COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State has never dominated Michigan the way it does right now.
In the rivalry's most lopsided result in 40 years, the Buckeyes won their fifth straight over that hated school up north for the first time, ending a dreadful first season for Wolverines coach Rich Rodriguez.
"I've been here for one of them, " Rodriguez said. «That's the only one I can really comment on. They have one in a row on us from what I see.»
Ohio State (10-2, 7-1) used five big plays to win by the biggest margin in the rivalry since Woody Hayes was prowling and growling on the sidelines in a 50-14 rout of Michigan in 1968 — the game in which he said he went for a late 2-point conversion «because I couldn't go for three!»
Freshman phenom Terrelle Pryor threw two TD passes, Brian Hartline caught two scoring passes and Dan Herron ran for two more touchdowns to give the Buckeyes a share of their fourth straight Big Ten title. No. 7 Penn State, which beat the Buckeyes 13-6 a month ago at Ohio Stadium, pounded No. 17 Michigan State 49-18 to clinch the Big Ten's automatic Bowl Championship Series berth.
In Rodriguez's first season since coming over from West Virginia to take over for the retired Lloyd Carr, the Wolverines (3-9, 2-6) lost the most games in school history, missed a bowl trip for the first time in 34 years and had the first losing season in 41 years.
Asked how the season would be remembered, Rodriguez said: «Hopefully (we will) remember it as a blip on the screen, a one-time happening.»
On Saturday, Michigan largely held its own on defense — except for five big plays.
"If you watched their films, the teams they played did not run four yards, five yards, four yards, five yards, " said Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, now 7-1 against Michigan. «They either ran minus-1 or hit big ones, whether it was run or pass. … Sometimes they have overcommitted and some people have hit some big ones.»
After the Buckeyes' first three possessions ended in an interception and two three-and-outs, Wells burst through a hole on the first play and went untouched 59 yards for the score.
Early in the second quarter, Pryor, who finished 5-of-13 passing for 120 yards with an interception, looped a deep ball over the middle that Hartline ran under and took 53 yards past safety Stevie Brown for a 14-0 lead.
After a punt pinned Ohio State at its 9, Wells went 42 yards on the first play, and Herron went for a 51-yard score on the next.
Rodriguez called Wells «a first-rounder» in the NFL draft. Told that Wells was only a junior, Rodriguez smirked and repeated, «He's a first-rounder.»
Tressel said the game turned on those two long runs.
"The turning point was when they punted us down to the 9 and then two plays later we scored, " he said. «That was huge. A big run by Beanie, and then a big run by 'Boom» Herron. That really made a difference. "
Ray Small — who missed the last two games while in Tressel's doghouse for unspecified problems — returned a punt 80 yards to set up Pryor's 8-yard scoring pass to Brian Robiskie on the very next play for a 28-7 lead.
Junior tailback Brandon Minor, who scored Michigan's only touchdown, said the dismal season shouldn't be pinned on the coach.
"You can't really blame Rich Rod because everybody on the team did not buy in like they're supposed to. We have a couple of guys not going hard, " he said. «We'll correct that most definitely. That ain't going to happen on my watch as a senior.»
With a frigid crowd of over 105,000 wanting Ohio State to pour it on, the Buckeyes added two more fourth-quarter scores on Herron's 2-yard run and an 18-yard TD pass from Todd Boeckman to Hartline.
Michigan mustered just 198 yards and punted 12 times. Sheridan hit on just 8 of 24 passes for 87 yards.
"As we get older, we'll look back on our career and realize to be a part of the first team to win five times in a row is something that is very special, " Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis said. «To be able to say that you're a part of this team is something that I'll remember for the rest of my life.»