INDIANAPOLIS, In — In the face of persistent national scrutiny, the Big Ten Title game was supposed to serve as Ohio State’s ultimate proving ground. It would be the chance to put the cherry on top of another undefeated season and usher Urban Meyer into the record books for his 25th-straight win, and doing so while leading the program he grew up cherishing to a National Title game. Only Michigan State got in the way, defeating Ohio State 34-24, ending the Buckeyes’ title hopes and for many, its claims of legitimacy.
It will be a game that college football punditry will say reinforces what they felt all along: That Ohio State win streak had more to do with the competition than the greatness of the Buckeyes. That once tested, the team would revert back to the failures of 06′ and ’07. That when faced with the opportunity to finally match up against a top ten team with similar talent, they would be exposed. 24 straight wins, and yet never enough. It’s the cross to bear for Urban Meyer, one that he has embraced since day one. 24 times his teams have serenaded the band with Carmen Ohio after a victory, and yet all that will be remembered was Saturday night’s failure.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
The Buckeyes were supposed to impose their will on Michigan State, a team that was an afterthought nationally despite only dropping one game — and in controversial fashion. The Bucks were supposed to feed off their overwhelming home field advantage in Indy. Braxton Miller was supposed to solidify his invitation to New York as a Heisman finalist (at times he looked the part). The defense was supposed to bounce back after giving up an unheard of amount of yards against Michigan one week prior.
In the end, the Spartans proved to be the very type of team that critics said the Buckeyes had not beaten in over two years. A well-coached team that would not back down. A team that jumped out of the gates fired up just enough to roll off 17 straight points. A team that weathered Ohio State’s 24-unanswered points, finishing like a champion with 17 more of their own. A team that could finally take advantage of Ohio State’s miscues and capitalize with a win. This wasn’t Purdue of last year that fell in overtime to the Bucks. This wasn’t even Michigan last week that could not finish off the Buckeyes with a two-point conversion. This team was Michigan State, the 2013 Big Ten Champions. They earned it.
It almost wasn’t this way.
Trailing by 3, Ohio State got the special teams play they needed when Ryan Shazier came through and deflected the ball with his right hand to help give the Buckeyes possession in Spartan territory. But the Spartans pulled off a huge fourth down stop with 5:41 to go, blasting Miller who just could not get to the end on the speed option. “I wanted to put the ball in the hands of our best player,” Meyer said. “It was a chance to try to win the game.” Michigan State would capitalize. After a couple of first downs Jeremy Langford busted free up the middle for 26 yards to give Michigan State a 34-24 lead, which they never relinquished.
The Buckeyes did show some championship mettle of their own though. The early 17-point hole the Bucks’ dug themselves into turned out to be a wake-up call for Ohio State, and more importantly Miller. The QB did his best to earn that trip to New York, as he churned out a 48 yard run finally deliver the offensive play they so desperately needed. Miller than used his arm, finding Corey Brown in the end zone to get Ohio State on the board and cut the lead to 10. Miller finished with 142 yards on the evening, showing everyone exactly how dangerous he could be. The game put him over the 1,000 yard threshold, joining teammate Carlos Hyde.
The tailback had his moments as well, finishing with 118 yards with many sizable chunks. But curiously, he toted it only 18 times and was not the go-to guy on the pivotal fourth quarter 4th down call, to the consternation of many Buckeye faithful in attendance.
Miller and Hyde’s ground game put Ohio State in position to deliver a comeback that often accompanies great teams of destinies as the Bucks took a 24-17 lead late in the third on Miller’s 6-yard td run. But the Spartans were not going away. They feasted on a banged-up OSU secondary with Bradley Roby on the mend. After a 44 yard by-the-skin-of-his-teeth field goal by Michael Geiger, the Spartans then took the lead when Connor Cook hit his tight end Josiah Price on a wide open throwback pass off the play action fake. The closest defender may have been Roby on the stationary bike. The touchdown capped off an 8-play-90-yard drive to give the Spartans a 27-24 lead with under 12 minutes to go.
Dantonio then went for the jugular as they attempted a squib onside kick that just narrowly escaped the hands of Darqueze Dennard when Jeff Heuerman made a diving attempt to bat the ball out of bounds to save the possession. But OSU could not capitalize, as an Evan Spencer drop quickly made it another three-and-out. The Bucks converted just one of their 10 3rd down opportunities.
So it is brand new territory for Urban Meyer at Ohio State. His first ever loss as head coach of the team he grew up rooting for. You can’t win forever, but that is little consolation for the coach whose famed “chase” had engulfed his team’s desires and expectations. But it is all over now. Sure the Bucks will likely be going to another BCS game. It is looking like it will be Clemson. But alas, the Tigers are not an SEC team. So validation awaits. And a new chase is on.
Just the way Urban wants it.
- College Football Spotlight: Ohio State A Win Away From BCS Title Shot, Whether SEC Likes It Or Not (cleveland.cbslocal.com)
- Ohio State Moves Up To No. 2 In The Polls, Auburn Closes The Gap (cleveland.cbslocal.com)
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