All of the streaks have been covered and talked about this week. Among them, Michigan has lost four straight to Ohio State and 11 of the last 12, but here’s one to wrap your head around as the Wolverines prepare to face their arch-rivals in Columbus — they haven’t won in Ohio Stadium since 2000.
Third-ranked Michigan will face second-ranked Ohio State on Saturday, and if the Wolverines win, they earn a spot in the Big Ten championship and remain firmly in national playoff contention. And this is where the quarterback play factors in.
Ohio State’s offense is run by versatile veteran J.T. Barrett. It remains unknown if backup John O’Korn will get his second Michigan start, or if Wilton Speight, who missed last week’s game with a left (non-throwing) shoulder injury, will play.
From all accounts, The Shoe is a difficult place for visiting quarterbacks, and it will be the first time playing there for O’Korn and Speight.
Drew Henson was the last Michigan quarterback to lead the Wolverines to a victory in Columbus. Michigan won, 38-26, in 2000 and Henson played a role in four touchdowns including three passing, one to Anthony Thomas and two to David Terrell. Henson ran for a one-yard score late in the game.
“It was the best game of my life,” said Henson, who will be at Ohio Stadium on Saturday with his wife and daughter.
“I committed when I was 16, and I waited four years for my chance to play in Columbus. I knew going into the game that for a Michigan quarterback, if you can win in that series it counts for something. I went to Michigan in large part to play Ohio State. I loved going on the road because when you went on the road there’s nothing like it. At home its’ great, you’re expected to win. But there’s nothing like winning on the road. You take away more from it.”
Henson said he was never as excited to play as he was that morning and could not wait to get to the stadium.
“I had a great feeling all day,” he said. “And when we got down early (9-0) there was no panic.”
There was no panic because Henson said they were confident in their preparations.
“You go through the ups and downs of a long drawn out game on TV,” Henson said. “There are breaks between each drive. One thing coach (Lloyd) Carr preached, when you go on the road against a team especially a really good team, you have to weather the storm. You keep with the game plan. Not to panic. Not to get away from what you know you should do. Do your job, get a first down and see where it gets us.”
The Michigan scoring started with Thomas’ 70-yard pass from Henson, then Terrell scored on a 21-yard pass.
Henson, on the first touchdown to Terrell, rolled right and threw it all the way back across the field to Terrell. It was the second consecutive play like that, Henson-to-Terrell.
“It’s all the stuff you get yelled at in practice for,” Henson said. “You let it all hang out.”
After an OSU field goal, Terrell scored again on a 32-yard pass in the third quarter. Hayden Epstein made a field goal and Julius Curry scored on a 50-yard interception return.
“The one thing that’s hard to do against Ohio State, the teams and coaching staffs know each other so well you’re not going to get away with what you do regularly,” Henson said.
“It was the best game plan our staff had ever put together in the games that I started.”
After two OSU touchdowns in the fourth, Henson had his signature moment late in the game.
With 1:18 left and Michigan at fourth-and goal, Henson bootlegged for the final score. Left tackle Jeff Backus and left guard Steve Hutchinson were pivotal in making the call to go for it.
“We had the naked cued up for eight, nine weeks waiting for the opportunity to run it,” Henson said. “Coach Carr calls timeout, and Lloyd said, ‘Should we run the bootleg?’ I remember Hutch and Backus saying, ‘Yes, run it.’ So we did and now the picture is on my wall.”
Henson celebrated with his teammates. Except for tight end Bennie Joppru, one of Henson’s closest friends, who was the outlet and was at the wrong end of the end zone.
“All I’m thinking is, ‘Get in the end zone and find some guys,’” Henson said, laughing. “I ran to middle off the end zone and hugged everybody. Bennie was waiting for me, and I ran completely away from him. He hates me for it. It was a 10-man celebration minus Bennie.”
While that was the last time Henson has been to Ohio Stadium, he played for the Yankees Triple-A team, the Columbus Clippers from 2001-03.
The last game of each season was essentially an Ohio State pep rally for the Buckeyes’ first game. The band would show up, the cheerleaders and Brutus Buckeye. The-OSU coach Jim Tressel also attended.
Buoyed by his performance in Ohio Stadium in 2000, Henson went bold with his walk-up song.
“I had them play The Victors for every at bat,” Henson said, laughing.
“They booed me every time.”