Wednesday, November 28

‘Renegade’ Buckeyes complete undefeated season with win in “The Game”

Beating michigan. That short phrase is the most important thing to any Buckeye coach, player, or fan, and after last Saturday’s 26-21 victory, has now been accomplished in eight of the past nine seasons. Ohio St’s offense struggled to finish drives and often had to settle for field goals, but the defense was nothing short of miraculous, especially in the second half. The Bucks held that team up north to a measly 60 yards on the 21 plays they ran in the final two periods while forcing three crucial turnovers. The final, a C.J. Barnett interception near midfield with 4:40 to go, sealed the wolverines’ fate. “It feels great,” said Barnett afterwards. “Taking it out for the seniors - that was our motto all season - and that’s what we did.”

The win ended Ohio St’s season at a perfect 12-0. Originally, I said I was OK with not qualifying for a Bowl game because there were several undefeated teams so we probably wouldn’t have made the title game anyway, and even if we did I didn’t give us much of a chance against the likes of Alabama or Oregon. Suddenly, Ohio St finds themselves as one of only two unbeatens, and with how much better this group has been playing in comparison to the middle of the year, I like our chances against Notre Dame.

But with that being said, you can’t really play the ‘what-if’ game. We all knew going into this season what it was, and that we couldn’t play in the postseason no matter what. So I’m going to enjoy the hell out of the Buckeyes finishing without a loss and, most importantly, beating that team up north.

Game Recap
Ohio St received the ball to start the game, and Braxton Miller wasted no time hitting Devin Smith for a 52-yard gain. Carlos Hyde capped off his monster season by running it in from five yards out, finishing tops in the Big Ten in points scored and putting the Buckeyes up early.

The defense was looking to set the tone early as well, and appeared to do so when freshman Adolphus Washington sacked devin gardner and forced a fumble recovered by Zach Boren. OSU followed that with a three-and-out, however, and quickly we were squared at seven when gardner connected with roy roundtree for a 75-yard touchdown.

Ohio St got the ball back and had a good, long drive down inside the michigan 25, but in what would become a theme in this game, stalled (thanks to a couple of penalties) and settled for a Drew Basil FG. Both teams get big plays early and finish the 1st quarter with a 10-7 Buckeye lead.

can’t-tie came in at running back and ran well, leading um on a long drive of their own, but one that they actually finished. gardner ran it himself for the score, putting the wolverines on top for the first time. Each team traded punts, and even though a couple more OSU penalties hurt them, sacks by Boren and Ryan Shazier evened out the field position and the Buckeyes were taking over from their own 41.

Hyde had two nice runs and with the ball at the um14 and two minutes remaining in the half, the next few plays were a whirlwind of action. Philly Brown caught a touchdown to give the Buckeyes back the edge, but that was immediately negated when can’t-tie broke one off for a 67-yard score. Not content to go the half down four, Ohio St came out throwing and gave Basil a shot at a 52-yarder. He buried it as time expired and the teams went to the locker room with um holding a one-point advantage.

Then Ohio St’s defense got mad. After giving up 120 yards rushing to robinson and over 100 passing to gardner in the first half, can’t-tie totaled 2 in the second while gardner threw for less than 50. michigan got the ball to start the half, and elected to go for a 4th and 3 from midfield. In what could have been the play that turned the tide and got things going for the OSU D, robinson was stuffed by Shazier for a loss of two.

Hyde picked up 17 yards on the opening play of Ohio St’s half, but the Bucks couldn’t do much after that and Basil was forced to knock in his third field goal of the game to put OSU back on top, 23-21. The Buckeye defense was right back at it on the following series when Christian Bryant forced a can’t-tie fumble that was picked up by senior Nathan Williams. Ohio St was yet again forced to attempt another FG, and this time Basil’s 39-yarder was no good.

There were no worries though, as this defense had no doubt they weren’t going to allow anything. They forced a quick three-and-out, and Braxton had his longest run of the game of 42 yards as the 3rd quarter ticked away. Unfortunately, he fumbled two plays later and michigan took over.

Both teams punted, then Michael Bennett’s sack on gardner with eight minutes left forced another um turnover when Travis Howard pounced on the loose ball at the 10 after several players from each team couldn’t handle it. Even at this short of a distance, Ohio St couldn’t punch it in the end zone and Basil knocked in his fourth kick of the afternoon.

Trailing by five and with time running out, michigan knew they needed something on this drive. Ain’t happening. Two incompletions and a holding penalty later, Barnett picked off gardner for the fourth um turnover of the game. But there was still 4:40 remaining in the contest, and the Buckeyes needed a few first downs to officially put this one away. Luckily, Carlos Hyde was in straight H.A.M. mode, and the clock ticked away without michigan getting another touch.

Game Ball
In a tradition I started years ago with Jim Tressel, due to his outstanding record against that school up north, the coach gets the GB nod. The job Urban Meyer did with this team this year cannot be expressed in words. It wasn’t the most talented team he’s ever coached, and they all knew going in that their season would be over at this point. Yet he still got them to get up and play hard for every game, improving almost every week as the season went on, all culminating and this win over that cesspool of the north. Thanks, Coach, for an outstanding season, and to more just like it in the near future.
Game balls to date: Miller (3), Meyer (2), Simon, Hyde, Boren, Guiton, Hankins, Roby, Howard

Big Ten
Although Iowa gave them all they had, Nebraska defeated the Hawkeyes on Friday, so the Big Ten title game was already decided going into Saturday’s slate of games. Montee Ball set the all-time NCAA mark for career touchdowns, but Penn St was able to prevail over Wisconsin in overtime. This loss officially dropped the Badgers to third in the Leaders Division, but as we all know they’ll still play Nebraska for the title in Indy this Saturday (8:00, FOX).

Purdue beat Indiana and Michigan St topped Minnesota to each get to the .500 mark and become Bowl-eligible. What a disappointing year from the Spartans. Northwestern routed Illinois to finish at 9-3, enjoying being one of the lone positives in the conference this season.

The Big Ten announced the conference awards on Monday and Tuesday, and obviously the 12-0 Buckeyes were well-represented. First-Team All-Conference performers as voted by the Media were QB Braxton Miller, OG Andrew Norwell, DE John Simon, LB Ryan Shazier, and DBs Travis Howard and Bradley Roby. The Coaches didn’t give the Bucks as much love, only giving Simon, DT Jon Hankins, and Roby the First-Team nod. RB Carlos Hyde, OT Jack Mewhort, and Hankins made the Media’s Second-Team, while the Coaches voted Braxton, Hyde, WR Philly Brown, Shazier, and DB Christian Bryant.

You have to be pleased any time the list in that long, but I still have a few grievances. The Coaches taking Taylor Martinez over Brax? Get a job. The Media leaving Big Jon Hanks off of First-Team and Coaches snubbing Shazier from the top squad are also pretty baffling to me. And I know Zach Boren only played half of a season at linebacker, but I think the difficulty he had to go through by making that switch should have been accounted for and I would have liked to seen him recognized with a Second-Team nod.

The Big Ten also gave individual awards, and a couple of Buckeyes took home some more hardware. Braxton was the recipient of the Griese-Brees Award, recognizing him as the conference’s best QB, as well as the Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year Award. John Simon took home the Smith-Brown Award for best defensive lineman and the Nagurski-woodson Defensive Player of the Year.

A couple of thoughts here. Still think Martinez was better than Brax, coaches? How one gets awarded the best overall offensive player but gets beaten out for the First-Team sounds pretty dumb to me. I thought Simon might get edged out by Penn St linebacker Michael Mauti. They both had outstanding years, but I think Simon got the slight edge because voters respected his phenomenal career as a whole instead of just focusing on this season. I have no qualms with PSU’s Bill O’Brien taking home the schembechler-Hayes Coach of the Year - what he did this season after walking into that shit storm was astonishing. But Meyer did go undefeated, just saying. The one award I do take issue with is Iowa’s Micah Hyde getting the Tatum-woodson Award for best defensive back over Bradley Roby. Iowa’s pass defense was horrible, and Roby had more passes defended, pass breakups, interceptions, and touchdowns than Hyde. Good thing he’s only a sophomore and will just win it next year.

Congrats to all Buckeyes receiving honors.

Ohio St will say goodbye to 20 seniors from this team, half of whom received significant playing time. Moving on will be WR Jake Stoneburner, OL Reid Fragel, DL John Simon, Garrett Goebel, and Nathan Williams, LBs Etienne Sabino and Zach Boren, DBs Travis Howard and Orhian Johnson, and P Ben Buchanan.

The biggest hit will be on the defensive line, which stands to loose even more assuming Hankins goes pro. John Simon is one of the greats to ever wear the scarlet and gray, and will surely be missed. The good news is - this is the deepest position on the team. Expect to see breakout sophomore campaigns from Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington next season.

The linebackers will also experience some significant losses, as two starters from a very thin unit are gone. It’s easy to put some positive spin on this one as well though, as Boren and Sabino both only played half of the year at LB. Coming back to the unit is Ryan Shazier, who should be one of the best ’backers in the country next season and ready to led the defense. Howard is a great cover corner, but he missed a lot of tackles and Roby, who will be returning, was definitely the leader of that secondary.

Ohio St is only losing two players who saw quality minutes on offense. Two. Both converted tight ends, Stoneburner switched to receiver and while he was a serious red zone threat, his 16 catches this season will not be hard to replace. Fragel did a remarkable job switching to tackle, but the other four starters will return and lead a very experienced line next season.

If he goes pro, Hanks will be a top 15 pick in the coming NFL draft. Simon might be a bit undersized, but due to his extremely high motor could be a 2nd round selection. Other than that, there's not a lot of NFL quality there. I could see Stoneburner and Howard going in the later rounds, but that’s probably it.

Final Thoughts
So another year is in the books, this one unfortunately earlier than usual. While no postseason is certainly depressing, I can’t express enough how impressed I was with this team and the job Urban Meyer did coming into a tough situation. I had an absolute blast watching our Renegade Bucks pull out a victory each and every week, of course most notably this past week’s win over that team up north. Next season looks outrageously promising - here’s to hoping to another one like this one, just with a ring at the end.


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