I was not going to write about Ohio State again, but then that game happened and delivered on all the hype and hopefulness to be the game of the year.
What I never anticipated was writing about Ohio State outside of the context of football, a mostly clean, civil competition without any ill-intent beyond what you dish out to your opposition on the scoreboard. However, this Monday, November 28th morning, The Ohio State University became the latest in an all too long string of schools threatened by malicious individuals who seek to harm people. The latest news as I write is that eight people were hurt by an attacker who was eventually shot dead by Columbus police. The motive, if there is any beyond the crude actions, is unclear, and it probably will remain so for some time until the authorities complete their investigation. As for now, we wish those hurt a safe and speedy recovery; those frightened the comfort of safety provided by each other and law enforcement; and those police and other law enforcers gratitude for their swift actions that helped save lives.
And that’s all I’m going to say about it. I’m not a journalist, nor am I seeking a story; I’ve got one, and it’s about a football game, so I’m going to talk about that football game. I’m not going to pretend this attack didn’t happen, or that it’s not scary, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to be caught up in a sensationalist fray trying to jump on something I’m not fully qualified to report on, and I’m sure as hell not going to inadvertently fulfill this attacker’s stupid agenda by talking about his/her atrocious actions. Fuck that person; let’s move back on to life.
If you are any sort of football fan, then you had at least one eye looking in the way of The Game between Ohio State and Michigan this past weekend. Both of mine, and many others were glued to the screen for the entire contest which scored the second-highest football rating for ABC behind only the 2006 #1 vs. #2 Game of the Century I wrote about last week.
Speaking of ABC/ESPN, their staff must have read my first post about this monumental rivalry and its historical roots given their heavy coverage of the Toledo War and the city’s divided fan support. I loved seeing my hometown – which is also the hometown for Ohio State and Michigan head coaches Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh respectively – highlighted, but the greatest sight was of Renee, the matriarch African elephant at the Toledo Zoo showing her Buckeye swag by waving an Ohio State flag and choosing an Ohio State emblazoned pumpkin for her preferred treat. Proof that those pachyderms are some of the most intelligent animals on the planet.
The 113th occurrence of the classic rivalry delivered one of its best games, the first to go into overtime. Double overtime in fact, but for most of the game, it did not appear that any extra time would be necessary. Ohio State underperformed on offense throughout three quarters, and they missed two critical kicks that would have given them much needed points. Fortunately, their defense kept Michigan’s offense from getting much out of their favorable field position. Wolverines quarterback Wilton Speight, whose status was uncertain until shortly before kickoff, played a magnificent game through the first three quarters save for a few key mistakes that turned the ball over three times, two that led to Buckeye scores, including an immediate one on a pick-six for Buckeye safety Malik Hooker (his third of the season!). After hard-fought football, Buckeyes kicker Tyler Durbin finally got the field goal that kept escaping him when it mattered most and sent the game to overtime in the closing seconds. In a system that favors offensive teams, the Buckeyes ramped up their suddenly (and finally) awake offense and needed only two plays to score a touchdown. Michigan took a few more, but Speight again excelled on fourth-and-goal and threw the tying score to a diving Amara Darboh who, much to my chagrin, made a great catch to send the game to a second overtime. The Wolverines got to go first on offense this time and had to settle for a field goal after a stop that will have Wolverines fans screaming until next November. The Team Up North settled for a field goal, allowing the Buckeyes a shot to win with a touchdown. The Bucks had a harder time getting going than in the first overtime, and had a third-and-nine when the speedy, shifty Curtis Samuel made a move that Ted Ginn Jr. undoubtedly shed a tear of joy for.
That set up a fourth-and-one situation that Meyer and quarterback J.T. Barrett had no hesitation deciding what to do with. A shaky kicker aside, the Buckeyes intended to end the game in that second overtime, but first they needed a fresh set of downs. Barrett kept the ball and ran straight ahead, as anyone could have predicted, and he was stopped right at the line. The referees called it first down initially, but took another look just to be sure, and the video showed just what they had seen. With a first down at the 15 yard line and no more gameclock to worry about running out, the Buckeyes could have whittled their way toward the endzone with a few plays, but as he showed on the prior play, Curtis Samuel isn’t about chipping away short yardage runs.
The Game of the Year lived up to the hype, and while it probably will not overtake the 2006 contest for Game of the Century, it will not be far behind it in the remembered lore of this greatest of rivalries.
After the 2006 #1 vs. #2 game, the Ohio Lottery Pick 4 numbers were 4-2-3-9; the score from The Game. This Saturday saw another eerie occurrence, but on a smaller scale. Also at noon on Saturday, my alma mater, John Carroll University, played their second playoff game of this football season and defeated Wesley College from Delaware 20-17 in double overtime by scoring a touchdown after Wesley College scored a field goal. Sound familiar? Well, so should Wesley’s nickname; they’re the Wolverines. Both of my teams won on a touchdown in two overtimes against Wolverines. That’s more eerie than our Lake! Now my Blue Streaks get to take on the other perennial powerhouse program in Division III, Wisconsin-Whitewater, the team that routinely contends with Mount Union for the National Championship. Keep it going JCU!
Thanks for reading and watching. If you have any comments or questions, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep the victims of today’s senseless violence in your hearts, and let your loved ones know you love them. Now to them, and not the football team, I say stay strong and Go Buckeyes!