Rick Leach made his last pre-Heisman balloting performance a relatively good one yesterday as he passed for two touchdowns in marshaling Michigan to a dull victory over an inept Ohio State team at Ohio Stadium, 14-3.
Leach, a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy, produced his 80th and 81st career touchdowns, an NCAA record, with a 30-yard first-quarter touchdown pass to Rodney jfeaster and an 11-yard third-quarter scoring strike to Roosevelt Smith.
Leach would have had a third touchdown pass, but Gene Johnson tumbled the ball at the Ohio State goal line just as he was about to score after catching a 14-yard toss near the end of the first half.
Michigan moved to a 10-1 regular season, 7-1 in the Big Ten, tying Michigan State for the conference championship and gaining the Rose Bowl for the third straight year.
MSU's Spartans, who beat the Wolverines this season, would have represented the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl, but they are on NCAA probation prohibiting them from any post-season appearances.
So Michigan goes west again to face pacific-10 champion Southern California in Pasadena on New Year's Day.
Ohio State will play Clemson in the Gator Bowl at Jacksonville, Fla., Dec. 29.
So ineffectual and unimaginative were the Buckeyes yesterday that they made one first down the entire second half and reached Michigan territory once after intermission-the 49. They turned the ball over on the next play.
This made the third straight season Ohio State lost to Michigan, each time failing to score a touchdown in their Big Game.
The 73-1 Ohio State record is its worst since the 1971 Buckeyes went 6-4.
Leach completed 11 of 22 passes for 166 yards and ran for 23 yards net as the Wolverines played basically conservative, grind-it-out football. They threw at the most opportune times, however, frequently appearing to catch Ohio State by surprise. The rest of the time, they were content to run the ball largely straight ahead and run down the clock.
Michigan was well below full strength to begin with - tailback Harlan Huckleby, its leading rusher, had a groin muscle pull and did not play, fullback Russell Davis was playing sick (flu) - and Leah pulled a hamstring muscle midway through the first quarter.
Considering all of that, Michigan Coach Bo Schemechler said, "I think this win was was as good as any we ever had."
Leach said he wasn't in a lot of pain, but I didn't want to go to the Gator Bowl."
About the Heisman, Leach said. "I have to say I'm in contention right now.I think I proved today today I can throw as well as anyone."
Schembechler was more forceful.
"I'll tell you want Leach established," he said. "He's the best college football player in America. If he doesn't win the Heissman I'll be very very disappointed. He's the greatest football player I've ever been associated with."
Ohio State was embarrasingly dreadful before a record home crowd of 88,358 and the national television audience. The Buckeyes gained 168 yards rushing, but they were the most harmless yards you ever saw, and 138 of them in the first half.
The Buckeyes were even worse passing. Freshman quarterback Art Schlichter completed five of 10 for 48 yards and suffered is 20th interception of the season.
Ohio did score first, however, on a 29-yard field goal by Atha late in the first quarter.
Michigan, after keeping the the ball on the ground its first 11 plays from scrimmage, threw three straight passes on its third possession to move 70 yards for its first touchdown.
Leach hit Doug Marsh for 26 yards, followed with a 14-yarder to Harold Woodfolk and followed that with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Feaser. It all looked so easy.
Schembechler said he started out running the ball so much because "I wanted to give them the illusion it would be a basic old Michigan-Ohio State game."
Michigan almost got another touchdown as the half ended, but Johnson, after taking a Leach pass over the middle, was just about to cross the goal line when defensive back Vince Skillings hit him and knocked the ball loose. It rolled into the end zone and Skillings recovered for a touchback.
The only score of the second half came on a 69-yard, 13-play drive that consumed 5 1/2 minutes of the third period. Leach was three for four passing on the drive including the last 10 yards to Smith.
"We weren't quite good enough to win," Ohio State Coach Woody Hayes said before he grew disgruntled at a question of why he couldn't score against Michigan in three years.
With that, he said, "Good night, gentlemen," and left.