Brotherhood makes Buckeyes season special

Bret Bevens, PDT Sports Writer

November 24, 2012

Cody Leist

PDT Sports Writer

COLUMBUS — In Saturday’s post game press conference, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said things could have been different when he was hired just 12 months prior.

When a one-year bowl ban for the Buckeyes was announced last December, the current seniors found out they would not be able to play in a bowl game or participate in any postseason contests. They could’ve taken the easy way out and either transferred to a different school for the chance to play in a bowl game or bolt for the professional ranks.

How ironic is that a quote from late Michigan coach Bo Schembechler, the adversary to OSU coach Woody Hayes in the 10-Year War, would describe the 2012 Buckeye senior class. And of all games to put the exclamation point to a 12-0 season, it comes against the Wolverines.

“Those who stay will be champions,” the man who became Columbus’ version of Judas once said.

When fellow Big Ten member Penn State was also hit with sanctions over the offseason, the Nittany Lions watched as many key guys in their program bolted for what they believed was greener pasture. Some 300 miles to the West, Ohio State would eventually celebrate its sixth unbeaten season in school history.

Meyer gave a lot of credit to those who stayed, especially the seniors.

“I want to make sure they’re properly recognized as one of the great groups of seniors in the history of this program, however we’re going to do that,” Meyer said. “Maybe we’ll get 19 bronze statues somewhere, raise some money.”

All kidding aside, what this senior class did this season in Columbus is nothing short of phenomenal. Zach Boren switched from fullback to linebacker, Etienne Sabino suffered a broken leg but still came back to play the final two games and Reid Fragel slid from tight end to tackle.

But the final 2012 hurdle this team faced was revealed just minutes before kickoff. Defensive lineman John Simon, characterized as the heart and soul of not only the defense but of the entire team, was ruled out after a right knee injury he sustained in the 21-14 win a week ago at Wisconsin. He sustained the injury during the game and still finished with four sacks on the night.

“I had a bad feeling early in the week when I saw his knee,” Meyer said. “It was a bursa — it’s not a structural issue, it’s just swelling we couldn’t get out. And my man was in the training room early in the morning until late at night doing everything they could.”

With the face of the defense out of his pads in his final collegiate game, the brotherhood stepped up.

“When they de-q’d him, it was like a possessed group on defense,” Meyer said. “I know why, because our brother was down and we presented him the game ball, which was deserving.”

With the 2002 Buckeye football team — the last to finish a season without a loss — on hand to watch this year’s version accomplish history, many comparisons of how each team made it through their respective seasons have been thrown out all season long. But what about the 1973 team? If it wasn’t for the 10-10 tie with Michigan, there would be eight numbers along the ring of The Horseshoe instead of seven.

While this program will have to wait another year to vie for No. 7, it will be the goal of the fans and historians to make sure the legacy of this team does not suffer the same fate as the ‘73 bunch.

Punter Ben Buchanan might have said it best to describe this year’s version of the Ohio State Buckeyes and the inprint they leave behind.

“I think the team will be remembered as a very unselfish team that had to come toghether through tough circumstances,” Buchanan said. “I was so proud of the way my teammates rallied and refused to lose. To be a senior on this team is an honor.”

Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or cleist@heartlandpublications.com.