The Spokesman-Review


Return For The Roses Woodson’s 78-Yard Punt Return Deflated Ohio State And Put Michigan Out Of Reach

THURSDAY, JAN. 1, 1998

WOLVERINES’ KEY PLAY

When Charles Woodson crossed the goal line after his electrifying punt return, many wondered if he would strike the Heisman pose.

He had the will, but not the energy or the cooperation of his teammates.

“I was going to, but my teammates hit me too fast,” he said. “I was too tired.”

Against arch rival Ohio State, with the Big Ten title and a possible national championship at stake, Woodson produced a triple crown of play-of-the-year candidates. All on national TV.

In addition to his return, Woodson also intercepted a pass in the end zone and caught a 37-yard pass to set up Michigan’s first touchdown.

“He took over the game,” said Ohio State wide receiver David Boston, who had questioned Woodson’s abilities during the week leading up to the game.

In fairness, Michigan probably had a half dozen season-swaying plays.

Among them: Michigan’s defense stopped Notre Dame on three straight possessions in Wolverines territory in the second half; Brian Griese’s TD pass late in the fourth quarter spurred a comeback victory over Iowa; and a number of plays in the stunning domination of host Penn State in Happy Valley.

Not to mention Woodson’s one-handed, cloud-level interception against Michigan State.

But Woodson’s performance against Ohio State rated among the best ever in the storied series.

“His punt return reminded me a little of Desmond Howard’s a few years ago,” said OSU coach John Cooper, referring to Howard’s 93-yard return in a 31-3 Michigan win.

“I don’t think you can come up any bigger,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “Ohio State is the biggest game we play.”

HIGHLIGHTS

Wolverines top Penn State, Notre Dame

Michigan’s ferocious defense was responsible for its biggest victories this year. Against Penn State, Chris Eberly (23) is hit by Tate Schanski (42) and LaAundre Brown (18).

After the Wolverines stopped Notre Dame’s comeback in the fourth quarter, Michigan’s Marcus Ray celebrates.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 3 color photos

MEMO: These sidebars appeared with the story: THE PLAY Opponent: Ohio State Date: Nov. 22 Venue: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor The play: Charles Woodson’s 78-yard punt return for a touchdown. The situation: Michigan led 7-0 in the second quarter. Woodson’s return down the left sideline hiked the halftime margin to 13-0. The details: Woodson probably locked up the Heisman Trophy with the return. Nearly 1,100 media credentials were issued for the game and an estimated 300-400 were believed to be Heisman voters. And don’t forget, Michigan ended up winning by six.

GAME-BY-GAME

Game 1: Sept. 13 Michigan 27, Colorado 3 Ann Arbor - 106,474 Brian Griese tossed two third-quarter touchdown passes as the Wolverines pulled away. Griese completed 21 of 28 for 258 yards. His counterpart, highly touted John Hessler, was just 15 of 40 with four interceptions.

Game 2: Sept. 20 Michigan 38, Baylor 3 Ann Arbor - 106,041 Baylor scored first; Michigan scored the rest. The Wolverines rolled up 344 rushing yards, led by Anthony Thomas (122) and Chris Howard (112). The duo combined for three touchdowns. Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson’s 10-yard TD reception put Michigan on top at 7-3.

Game 3: Sept. 27 Michigan 21, Notre Dame 14 Ann Arbor - 106,508 Michigan’s defense surrendered its first touchdowns of the season, but not when the game was on the line. The Wolverines held after their offense committed three turnovers in Michigan territory in the second half. Defensive lineman Glen Steele and linebacker James Hall stopped Notre Dame’s Autry Denson on fourth-and-2 with 3:30 left to clinch the win.

Game 4: Oct. 4 Michigan 37, Indiana 0 Bloomington, Ind. - 42,240 The Wolverines’ first road contest was over by halftime. Kraig Baker booted three field goals and Griese passed for 204 yards before two younger quarterbacks took some snaps. Michigan’s defense had four sacks and caused three turnovers. Indiana, which trailed 31-0 at intermission, had just 16 yards rushing.

Game 5: Oct. 11 Michigan 23, Northwestern 6 Ann Arbor - 106,048 For the fourth time in five games, Michigan held an opponent without a touchdown. Griese passed for 244 yards and two TDs as Michigan ended a two-game losing streak against the Wildcats. On one eye-catching play, Griese escaped the grasp of a blitzing linebacker to find Jerame Tuman alone for a touchdown that hiked Michigan’s lead to 13-3. Baker connected on four field goals.

Game 6: Oct. 18 Michigan 28, Iowa 24 Ann Arbor - 106,505 Griese’s 2-yard TD pass to Tuman with 2:55 left in the fourth quarter erased a 24-21 deficit. Griese ran for one score and passed for two. Iowa, which led at half 21-7, forced four turnovers and rode Tim Dwight’s 61-yard punt return. Griese was intercepted three times, the first picks he had thrown since the season opener. Michigan had 21 first downs to Iowa’s 7.

Game 7: Oct. 25 Michigan 23, Michigan State 7 East Lansing - 79,687 Woodson intercepted two passes, including a leaping, one-handed snag on the sideline that defied the laws of physics, gravity and football. Safety Marcus Ray also had two interceptions as the Wolverines pilfered six on the day. The Spartans resorted to trickery, scoring their only points on a fake field-goal. Baker’s three field goals and Howard’s 113 rushing yards paced UM’s conservative offense.

Game 8: Nov. 1 Michigan 24, Minnesota 3 Ann Arbor - 106,577 For the third time in the season, Michigan fell behind 3-0 in the first quarter. But just as it did against Baylor and Northwestern, Michigan quickly recovered and pounded the enemy. Woodson tallied on a 33-yard reverse for a 7-3 lead, Griese fired a TD pass and Anthony Thomas tacked on another score. Minnesota managed just six first downs and 102 total yards.

Game 9: Nov. 8 Michigan 34, Penn State 8 State College, Pa. - 97,498 In a battle of unbeatens, then-No. 4 Michigan swamped No. 2 Penn State and ascended to the top of the rankings when No. 1 Nebraska barely scraped past Missouri. By halftime, the Wolverines had 259 total yards and a 24-0 lead. Woodson caught one of Griese’s two TD throws. PSU, averaging 464 yards, gained just 169 and quarterback Mike McQueary was sacked five times. Long after the issue was decided, Michigan allowed points in the fourth quarter for the first time all season.

Game 10: Nov. 15 Michigan 26, Wisconsin 16 Madison, Wis. - 79,806 Michigan dominated statistically, but not on the scoreboard. The Wolverines couldn’t put the Badgers away despite outgaining Wisconsin 486-235. Woodson completed a 28-yard pass to Griese to set up Michigan’s initial touchdown. Griese efficiently passed for 254 yards and Howard rushed for 108 yards and two TDs. Wisconsin star running back Ron Dayne was injured and didn’t play.

Game 11: Nov. 22 Michigan 20, Ohio State 14 Ann Arbor - 106,982 Woodson climbed the Heisman charts with an extraordinary performance. His 37-yard reception set up Michigan’s first score. His electrifying 78-yard punt return made it 13-0. He also intercepted a pass in the end zone to thwart an OSU drive. “He took over the game,” Ohio State receiver David Boston said. The Buckeyes made Michigan sweat, rallying from a 20-0 deficit. Griese became the first UM quarterback to defeat OSU three straight years since Rick Leach in the late ‘70s.

These sidebars appeared with the story: THE PLAY Opponent: Ohio State Date: Nov. 22 Venue: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor The play: Charles Woodson’s 78-yard punt return for a touchdown. The situation: Michigan led 7-0 in the second quarter. Woodson’s return down the left sideline hiked the halftime margin to 13-0. The details: Woodson probably locked up the Heisman Trophy with the return. Nearly 1,100 media credentials were issued for the game and an estimated 300-400 were believed to be Heisman voters. And don’t forget, Michigan ended up winning by six.

GAME-BY-GAME

Game 1: Sept. 13 Michigan 27, Colorado 3 Ann Arbor - 106,474 Brian Griese tossed two third-quarter touchdown passes as the Wolverines pulled away. Griese completed 21 of 28 for 258 yards. His counterpart, highly touted John Hessler, was just 15 of 40 with four interceptions.

Game 2: Sept. 20 Michigan 38, Baylor 3 Ann Arbor - 106,041 Baylor scored first; Michigan scored the rest. The Wolverines rolled up 344 rushing yards, led by Anthony Thomas (122) and Chris Howard (112). The duo combined for three touchdowns. Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson’s 10-yard TD reception put Michigan on top at 7-3.

Game 3: Sept. 27 Michigan 21, Notre Dame 14 Ann Arbor - 106,508 Michigan’s defense surrendered its first touchdowns of the season, but not when the game was on the line. The Wolverines held after their offense committed three turnovers in Michigan territory in the second half. Defensive lineman Glen Steele and linebacker James Hall stopped Notre Dame’s Autry Denson on fourth-and-2 with 3:30 left to clinch the win.

Game 4: Oct. 4 Michigan 37, Indiana 0 Bloomington, Ind. - 42,240 The Wolverines’ first road contest was over by halftime. Kraig Baker booted three field goals and Griese passed for 204 yards before two younger quarterbacks took some snaps. Michigan’s defense had four sacks and caused three turnovers. Indiana, which trailed 31-0 at intermission, had just 16 yards rushing.

Game 5: Oct. 11 Michigan 23, Northwestern 6 Ann Arbor - 106,048 For the fourth time in five games, Michigan held an opponent without a touchdown. Griese passed for 244 yards and two TDs as Michigan ended a two-game losing streak against the Wildcats. On one eye-catching play, Griese escaped the grasp of a blitzing linebacker to find Jerame Tuman alone for a touchdown that hiked Michigan’s lead to 13-3. Baker connected on four field goals.

Game 6: Oct. 18 Michigan 28, Iowa 24 Ann Arbor - 106,505 Griese’s 2-yard TD pass to Tuman with 2:55 left in the fourth quarter erased a 24-21 deficit. Griese ran for one score and passed for two. Iowa, which led at half 21-7, forced four turnovers and rode Tim Dwight’s 61-yard punt return. Griese was intercepted three times, the first picks he had thrown since the season opener. Michigan had 21 first downs to Iowa’s 7.

Game 7: Oct. 25 Michigan 23, Michigan State 7 East Lansing - 79,687 Woodson intercepted two passes, including a leaping, one-handed snag on the sideline that defied the laws of physics, gravity and football. Safety Marcus Ray also had two interceptions as the Wolverines pilfered six on the day. The Spartans resorted to trickery, scoring their only points on a fake field-goal. Baker’s three field goals and Howard’s 113 rushing yards paced UM’s conservative offense.

Game 8: Nov. 1 Michigan 24, Minnesota 3 Ann Arbor - 106,577 For the third time in the season, Michigan fell behind 3-0 in the first quarter. But just as it did against Baylor and Northwestern, Michigan quickly recovered and pounded the enemy. Woodson tallied on a 33-yard reverse for a 7-3 lead, Griese fired a TD pass and Anthony Thomas tacked on another score. Minnesota managed just six first downs and 102 total yards.

Game 9: Nov. 8 Michigan 34, Penn State 8 State College, Pa. - 97,498 In a battle of unbeatens, then-No. 4 Michigan swamped No. 2 Penn State and ascended to the top of the rankings when No. 1 Nebraska barely scraped past Missouri. By halftime, the Wolverines had 259 total yards and a 24-0 lead. Woodson caught one of Griese’s two TD throws. PSU, averaging 464 yards, gained just 169 and quarterback Mike McQueary was sacked five times. Long after the issue was decided, Michigan allowed points in the fourth quarter for the first time all season.

Game 10: Nov. 15 Michigan 26, Wisconsin 16 Madison, Wis. - 79,806 Michigan dominated statistically, but not on the scoreboard. The Wolverines couldn’t put the Badgers away despite outgaining Wisconsin 486-235. Woodson completed a 28-yard pass to Griese to set up Michigan’s initial touchdown. Griese efficiently passed for 254 yards and Howard rushed for 108 yards and two TDs. Wisconsin star running back Ron Dayne was injured and didn’t play.

Game 11: Nov. 22 Michigan 20, Ohio State 14 Ann Arbor - 106,982 Woodson climbed the Heisman charts with an extraordinary performance. His 37-yard reception set up Michigan’s first score. His electrifying 78-yard punt return made it 13-0. He also intercepted a pass in the end zone to thwart an OSU drive. “He took over the game,” Ohio State receiver David Boston said. The Buckeyes made Michigan sweat, rallying from a 20-0 deficit. Griese became the first UM quarterback to defeat OSU three straight years since Rick Leach in the late ‘70s.



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