COLUMBUS, Ohio – Bo knows.

Lloyd Carr wasn’t sure how, and above all, he wanted to be sure everyone else knew that his mentor’s death a day earlier had nothing to do with the outcome of The Game.

But he also knew there was no better way this Michigan squad could have honored Bo Schembechler’s memory than the way it fought back time after time against Ohio State.

The stubbornness the Wolverines displayed by run, run, running themselves back into the game in the second half, the way they didn’t quit until the clock made them, the fierceness they showed skeptics who said a rematch in the national title game wouldn’t be the best outcome to this madcap season – those were all things that the old man would have loved.

“I want to be clear,” Carr began his postgame news conference, choking back tears after the Buckeyes claimed a 42-39 win over the Wolverines for an automatic berth in the national title game. “It would not be fair to Bo.

“I’m a little mad at him because he didn’t stay around for this game. But it wouldn’t be fair to use that in any way, and we don’t. And all I could say about him,” Carr paused, his voice cracking one more time, “is I loved that man.”

Everybody who ever looked in on this most storied of rivalries feels that way.

Schembechler and his mentor, Ohio State legend Woody Hayes, turned it into the best game on the college football calendar most every year, something even the kids who were born after both coaches were gone from the sideline knew. Just before kickoff, one of them hoisted a sign that read, “Bo and Woody in Heaven: Play Nice.”

Back on the slippery turf of Ohio Stadium, though, their successors played it any way but that. What was supposed to be a tractor pull between two of the country’s toughest defenses played out like the 24 Hours of Daytona instead – an endurance race in which the Buckeyes zoomed out ahead with one big play after another, yet still struggled to get Michigan out of its rearview mirror.

Not surprisingly, Schembechler anticipated just the opposite when he talked to the team Thursday.

“He just said if we want to win, we’ve got to come out and win the line of scrimmage,” running back Mike Hart recalled. “That’s Bo – offensive and defensive lines win games.”

But while he didn’t get the specifics right during his talk, Schembechler’s example – even in death – steeled the Wolverines for what was to come.

“It’s sad to see him go,” said quarterback Chad Henne, who like Hart posted very respectable numbers in his third consecutive loss to the Buckeyes.

But the first thing Henne thought about when the news of Schembechler’s death just a few minutes before noon Friday was this: “You’ve got to take advantage of every opportunity you’ve got, because he was there one day, and then he’s gone the next.

“We dearly miss him,” he added. “We tried to fight for him today.”

None of the Wolverines, though, missed him more than Carr.

AP-ES-11-18-06 2128EST

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