Buckeyes Handle Rockets and Adversity

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Last updated: 09/11/2011 2:19 AM
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Buckeyes Handle Rockets and Adversity
By Tony Gerdeman

Adversity has no address, yet it can call anywhere "home". It can show up on a doorstep unannounced with all kinds of baggage, and has no problem sleeping on the living room sofa for a month or ten.

Adversity has been the Ohio State Buckeyes' life since December. Overcoming adversity has been a point of emphasis for coaches and players since before Tatgate had ever even happened.

You can stop and talk to any player on the Ohio State football roster, and they will be able to give you seven or eight cliches about handling adversity right off the top of their head.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if a few of those Buckeyes even have some of those sayings tattooed somewhere on their person.

Through this entire ordeal, that adversity was being dealt with off the field. It was motivation for practice or for getting extra work in inside the weight room. The "overcoming adversity" mantra was as much about life as it was about football.

On Saturday, however, that mantra was fixated entirely on football. For the first time in a while, the Buckeyes actually had to deal with adversity on the field. They finally had to walk the talk.

They entered the game with five of their most important starters serving suspensions. They also had to deal with the loss of starting defensive end Nathan Williams, who didn't even dress for the game.

It was just another in a long line of blows for this team, most of which have come on rather short notice of late, like waves of doom crashing on the beaches at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

“This team has gone through so much adversity, it's nothing new to us," said center Mike Brewster. "It just seems like adversity is never going to stop, but we're not going to break either."

There may have been some serious bending on Saturday, but there was never any breaking.

With Williams out and John Simon battling cramps, there was a time when Ohio State had three true or redshirt freshmen playing together on the defensive line. If there was ever a time for something to break, it was when the rookies were on the field, but it didn't happen.

"A lot of young guys stepped up and made plays," Simon said. "It's just a great thing to see those guys learn so quickly and get this game experience and not get rattled by it."

It wasn't just the young guys who responded well. It was the entire team. Each year a team has an identity. You don't really know what that identity is until it presents itself, and it usually presents itself in games like this one on Saturday.

"It was a good chance to see how our players were going to react to this situation," said safety Orhian Johnson. "It could've gone one of two ways, and we went out there and made sure we got the job done."

While the adversity started early for the Buckeyes--they trailed 15-7 after one quarter--it was the adversity at the end of the game that will eventually produce the most fruits.

It's always easier to talk about doing something rather than actually doing it, and it's easier to talk about facing adversity and how you're going to handle it compared to actually facing it and handling it.

But once you have faced that adversity and throttled it, it becomes easier to do the next time.

Toledo was driving for the winning score late in the game. Considering the way the Buckeyes had tackled to that point, every snap had the potential to go all the way, but the Ohio State defense never slowed, never stopped.

They featured a front four that couldn't quite get to the quarterback, but never gave up. Each play was filled with its own adversity to overcome, and overcome it they did.

On Toledo's last snap, the same John Simon who missed much of the game with cramps came busting through the Rockets' offensive line to disrupt quarterback Terrance Owens and force an incomplete pass on fourth down.

Nobody had more adversity on the day than Simon, and nobody handled it better.

It was the Buckeyes first chance to show that what they had learned off of the field could be applied on the field as well, and that should reap rewards as the season progresses.

“I'd say that it was good to have a close game early just to see how the team handled it," said offensive lineman Jack Mewhort.

"The important thing is that we came out with the win. We battled. Our defense played great at the end of the game. I think it really showed the toughness of our team.”

After a win like this, don't be surprised if that toughness continues to be on display as the season progresses.

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