ANN ARBOR, MI – Ohio State knew coming into Saturday that they would only have senior defensive end Jonathon Cooper for one more game this season.
The NCAA’s new redshirt rules allow players one year of playing in up to four games without losing a season of eligibility
With his decision to redshirt this year and come back for a fifth year — and having only played in three games — Cooper had one more opportunity to gear up for the Scarlet and Gray this season. The question that arose was when would that be? Which game would he choose to play in? And when would he be healthy enough to come back?
Ohio State put all of the speculation to rest when Cooper was seen going through warm-ups at Michigan with the first-string defensive line and then lined up out on the field as Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson took his first snap for the Wolverines.
The decision Cooper made to use The Game as his final action this season was simply a gut feeling.
“I feel like this game would mean more to just me and my brothers to end the regular season undefeated, and I wanted to make sure that I gave it everything I got,” Cooper said. “Not only is this the rivalry game, but I feel like it’s the last time I’m going to get to play emotionally with my brothers and that means something. I was feeling really good this week. Had a pretty good practice and I asked the coaches if I could do this one.”
No matter what decision he made, he would have to sacrifice being a part of an exciting postseason.
Cooper chose to play in the Michigan game knowing he would miss the Big Ten Championship game and potential playoffs and a National Championship.
He could have missed The Game to play in the Big Ten Championship and miss further postseason. He could have played in a semifinal knowing he wouldn’t be able to play in the National Championship, or he could have been saved for a National Championship game that possibly wouldn’t happen.
“It was tough because obviously I was debating if I was to come back for Penn State, Team Up North, Big Ten Championship, others,” he said. “But I felt something inside of me that said this should be the one and I’m very happy that I made this decision.”
Cooper finished the game on Saturday with three solo tackles, one sack, a tackle for loss… and another pair of Gold Pants.