Ohio State fans are heartbroken this morning, but for me, my heart breaks for Ohio State's seniors.
Seems eerily familiar to those playing their last game in the Scarlet and Gray—national spotlight, big-time opponent named Texas, epic battle, epic loss.
Move over Ryan Hamby—Anderson Russell will now be crowned "goat of the Texas game."
Ryan Hamby's dropped TD pass in the 2005 matchup of Ohio State and Texas (accusingly) cost OSU the game, and Anderson Russell's whiff on Quan Crosby did the same.
Doesn't matter that a 4th-and-3 play on the final drive should have been stopped. Or that Thaddeus Gibson shouldn't have tried to Mike Tyson Colt McCoy's head twice earlier in the game. Or that you can't tell me our defense as a whole couldn't have adjusted to stop the incessant three-step drop quick slants and stop routes.
Seriously, I'm going to have nightmares about three-step drops now. Just off the top of my head, I only remember one pass that was completed more than 15 yards downfield, a fly route to running back Ogbonnaya.
Yes, there were many completions of 15+ yards, but they were of the catch and run variety. Still deadly in the end, but it didn't allow Texas to get the big play they've killed teams on all season.
But I digress. Here are my quick hits on last night's game.
- For a season that started with as much hope and promise as any before it for Ohio State, it ended much the same way it started for this senior class: a last second loss to Texas. 28 returning seniors, eight of which started on the nation's top defense from last season, all walked out of University of Phoenix stadium last night with their bowl hopes defeated again. Let me be the one to stand up for them.
The 2005 edition of this matchup was the first big game witnessed by true freshmen James Laurinaitis, Donald Washington, Alex Boone, Brian Hartline, Brian Robiskie, and on down the line. Throw in redshirts Marcus Freeman, Todd Boeckman, Rory Nicol, Nader Abdallah, and others, and you have the majority of Ohio State's team from this season.
- Those seniors were able to compile a four-year record of 43-8 that ranks third in winning percentage in the history of Ohio State and ties for the most wins in a four-year span ever. The other two eras they rank with:
1995-1998: 43-7 (.860)
1972-1975: 40-5-1 (.870)
The laundry list of Ohio State greats on those teams reads like a who's who of Buckeye history. This group deserves to be held in the same regard.
A three-time award winner and All-American in Laurinaitis. A Thorpe Award winner in Malcolm Jenkins. All-Big Ten performers in Freeman, Robiskie, Boone, Russell, and Coleman. Throw into that the stiff-armed back who likely played his final game in Beanie Wells, and this group is as decorated as any before it and will challenge any after it.
- Team accomplishments for these seniors:
Four consecutive BCS bowl berths.
Back-to-back National Championship berths.
Four straight Big Ten Championships or Co-Championships.
A top 15 National ranking for four straight seasons (this season will be their lowest finish of the four, but no doubt still in the top 15).
A defense that ranked in the top 15 statistically each of the past four years, including two that finished top three.
- Ohio State fans: You lie to yourself when you say you'd be happier with a Capital One Bowl victory. And whether the Big Ten is down or not, four straight championships is a first in school history.
- To those calling for Tressel's or one of the coordinator's heads: Don't forget there's a coach on the other sideline paid just as much and with just as much talent on his team to beat Ohio State. Were there some questionable decisions made by the coaches? Yes indeed. Did Texas do the same? Yes indeed.
- Colt McCoy needs less than two seconds to complete a pass. If OSU was blitzing, it seems he found the hole every single time. OK, maybe just 41 of 59 times.
- I counted the number of times Alex Boone just got embarrassed by Brian Orakpo. I stopped counting when I was at five in the first half. Seriously, without Pryor's speed and mobility in the pocket, Orakpo could've set a Fiesta Bowl record for sacks easily.
- Thaddeus, please learn by next season to keep your damn hands down. You will be a force on that D-line next year, but it won't matter if you get clipped for 15-yard penalties at every sack.
- Buckeye Nation should send Beanie one giant "Please stay another year" card. Does Hallmark make those? They should.
- A breakdown of the final play: Anderson Russell looked like he got caught between swatting the ball and making the tackle. He chose wrong and got to Crosby a 10th of a second too late. That miss won't be forgotten too quickly.
- I don't believe in moral victories. I'm not lowering my standards because of the recent dry spell Ohio State has endured. The Buckeyes should have won that game, and I'm gonna get all Denny Green on you: "They were who we thought they were, and we let 'em off the hook."
Bitterness abounds in Columbus this Tuesday. But sometimes you just get outplayed. Sometimes your bend but don't break defense breaks.