Michigan football players will take to the field Saturday at Ohio Stadium in a bid to accomplish something the Wolverines didn’t do before most of them were born: beat Ohio State in Columbus.
Michigan has bested the Buckeyes just four times this millennium, the last three coming in Ann Arbor. His last victory in Columbus was in 2000.
The Wolverines went on an eight-game losing streak last year after a record day by running back Hassan Haskins, but victory in a rough environment at Ohio Stadium has eluded Michigan for the past two decades.
It has lost eight straight times in the series despite four games being decided by five points or fewer: 2016 (30-27 loss in overtime), 2012 (26-21), 2006 (42-39), 2002 (25 -21).
The stakes are certainly higher in 2022 than in the 2000 matchup, when both teams suffered multiple losses early in the game but still finished in the top 20.
“It’s a lot of motivation,” Michigan junior defensive tackle Kris Jenkins said of the losing streak on the road against OSU. “I mean, of course we want to do our best and of course our goal is to win. It really gives us a lot more juice, a lot more focus for that moment, to really represent Michigan and really set that tone on the big stage.”
The 1990s was one of Michigan’s most successful decades in the legendary rivalry.
Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr went 7-2-1 together against OSU, and Michigan’s lead in the series continued into the new millennium.
A 9-0 lead in the first four minutes was quickly erased as Michigan scored 31 of the next 34 points in a 38-27 win.
“I told them, whether you’re going through or falling behind, you have to play one at a time and keep your composure,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said after the game in 2000. “Usually this game is just the last two or three minutes, unless someone really self-destructs.”
Drew Henson got in after an early interception and finished with 303 passing yards on just 14 completions.
He started the offense with a screen pass to running back Anthony Thomas, who dodged a couple of Buckeyes defenders near the touchline as he broke free for a 70-yard touchdown.
David Terrell caught Henson’s other two touchdown passes, including a 21-yarder midway through the first quarter that gave Michigan the final lead.
Although the 12th-ranked Buckeyes put up a two-point game with a field goal in the last game of the first half, Henson and Terrell reconnected early in the third quarter for a 32-yard score.
Julius Curry seemed to put the game out of reach at the 4:15 mark of the third quarter, picking up Steve Bellisari in midfield and returning it untouched for a touchdown and a 31-12 Michigan lead.
But OSU rushed back with two touchdowns to pull to five, and they got the ball back at their own 9-yard line with 4:14 remaining. However, the Wolverines defense bowed out, tucking Jonathan Wells at the line of scrimmage in fourth and 1st place from OSU 18. Henson added a 1-yard touchdown run with 1:18 left, essentially ending John Cooper’s tenure as OSU coach.
The Buckeyes were busted by South Carolina at the Outback Bowl and Cooper was fired two days later. He finished 2-10-1 against Michigan, with seven of those losses denying the Buckeyes either a championship title, a Rose Bowl berth, or further pursuit of a national title.
In 1999, No. 10 Michigan scored 14 unanswered points in a 24-17 win to keep OSU out of a bowl game for the first time in 11 seasons.
“My record against Michigan speaks for itself,” Cooper said after the 2000 loss. “Obviously, it’s terrible.”
OSU acted quickly, found a replacement, and hired Youngstown State’s Jim Tressel.
Michigan’s dominance of the series seemed poised to continue with OSU bringing a new coach to the helm, but Tressel’s 6-4 Buckeyes pulled off the upset against the 11th-ranked Wolverines in 2001. The 26-20 win ended one 14-game losing streak for OSU in Ann Arbor.
This year, Michigan will look to end a long losing streak in the series. We’ll find out on Saturday if it’s ready for that.