn’t spectacular — 9 of 17 for 67 yards with a TD and an interception — when Tressel asked him to throw, but the sophomore made some smart plays such as throwing the ball out of bounds instead of taking a sack.

He perfectly lofted a screen pass to Herron, whose 12-yard touchdown gave the Buckeyes a 21-10 lead.

“It was a momentum-changer,” Pryor said. “We needed that touchdown or maybe Tate Forcier would’ve taken them right back down the field again.”

Or, not.

Forcier, who made two game-winning passes in September, had not thrown more than one interception in a game and entered the game with just six this season.

Ohio State’s Kurt Coleman made two interceptions, the second coming after a video review at the Buckeyes 6 early in the fourth quarter. Forcier threw his third interception on the ensuing drive, making an ill-advised pass that cornerback Devon Torrence caught in the end zone with 8 minutes left.

Perhaps fittingly, the Wolverines were flagged for having five men in the backfield on their final snap.

The Buckeyes ran out the clock much to the delight of thousands of their fans who were at the Big House to witness the scarlet-and-gray seniors sweep the Wolverines in their careers.

“This is what you dream of,” Coleman said. “I’m able to say I left a lasting legacy against Michigan.”