[Editor’s Note: From now until Big Ten Media Days, we’ll be reaching into The-Ozone’s 23 years worth of archives and each day we will be posting a story from yesteryear. Big moments, small moments, big games, bigger games, and the random recruiting updates about guys you haven’t thought about in a decade or two.]
January 2, 2015 | This story comes from Tony Gerdeman and was his attempt to process Ohio State’s Sugar Bowl win over Alabama in the 2014 College Football Playoffs. — TG
I mean, I don’t even…
Have you ever been essentially speechless yet had four thousand thoughts blasting through your brain, fighting to get out, and all that keeps happening is the white noise of astonishment?
Not that beating Alabama is astonishing, but just the manner in which Ohio State has come to this point…how else would you describe it?
I just saw Ohio State slay the Crimson dragon. The No. 1 team in the nation. The program that has loomed on Urban Meyer’s horizon since his arrival; yet to hear him say it, he may have arrived too early.
Reality, on the other hand, would say that he arrived right on time.
This was Meyer’s Mordor, and down went Nick Sauron.
The model program. The pedestal of pedestals, now placed beneath Ohio State’s victorious feet.
And yet nothing is over. Not yet.
The Buckeyes are now playing for a National Championship for the first time since the 2007 season. This, despite looking like a team that was going to have to be satisfied with three or four losses following that Virginia Tech game.
Oh, that Virginia Tech game. A lifetime ago. A quarterback ago. So much has happened since that game that it seems more like a plot device than something that actually happened.
“Yeah, in order to make the story really amazing, let’s have them losing to Virginia Tech at home, but not only lose, but look pretty bad doing it. Hollywood will love it.”
“Are you sure? I mean, we already wrote in the part about losing the starting quarterback that we ripped off of every other movie and television show about football. Wouldn’t this be too cliched?”
“Hey, the No. 1 rule of Hollywood is ‘Cliches are good for business’. People love this shmaltz.”
They sure do.
But then to lose another quarterback on top of that? Cardale Jones has been written off by more people than the Washington Generals, so for him to lead the Buckeyes to two postseason wins is every last bit of substantial.
How many Ohio State quarterbacks can say they have led the Buckeyes to two postseason wins in their careers? As of now? Four.
But here they are. Running the world’s most unorthodox relay race. Each quarterback passing the baton as they crumble under the need for season-ending surgery.
The loss of quarterbacks can be overcome, as we have seen. The loss of a teammate — Kosta Karageorge — cannot. Teammates can only move forward, holding on to his memory and honoring him with their play. They have done that to this point, and there is no reason to expect that characteristic to fall off now.
It has been a season stuffed with expectations, only to see the bottom of that bag ripped out, and those expectations come flooding to the ground.
They kept moving forward.
A year ago at this time, receiver Michael Thomas was at home voicing his displeasure at the lack of production by the Ohio State receivers, and tonight he was out there catching a touchdown pass from one of those same receivers.
Defensive end Steve Miller spent three seasons as a backup, and would have spent a fourth season there as well if not for the suspension of Noah Spence. He has responded so well, especially in this game, scoring from 41 yards out on an interception return.
Dontre Wilson — talked about as possibly the No. 3 weapon in this offense behind Braxton Miller and Ezekiel Elliott back in August — watched the game from the sideline, just as he has every game since Michigan State.
In his place, redshirt freshman Jalin Marshall caught five passes for 55 yards, with several of those receptions being quite key.
Next man up. Next man up. Next man up. If this season lasts any longer than 15 games, there won’t be a next man to turn to.
The amount of youth contributing to this team right now is something that I have written about extensively, and is something that I will continue to write about extensively.
Did you see the Sugar Bowl Offensive and Defensive Players of the Game for the Buckeyes? Sophomore Ezekiel Elliott and freshman Darron Lee.
Heck, the touchdown pass from Evan Spencer was the first touchdown pass by an OSU upperclassman this season. And it only took 14 games to happen.
It was a sophomore quarterback handing off to a sophomore running back, or generally throwing to a freshman or a sophomore receiver.
Three years ago, Ohio State’s leading receiver had 14 catches. For the season.
Now the football is being spread around like gossip in a small town. It finds everybody, and doesn’t discriminate.
“Did you hear about that Devin Smith? He scored again.”
“Yeah, he does that.”
For portions of the night the Buckeyes were defending Heisman candidate Amari Cooper with redshirt freshman cornerback Eli Apple. For most teams, that would be asking for trouble. For this team, tonight, it was simply business as usual.
And it’s amazing what has become the “usual” for this team.
Making the first-ever College Football Playoff is an accomplishment, and one to be recognized without a doubt. Making it to the National Championship game, however, is markedly bigger. Winning it all…well, that’s why the players are here in the first place.
Beating Alabama is nice, but like the Miracle on Ice, this too was just a semi-final game.
There is still one game left to play, and somehow I don’t think Urban Meyer and his players will be satisfied with simply dethroning Alabama and the SEC.
Although it sounds like one hell of a consolation prize.
Ohio State cannot be given enough credit for being where they are, especially when you consider where they were.
Where they are going, however, could be the most impressive prize of all.