Everything is sort of quiet around the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, the holidays are almost here. Since hindsight is 20/20, let’s look back on 2012. Who’s ready to rumble?
The 2012 story didn’t begin on January 1, 2012. Of course, so much had already happened up to that point that I would be remiss without first going back to November 29, 2011 when the hiring of Urban Meyer as the next head coach at Ohio State became official. With that, we also have to think back to December 22nd of 2011, the day the sanctions prohibiting the Buckeyes from playing in a bowl game after the 2012 season, reducing scholarships and prohibiting Ohio State from competing in the Big Ten Championship game was announced.
“Gator don’t play…”
2012 started out with a trip to something called the Tax Slayer dot com Gator Bowl where the Buckeyes squared off with? Of course it had to be Urban Meyer’s old team, the Florida Gators. In a game that was quite honestly hard to watch, the Buckeyes fell 24-17. Unfortunately it was a game that didn’t feel like it was winnable in the end despite the mere seven point deficit. The good news from that day was that on the next day, January 2nd the Gators former boss officially took the wheel driving the Buckeye football program.
Anticipation and predictions
We waited all spring and through a long dry summer to finally see what Urban Meyer’s offense with Braxton Miller at quarterback would look like once it actually came to fruition on the field. Preseason speculation saw the Buckeyes picked to win anywhere from 7-10 games. With the Big Ten being in another of its string of down years, it wasn’t too farfetched to think the Buckeyes could be 10-2 or even 9-3. I think the consensus among people closest to the program were that road games at Michigan State and Wisconsin seemed like stumbling blocks for a young team. I think most thought Nebraska at Ohio Stadium would be a toss-up considering all that Nebraska had returning from 2011. Naturally, we all know anything can happen in The Game.
The first quarter against Miami…
Remember the panic and loss of composure from people at the end of the first quarter in the season opener with Miami of Ohio? It’s funny looking back on it now, but being down 3-0 to the Red Hawks in one of the most anticipated season openers in who knows how long was a bit shocking to say the least. When Devin Smith went up and pulled in Braxton Miller’s pass for a 23 yard touchdown and made the catch of the year, it was almost like gridiron foreshadowing of what the entire 2012 season would be like: Things may look rough, there will be times when it’s going to be tough, sometimes you’re going to wonder what is happening… but you will be absolutely wowed in the end.
The Buckeyes went on to cruise to a 56-10 win and 2012 was underway.
After what shouldn’t have been a close call against California and a completely uninspired performance at home against Alabama-Birmingham, the Buckeyes finally took the show on the road and opened up Big Ten play in East Lansing against Michigan State. Remember Sparty then, coming in at 3-1 with their only loss to emerging Notre Dame, fighting out a tough opening night win at home against Boise State? The Spartans were still the class of the league and expected to make some serious noise nationally. How would the Silver Bullet defense hold up against Le’Veon Bell? How would this young team fair in their first test on the road in a hostile environment?
The Buckeyes showed true grit and character when they held on to win 17-16 in a game most thought they would be physically overmatched. The defensive question about containing Bell was answered by holding him to 45 rushing yards on the day. The Buckeyes took a big step forward that afternoon. How far, though, only time would tell.
They’re for real
The 63 points the Buckeyes put up on Nebraska the following week in a prime time showdown at Ohio Stadium showed the nation that the Buckeye offense under Urban Meyer was going to be a force to be reckoned with. The defense did an admirable job of containing Big Ten coaches selection for first team quarterback in the Big Ten (yes, that still bothers me) Taylor Martinez on the night and stuffing the Nebraska run. All that stood in the way of a mega-showdown with Penn State was Indiana and Purdue.
Who knew those two games would turn out to be bigger nail-biters than the game with the Nits in Beaver Stadium? Remember being up 45-27 in the fourth in Bloomington against Indiana, then really feeling it was a done deal up 52-34 with a little over 6 minutes to play? Remember when Braxton went down in a horrific scene against Purdue only to have “Smooth Jazz” Kenny Guiton come in and heroically lead the Buckeyes to an overtime stunner against the Boilermakers?
We remember how infuriating it was that those games were undecided late, let alone one of them requiring overtime. We can look back now with a cooler head and realize that those games built character and were necessary experiences to complete the 12-0 season. We would later on see the effects of those two games work in the Buckeyes favor at Wisconsin when overtime was needed after failing to protect a 14 point lead. Everything seems to happen for a reason when something like an undefeated season or even a really great one or two loss conference championship season occurs. We always look back and think: That ended up actually helping them.
Nits and Badgers and Illini, oh my!
The Buckeyes came out sharp and aggressive at Penn State on October 27th. By mid third quarter the “white out” had been drowned out by the sound of the Buckeyes scoring points and the Nittany Lions turning the ball over and punting. As Cleveland Cavalier color commentator Austin Carr likes to say during Cavaliers games “pressure will burst the pipe” along with it goes the saying “pressure will turn Matt McGloin back into, well, Matt McGloin”.
A massacre the following week in Ohio Stadium, routing Illinois 52-22, set up a post bye-week showdown in Madison against Bert Bielema (when he still allegedly wanted to be nothing like the SEC) and his Badgers. An epic fourth quarter turned in to the Buckeyes steamrolling the Badgers in overtime for a 21-14 win and an eleventh straight win in the 2012 campaign.
The lesson’s learned in Bloomington, Indiana and against Purdue about being tough, staying together and believing in each other were being called upon to keep the undefeated dream alive. Perhaps without those lessons the Buckeye may not have handled the adversity in Camp Randall Stadium with the poise that they displayed.
I know I’ll never forget, and I’m sure you won’t either, Ryan Shazier going up high to knock the ball out of Montee Ball’s arms preserving the tie and sending the game to overtime. In a season full of big plays and highlight moments, that may be the season saving highlight of the year.
It’s been almost a month and I still can’t stop thinking about just how sweet it was to finish the 2012 season with everything on the line at home against TTUN. It’s a shame that the score didn’t truly indicate the beating that the Buckeyes gave the Wolverines that cold afternoon. The win was satisfying in so many ways: Sending the seniors who decided not to transfer and stick it out at Ohio State despite the sanctions with a win in the last game of their Ohio State careers, in The Shoe and against Michigan. A reckoning for the actions that took place in Ann Arbor in 2011. Finishing a season perfect. And always the most important goal: Beating Michigan.
The 2012 season was special. We’ll always remember what it was and wonder what it could have been. In time, especially on January 7th during the National Championship game, we’ll debate how the Buckeyes would have fared against the Fighting Irish or the crimson Tide. But for now, we just have to take it for what it is: Perfect.
I know everyone is busy with Christmas shopping, parties and the like, but if you get in front of a television Saturday the Buckeye basketball team is hosting the Kansas Jayhawks on CBS at 4:00pm EST. Kansas was able to beat Ohio State in December last year in Lawrence, KS when the Buckeyes were without the services of Jared Sullinger. They held a rematch in the Final Four and the Jayhawks overcame a double digit Buckeye lead at halftime to beat them once again. I don’t think I need to tell you that Aaron Craft and his boys are looking for some “get back” on Saturday. The Buckeyes come into the game ranked 7th in the nation, Kansas in the 9 spot. This should be a good one!
I had the pleasure of meeting Zach Boren, John Simon, Jake Stoneburner and Ben Buchanan at an autograph signing this past Saturday at Everything Buckeyes in the Eastwood Mall in Niles. As expected, the guys were very talkative, clowning with young kids and making the experience great for everyone that went. I was proud to see the enormous crowd Saturday, with ticket sales numbering well over 225. If you get a chance to go see the any of the senior groups that are traveling now or will be in January and February I strongly urge you to go. It supports the guys in preparations for the NFL combine, shows them how much we care and appreciate their efforts and you can get a pretty nice souvenir in the process. If autographs aren’t your thing, take your son, niece or nephew. They’ll love it!
Wrap it up
I hope everyone is enjoying the bowl previews we’ve been doing here at The BBC. We put our own special touch on them to make even the boring games have something worth watching for or have some relevance to Ohio State. Next week’s rumble will be on December 26th, so I want to wish all of you a very merry Christmas! Until next week, Go Bucks!
Metallica track of the week
The final two weeks of the year (this week and next week) I am selecting for the track of the week my top two live performances of 2012. This week, the runner up: From Orion Music and More on June 24th in Atlantic City, New Jersey, here is a crushing performance of Shortest Straw!