SPECIAL TO UMGOBLUE.COM
It’s hard to believe that another year has gone by, but here we are at the beginning of another week leading up to the game between Ohio State and Michigan. For the first installment of the series, we go back to the 2000 game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. That year, we were preoccupied with a controversy involving “hanging chads” in the Presidential election, the much-feared Y2K computer disaster had turned out to be much ado about nothing, and on the air waves, we listened to Carlos Santana team up with Rob Thomas for a sexy track titled “Smooth.” On the football field, Michigan football enthusiasts enjoyed what turned out to be the only year that Drew Henson would be the Wolverines’ starting quarterback, much to the chagrin of everyone wearing maize and blue.
The day of the game, an intense cold front hit everything from the Midwest to the East Coast, and pretty much remained through the Thanksgiving holiday. The 2000 game was the final game for Ohio State coach John Cooper, a very good coach who failed to embrace the bigger-than-life ferocity of the rivalry, and led his team to only two victories over Michigan in his 13 years at the helm, which resulted in his dismissal at the conclusion of the season. Ohio State fans reviled him; while Michigan fans loved him, and to this day many UM fans would happily take him out to dinner and ask to see pictures of his children and grandchildren, something that certainly can’t be said for Jim Tressel.
The game began with Nate Clements of Ohio State returning the opening kickoff 82 yards to the Michigan 18 yard line, and a few plays later, Jonathan Wells burst into the end zone to give the Buckeyes the early lead.
Momentum wore a scarlet jersey until 9:30 remained in the first quarter, when Henson threw a screen pass to running back Anthony Thomas, who got some key blocks from fellow seniors Steve Hutchinson and Maurice Williams, enabling Thomas to go 70 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly, the flow of the game changed significantly. Ohio State later regained the lead, but Henson’s early TD pass to Thomas woke up the Wolverines.
With less than two minutes to go in the game, Michigan led by five points on a critical fourth down near the Ohio State goal line. Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr showed a gumption he wasn’t known for, and eschewed an easy field goal attempt to go for the touchdown on 4th down and goal to go, and Henson faked a handoff to Thomas and sprinted around to the left side, scoring a touchdown on a naked bootleg that sealed both the Michigan victory and John Cooper’s fate.
The 2000 game marked the end of an era for both schools. Ohio State replaced Cooper with Tressel after the season’s end, and Ohio State got back on track. Henson, on the other hand, chose not to stay at Michigan for his senior season, opting to sign a contract with the New York Yankees, who saw tremendous potential for Henson as an infielder. Curiously, the late George Steinbrenner, longtime Yankees owner and a native of Rocky River, Ohio, began his studies at Ohio State before transferring to Williams College. In his final season at Michigan, Henson threw 28 touchdown passes and only 11 interceptions, and he never made the impact on his baseball that scouts thought he might. Had he stayed at Michigan, it’s fair to say that the Wolverines would have been much better in 2001. As always, thanks to my YouTube friend Wolverine Historian, and to the folks at ABC for yet another tremendous telecast of a classic game. Enjoy!