Vince Lombardi used to tell his teams that they would strive for perfection while knowing full well they’d never reach it. However, he knew that somewhere along the way in the pursuit of perfection they would end up being pretty good. By defeating (we can say the M word again) Michigan on Saturday, the Buckeyes achieved perfection. Along the way they faced adversity and doubters but still wound up being pretty good!
The Reckoning: Mission Accomplished
The 109th rendition of The Game was more than an opportunity to finish a season unbeaten (only the 6th in school history) it was a chance to right a wrong. Heading into Saturday, the sting from last years game in Ann Arbor was still there. When Denard Robinson broke tackles for a 67 yard touchdown run in the second quarter all the emotions from 2011 came roaring back. It all finally subsided after seeing Carlos Hyde look to the Ohio State sideline and give Urban Meyer and his staff the “feed me” hand motion of spooning food into his mouth with around three minutes to play indicating he was more than prepared to finish off the game and that there wasn’t a thing the Wolverine defense could do to stop him.
Last week I introduced the idea of The Reckoning and wanting payback for the showboat antics, not to mention the loss in general, of the Wolverines in 2011. When Hyde motioned to Meyer and the Blue’s spirit and will had been broken, that indication and only then finally had The Reckoning been achieved. I didn’t want to see the Buckeyes win; I wanted to see Michigan broken and demoralized. It wasn’t until I read the stat sheet that I realized just how broken and demoralized Michigan actually was.
Silver Bullets to the rescue
Much maligned throughout the season, and rightfully so, the Buckeye defense stepped up huge and shut down the Wolverine offense almost completely in the second half. Luke Fickell and Everett Withers made adjustments at halftime that anticipated every move Michigan would make in the second half. They set up the Silver Bullet’s in a position to pin their ears back and fly around. The results were several big plays including sacks, fumbles and the eventual game clinching interception by CJ Barnett.
Early on in the game it’s easy to assume Fickell wasn’t sure exactly the extent of Robinson’s injury. Were they using him exclusively to run or did he have the treat to pass despite the injury to his right hand/wrist? Around the middle of the second quarter the discussions regarding Robinson abilities on this particular afternoon had to be compelling to listen in on. Ultimately the decision was made that in their opinions he wasn’t going to throw it and that they’d live with the consequences if he did. The gamble paid off, they were right, Robinson made zero passing attempts and his runs were completely shut down.
If you asked me before the game, I’d have almost guaranteed you that my vision of The Reckoning would have been realized by the Buckeye offense with an absolute onslaught of points and Braxton Miller dancing all over the Blue defense. I’m glad I would have been wrong as seeing the Silver Bullets intimidate and overpower the Wolverine offense was special and, in a way, much more satisfying.
Incorrect media perception
I’ve heard some radio and television analysts and talk show hosts discuss the Michigan offense and question Brady Hoke’s play calling and strategy.
For example: Sports Time Ohio’s Bruce Drennen on his “All Bets Are Off” program on Monday suggested that Hoke was to blame since UM had been running “up and down the down the field” and gashing the Buckeye defense in the first half. The reality is this: Michigan finished with 108 rushing yards on the day. Robinson broke a 67 yard run that should have been stopped after 10 yards if not for 2 Buckeyes colliding into each other and forcing them to miss the tackle. His second longest run of the day (for 30 yards) came on Michigan’s first offensive play from scrimmage and should have been a tackle for loss. Even after breaking Michael Bennett’s TFL attempt, Robinson still should have been stopped after only a two yard gain if not for CJ Barnett whiffing on a tackle.
Think about that for a moment: I realize Devin Gardner was responsible for negative yardage from sacks that took away from their overall run total, but Denard Robinson had 97 of their 108 net yards on 2 plays. Two plays that as we already discussed should have gone for a loss or no gain.
Now who exactly was running up and down the field on who?
In the air, Michigan didn’t have much more success. Gardner finished with 171 yards passing but 75 of it came on one pass to Roy Roundtree for Michigan’s first points of the game.
I don’t want to pick on Bruce because I love his show and watch it whenever I can, so I don’t mean to single him out. I just don’t understand why people in the media (outside of Columbus) can’t give the Buckeyes the credit they deserve. If you want to have the SEC argument, that’s fine. But denying the fact that this team trampled UM and should have won by two touchdowns or more is not fair to what they accomplished.
Look at some of the statistics: The Buckeyes held a 36:50 to 23:10 time of possession advantage and ran 70 plays to UM’s 47. First downs were in the Buckeyes favor 22-13 with a total yardage advantage of 396 for Ohio State to 279 for TTUN. Let’s also not forget the Buckeyes kicked four field goals… they’d only kicked six all year! Throw in the fact that UM didn’t cross midfield in the second half and it adds up to what should have been a huge blowout for the Buckeyes.
I just don’t understand what people want sometimes.
’02 celebration and JT’s return
At the end of the first quarter the 2002 National Championship team was honored on its ten year anniversary. The scoreboard showed three key moments of that magical season (“Holy Buckeye” at Purdue, Will Allen’s pick against UM to send the Bucks “to the desert” and Cie Grant harassing Ken Dorsey to end the Fiesta Bowl) followed by approximately 65 members of the team and staff walking out onto the field from the north end zone. Among them were Craig Krenzel, Matt Wilhelm, Mike Doss and Tim Anderson. Also in the crowd of players was former number 13 Maurice Clarrett in his first return to Ohio Stadium since his departure after the 2003 opener. However, the most polarizing figure in the group was none other than banished head coach Jim Tressel.
It was made public that Tressel would be in attendance sometime back in the weeks leading up to The Game. I don’t think many people gave it much thought due to the drama in Wisconsin and the upcoming chance at perfection against the Wolverines. Now that the day had arrived, the question floating around was what type of reaction would Tressel receive from 105,000+ at The Horseshoe?
I, for one, stood and clapped and hooted and hollered with the rest of the stadium. And when some of the players decided to lift Tressel up on their shoulders and carry him around like a coach that had just won the Super Bowl, well I cheered a little more and almost got a bit misty eyed.
When The Game had ended and the undefeated season was achieved, the obvious next line of discussion progressed to how upset everyone was that Ohio State was ineligible to compete for the National Championship or any bowl in general. My thoughts instantly went back to Tressel and the ovation he received, an ovation I was part of. How could people be so upset about the punishment given for Tressel’s actions (or inaction as it may be) yet a few hours prior give the man a standing ovation? The answer: I truly don’t know. If everyone is so filled with venom and vigor over the NCAA’s punishment, why then wasn’t the man responsible for it not harshly booed at his appearance during The Game? The answer: I don’t know. Honestly. And I was one of the people cheering.
Perhaps it’s that deep down we feel Tressel was ultimately trying to do what was best for the program. But then you have to ask, is lying and abating star players to receive illegal benefits (no matter how silly the benefits may be) in the best interest of the program?
Maybe we remember his record against Michigan and think of those great times. Is it not the ultimate irony that in a season filled defensive gaffs and offensive explosions, in Tressel’s first game since stepping down that he gets to witness in person is a win over Michigan achieved by smothering defense, great special teams and just enough offense, aka “Tressel-ball”?
Let me ask you: On a day when the Buckeyes were poised to finish unbeaten and possibly be headed to a showdown for the National Championship with Notre Dame, shouldn’t we have thought to ourselves “This man caused that to not be a reality” and feverishly booed him?
I don’t know what the right answer is. And I mean that completely. I do know that Saturday when Tressel appeared on the scoreboard and was lifted up by his former players, it felt right to cheer for him. Even in the face of seeing his indiscretion ruin a perfect season’s championship dream, somehow it still felt right. Maybe ten years from now we’ll look back and think that we must have been out of our minds. But at that moment, during that game and with that team, it felt absolutely right.
Braxton Miller has been named the Big Ten offensive player of the year, John Simon was awarded the Big Ten defensive player of the year. Penn State’s Bill O’Brien edged Urban Meyer for the Big Ten coach of the year.
Carlos Hyde: 26 carries, 146 yards, 1 touchdown. I cannot wait to see what he has in store for us next season. Watching him bruise TTUN defenders was a sight for sore eyes!
The uniforms… I LOVED them! The dark face masks, the shiny Buckeye leaves on top of the shinier silver helmet, the wider stripes also shiny, the grey numbers… I can get on board with all of it and hope it makes a return in some capacity in the very near future.
I wish everyone could have been in Ohio Stadium when the clock was being run out by the Buckeye offense and the scoreboard operator decided to show Brady Hoke pacing the sideline for nearly 20 seconds. The eruption from the crowd with a mix of heckles, boos and actual laughter was something to see!
Does anyone else feel like Zack Boren would have received at least honorable mention all B1G if he had played linebacker all season? He showed incredible instincts and a real nose for the ball in a short time at the spot.
The saddest sight in the world was seeing John Simon in sweat pants with his jersey over a hooded sweatshirt on Saturday. It is absolutely terrible that a guy like him had to miss his last game as an Ohio State Buckeye.
Wrap it up
And there you have it. Another season completed, this one with the lasting title of “Leaders Division Champion” and an unblemished 12-0 record. They have clever people working at Nike and their newest shirt to commemorate the accomplishment I believe is the best reflection on the 2012 season and a stern warning for those who face Ohio State in 2013, the shirt reads: OHIO STATEMENT 12-0.
Metallica track of the week
I tried to think of the most “celebratory” song I could… nothing jumped out. So I started thinking “epic” and the first thing to pop in my head was Orion. Then I thought a little more, how epic it was standing in the outfield about ten rows from the stage at Yankee Stadium for last years “Big 4” show there in September and getting to see my first live performance of the song Orion. So, here it is live, live from Yankee Stadium, the incredible ORION!