Ohio State Buckeyes 2009 Images of the Year
All good things must come to an end. For college football fans, the end comes way too fast.
It's January and most of us are thinking, "Now what?" Once again we look ahead through the cold winter months.
The conclusion of the 2009 season was exciting and didn't let us down. But as the final whistle was blown in the final game of the season, there was that looming fact in our minds telling us that it's over.
Before we put away our jerseys and hang our Buckeye necklaces on the rearview mirror, let us look back once again at the great season we'll remember for years to come.
"You guys almost got beat by Navy?"
Hopes were again high in Columbus to start the 2009 season.
Although Beanie Wells was gone to the Arizona Cardinals, Terrelle Pryor was back with a year of experience under his belt.
But on September 5th the Buckeyes' hopes were almost dashed in the opening game.
The Naval Acadamy, armed with Ricky Dobbs and a triple option offense, took the Buckeyes down to the wire, nearly upsetting No. 6 Ohio State.
But hope lived on as Brian Rolle intercepted what would have been a game tying two-point conversion and ran it back for two points for Ohio State.
The Buckeyes survived opening weekend with a 31-27 victory over the Midshipmen.
Our house this time...
That was what many hoped for on September 13th as the USC Trojans traveled across the country to face off with the Buckeyes in Columbus one year removed from trouncing Ohio State in L.A.
After the close Navy game, skepticism was very high about OSU's chances against the Trojans, but hope again was still alive.
At halftime the game was tied 10-10 in what was turning out to be a classic Big 10/Pac 10 battle.
The Buckeyes gained an edge in the third quarter with a safety and a field goal. Entering the fourth quarter it was their game to lose.
And they did just that.
After several chances to put the game away, the offense just couldn't put the hammer on the nail, and the Trojans took advantage.
In what would be the game winning drive, Matt Barkley led USC 86 yards down the field to score the winning touchdown and silence the crowd of over 100,000.
The Trojans had beaten the Buckeyes once again.
Off with his head!
After the USC lost, the airwaves were filled with upset fans who were calling for head coach Jim Tressel's job.
To some, his conservative play calling is what cost them the game and the other high profiles games the Buckeyes had lost in previous seasons.
Was it time for J.T. to go?
Defense defined the next four weeks for the Buckeyes.
Over that span, the Silver Bullets only gave up 6.75 points per game with two shutouts.
With victories over Toledo, Illinois, Indiana, and a Wisconsin team that ended the season in the top 20, another Big Ten Championship was looming.
Did that just happen?
With the defense playing extremely well, and the offense averaging right at 30 points per game, it was expected that the Buckeyes would coast their way into Happy Valley on November 11 ready for a showdown.
But the Purdue Boilermakers had other plans.
Ohio State entered West Lafayette on a high horse, but left with their tails between their legs.
Pryor fumbled the football twice and added two interceptions, as Ohio State committed five turnovers.
Add nine penalties and the sum is disaster.
The Buckeyes ended a 16-game Big Ten road winning streak and lost to an unranked team for the first time since being upset by Illinois in 2007.
This one hurt.
Off with HIS head!
Attention turned to Pryor.
In only his sophomore season and first full season as a starter, the fans were becoming impatient with Pryor's progress as quarterback of the Buckeyes.
Turning the ball over four times against an unranked Boilermakers team did not help his cause.
Fans were wondering if Pryor would ever develop into the player he was hyped to be, or whether or not he'd be better suited for a different position.
It's hard to believe that a true sophomore could come under such harsh criticism, but when you play for a highly-touted university like Ohio State, you shouldn't expect less.
As Uncle Ben told a young Spider Man, "With great power, comes great responsibility".
How would Pryor respond to his critics? The next five weeks would tell.
The following two weeks had the Buckeyes beating Minnesota and New Mexico State by a combined 83-7 margin.
Things were looking up as Ohio State traveled to face Penn State in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions beat them a year ago at the Horseshoe 13-6.
Pryor, a Pennsylvania native, was looking for revenge. He got it.
Pryor was 8-of-17 passing, for 125 yards and two touchdowns and most importantly, zero turnovers.
He also ran the ball five times for 50 yards and a touchdown.
The flower began to bloom in his home state, and OSU was eyeing the Big Ten championship once again. The only thing standing in their way was a visit from a few Hawkeyes from Iowa City.
Showdown at the Shoe
As we all know, the Big Ten does not have a championship game, but on November 14, the matchup between Iowa and Ohio State would serve as such.
The math was simple: Win and you go to Pasadena. Lose and you go to another bowl not named after a flower.
As for the game itself, it didn't lack in drama.
Iowa had to start James Vandenberg, a redshirt freshman quarterback with little experience, when star Ricky Stanzi went down the previous week.
Many thought the kid wouldn't be able to handle the crowd of 100k plus, but he completed 20-of-33 passes, for 233 yards and two touchdowns.
But the pressure would get to him in overtime as he threw an interception to Anderson Russell that put the Buckeyes in perfect position to win the game and the Rose Bowl berth.
But not without a little drama of our own.
Three weeks earlier, veteran kicker Aaron Pettrey injured his knee, giving the kicking duties to Devin Barclay.
Barclay, a 26-year old former pro soccer player, was sent to the field in the biggest field goal attempt of his collegiate career.
He sent the ball sailing through the air and split the uprights to give Ohio State the 27-24 victory and the Buckeyes their first Rose Bowl bid since the 1996 season.
To the rest of the world, this year's edition of Ohio State vs. Michigan didn't mean much. But to the players and fans, it meant just as much in 2009 as it did in 2006.
The Game will always be the biggest game of the year.
For Michigan a win would mean ending the season on a positive note after winning five of their first seven games before going on a horrific four-game losing streak.
For Ohio State a win would mean an outright Big Ten title, and a six-year winning streak against the Wolverines.
The Buckeye defense proved to be too much for Michigan, forcing five turnovers, including four interceptions.
Ohio State scored first when Cameron Heyward recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.
The Buckeyes would never trail as they celebrated their sixth consecutive win and eight in nine years under head coach Jim Tressel.
And now we say, "Pasadena or Bust."
The Granddaddy of Them All
The Rose Bowl.
As tradition dictated, the Big Ten champion Ohio State would meet the Pac Ten champions, Oregon, on the first day of the year.
If you watched any pregame show on ESPN, or read any article written outside of Ohio, it would seem that Ohio State had zero chance of winning this game.
But sometimes it's good to be the underdog.
Pryor emerged from the California sunset as one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. He threw for a career high 266 yards and teo touchdowns. He also ran 20 times for 72 yards.
The Buckeyes controlled most of the game by keeping the ball in their possession for 41:37. Greatly in part to a defense that was ranked No. 5 nationally, ohio State gave the Ducks more than they could chew.
The highly-touted Oregon offense struggled to get anything started. They scored less than 24 points for the first time since the opener against Boise State.
It was all about Oregon at the beginnning, but in the end when it really mattered, it was all about Ohio State.
For the first time in 13 years, the Ohio State Buckeyes were Rose Bowl champions.