Death at a Funeral

By Ramzy Nasrallah on October 31, 2011 at 2:00p
Mike Adams, emotionally mollified in triumph (Photo: Josh Winslow)

Halloween practically demands a ghost story, so here's one about the infamous haunted house of Columbus: That stadium by the river on Woody Hayes Drive - a street named for a famous ghost - which houses millions of spirits.

Generations of fans and athletes who have filed in and out on memorable and forgettable fall Saturdays, along with students who lived in the stadium when it was a dormitory have never actually left the premises.

They're all still there. They can't leave; they're stuck inside forever.

Some of those ghosts have epitaphs prominently on display, like HARLEY (the ghost of Ohio Stadium's figurative builder) and CASSADY, along with others, including GRIFFIN whose much older version was seen during halftime on Saturday night along side the aged - but not really - representation of GEORGE at midfield.

I was also there on Saturday to witness one of the better college football games you will ever see in your life. The ghost of my much-younger self, sitting across the field with my father in B-Deck seats that no longer exist due to stadium renovation, was there as well.

The field was completely littered in spirits of the past, as it always is: When Ryan Shazier darted through several blockers and took the ball off of the Wisconsin punter's foot early in the third quarter, he did so right at the same cursed spot where Eddie George had fumbled against Illinois as a college freshman.

Similarly, when Devin Smith grabbed Braxton Miller's heave with only a few seconds remaining, he snatched the ball near and in the same fashion as Brian Robiskie catching Troy Smith's game-changer against Penn State five years ago.

The only element missing to complete the link from the past to the present was the muddy field from that day which is no longer possible due to the four year-old turf; itself a ghost of the artificial grass that served as the field in the 1970s and 80s.

Once the Badgers had been subjugated and the fog lifted from the euphoria of winning in such improbable and dramatic fashion, another ghostly feeling began to creep in that was not unlike the one that followed Robiskie's catch: This team might not lose another game.

Of course, the most prominent ghost of Ohio Stadium in 2011 had been that of Jim Tressel, whose physical absence from the sideline has produced the most conspicuous apparition of the season.

With only 78 seconds left and a three-point deficit, that happy place where Tressel would annually disappoint us with ten-win gold pants seasons that ended in the fanciest bowl games seemed too distant to be real. A fourth loss was about a minute away. All in a single season. Before November.

But something unexpected happened when Smith and Miller sent the stadium into a deafening delirium: Tressel's ghost faded, just a bit. Suddenly, longing for the past and pouting about all that has happened in 2011 was no longer prudent, because the present now seemed worthy of a full, emotional investment.

That touchdown was the ultimate we're back, baby! moment.

As the Ohio State sideline poured out onto the field in joyous hysterics, everything - the Wisconsin Badgers notwithstanding - exploded. A reupholstered genesis was established for Ohio State football in 2011, and this Wisconsin victory became its new starting point.

Between waiting for an NCAA verdict that probably should have arrived sometime last week were it not for the Bobby DiGeronimo investigation and the on-field disappointments, the program has been completely tangled in doom and anticipation of the dreadful unknown.

Terrelle Pryor and Tressel had checked out months ago, but their ghosts did not leave - and we refused to allow them. A 4-3 record in what was supposed to be a national title run will do that to the psyche, and it has for over half a season.

Those three losses could not have happened with them present. That's what we'll always tell ourselves.

For those few moments following the game though, there was no more waiting, speculation or commiserating. The souls of the departed all just flittered away, and not just because of Miller-to-Smith, which will be relived for years as a junior version of Krenzel-to-Jenkins at Purdue: That touchdown was the capstone on a game where both lines dominated against a program whose lines are rarely pushed around like that.

The pall over Buckeye football had been lifted, if only for an afterparty. Instead of burying Ohio State, the very notion of Ohio State being buried died on Saturday night, and it took one single, miraculous drive in under a minute to make it happen.

Michael Brewster gathers himself in the afterglow of the Buckeyes' 33-29 victory (Winslow)

The victory also tore the mask off of a program that has continued to meekly claim and masquerade that it hasn't allowed the off-field drama to affect them.

Consider Mike Adams, in victory: When Ohio State played Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl in January, Adams already knew it would be his last game until the Buckeyes played at Nebraska and his five-game suspension was complete.

He was seen aggressively celebrating the Buckeyes' now-vacated win that evening by national TV cameras, which captured him shouting multiple expletives and stomping around midfield at the Louisiana Superdome.

It has only been ten months since that night, yet Adams' demeanor following Saturday's affair was all you needed to see to fully appreciate the psychological battery that this team has taken over what is still an incomplete calendar year.

The affairs of 2011 have aged these Buckeyes by a factor of ten. Since the Sugar Bowl, Adams has lost his coach, sat out for multiple games and helplessly watched his team lose without him.

Following another big stage game that like the Sugar Bowl also featured the Buckeyes squandering a big second-half lead and jeopardizing the outcome before sealing the win in the final seconds, Adams was a completely different person.

Physically he was that same, hulking giant that he has been since his prep days in Dublin, but he was not shouting expletives at midfield following this victory.

Adams was in full tears, somber and quietly elegant. The finality of a senior year that was practically cut in half by way of punishment for exploiting his dubious amateurism appears to have to have become all too real, all too quickly. That angry, victorious Adams has been ghosted as well, and in all likelihood, for good.

Ohio State is suddenly the most dangerous team in the conference. The defense has had its lapses, but they have been extremely few and far between the dominance that its front four - the best in eight seasons - has demonstrated.

Now that the offense has embraced its identity as a run-first, second and third team (admit it, you were waiting for the ghost of Joe Bauserman to fly out from Lincoln in the fourth quarter and brazenly attempt ten passes with a double-digit lead) the anxiety over the lack of a passing game can be tempered.

As long as the Buckeyes don't force what they now realize they're not capable of doing, they should be more successful, and on Saturday they were.

They've been haunted all season, by what they were supposed to have been and what they have squandered. Wisconsin served as a classic watershed moment for the 2011 Buckeyes: They are now fully aware of what they can be and what they cannot.

The former just might be good enough to get to the conference championship game. Think back to the last time you saw both of Wisconsin's lines handled like they were on Saturday night. Ohio State's defensive line - without the benefit of a single holding call - made minced meat of the giant Badger OL all night.

If Ohio State still somehow ends up playing for the title, despite losing its patriarch and having been gutted for much of the season, it will have served notice that it is not quite finished spooking the Big Ten just yet, despite all the handicaps, instability and that damned pall still hanging over the future.

With four games left, it appears that the inevitable changing of the guard in the Big Ten is officially on hold. And the fact that it's still possible as of Halloween with all that has transpired in Columbus? Well, that's just scary.


Comments Show All Comments

Denny's picture

Braxton reupholstered our genesis.


SaintTressel's picture

"Once the Badgers had been subjugated" did it for me

ArTbkward's picture

Someone dig out that 11W poll that asked what the Buckeyes record would be in October.  What percentage picked 2-2?

We should strive to keep thy name, of fair repute and spotless fame...

(Also, I'm not a dude)

ArTbkward's picture

Answered my own question.  19% said 2-2 while 31% said 0-4.

We should strive to keep thy name, of fair repute and spotless fame...

(Also, I'm not a dude)

Maestro's picture


Think I was in the 1-3 group, maybe 2-2.  Not to be greedy, but 3-1 was a REAL possibility.

vacuuming sucks

ArTbkward's picture

I think I actually did say 2-2.  I would go so far as to say 4-0 could have been a possibilty, the only game that was out of hand this year was Miami, imo.  The second half of the Nebraska game and virtually the entire MSU game were essentially insults to the game of football but change a few plays, take out a Bauserbomb or two and things could have been different.

But we could, "if" and "but" all day long.  I'm very happy with the seeming change of the tides and hope the November Tressel magic still lingers.  If somehow, in the face of all the adversity, OSU gets into the B1G championship game that will truly #shocktheworld.

We should strive to keep thy name, of fair repute and spotless fame...

(Also, I'm not a dude)

Maestro's picture

Of course we are all getting way ahead of ourselves, but yes a strong November finish sure would change the mood around the program.

For the record I think this team will struggle with Purdue.  Win but struggle.

vacuuming sucks

Seth4Bucks's picture

I can honestly say that I was in the 2-2 group . . .  granted I was counting Wiscy as a loss in that poll.

Bruce's picture

Isn't hope (not the Coach) a beautiful thing?

The future suddenly looks much brighter.

Go Bucks

From the 2007 HBO special ---->

Denny's picture

One could argue that Hope's stache is a beautiful thing.


Riggins's picture

Factual statements don't need to be argued. Just state them.

buckeyechad's picture

maybe the best of things


"(hope) maybe the best of things" - Andy (Fickell) Dufresne

JLP36's picture

A November to Remember this year would be so sweet.  This team has the heart to do it.  Even in the 3 losses they played HARD, if sometimes poorly, to the final whistle.  Now, imagine a little play action passing mixed in on early downs against those packed defenses...

Saturday night was beautiful.  Sharpen up against Ind and Purdue.  Dominate Penn State.  Then crush Michigan's hopes that things have changed.


BucksfanXC's picture

Well done sir.

Thank you for reminding me to be outraged by those non-called holdings. I saw ESPN come back from commercial and show Montee Ball's receiving TD on different camera angle, I was convinced because they didn't want to show the replay that featured a baltant hold front and center another time. I would have been bitching about holding non-calls to anyone and everyone had we lost. I should still, even though we won. 

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

jenks's picture

I would suggest gloating rather than bitching. "We won in spite of the non-calls. Think about how much better that makes us and how much worse of a person that makes Bielema."

BucksfanXC's picture

Thanks probably a good call.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

OSUNeedles's picture

There was also a pretty blatant late hit where a player went straight at Miller's knees... Good to know that Tress being gone hasn't changed officiating.

Oh, & it isn't holding... It's zone blocking...

BED's picture

+50,000,000.  Bielema is a horrible human being, and his team is full of cheats who get away with it.

The Ohio State University, College of Arts & Sciences, Class of 2006
The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, Class of 2009

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

There have been times this season where I have wondered if the NCAA is trying to punish us for our infractions by having the referees purposely screw us.

Class of 2010.

NC_Buckeye's picture

The refs are employed by the Big Ten (although they enforce the NCAA rulebook). So it would be Delany punishing us if it's actually occurring.

Seriously, I just think some crews are better than others. We've encountered bad crews in the past.

slicksickle's picture

Delany punishing his flagship team for making a mockery of his conference? After he fought for the suspended students to play in the Sugar Bowl? Sounds plausible.

DallasTheologian's picture

Great work once again Ramzy. Kind of silly but the piece choked me up a bit. I guess there are still people who know what decent (albeit blog appropriate) journalism looks like.

Philly White's picture

This makes up for those circle sun glasses in the pictures from this weekend. But just barely.

Nicely done.

Ramzy Nasrallah's picture

Hate the man. Don't hate the borrowed shades that Yoko loves so much.

Scott's picture

Cheers, Ramzy.

Class of 2008

slippy's picture

"Tressel's ghost faded, just a bit."


This was the first game of the season that, to me at least, felt like Fickell's game.  Going for it on 4th down by 4 with almost an entire half left to play?


Ok, so that's the only example I can remember.  It felt different, though.  Maybe that was just because I was there.  But they definitely game planned to win this game.  New formations and plays on offense.  D-line getting huge - but also played to contain Wilson.

Maestro's picture

Very cool to see that humility has found Mike Adams.  Keep doing work big man.

vacuuming sucks

Buckeyejason's picture

I have to admit I said 0-4 in october a few times(big suprise coming from me right).

2-2 is a good indication that this team figured something out. Beating Wisky can be a huge stepping stone to to 4-0 November. Let's do it Boys!


phxbuck's picture

Can you imagine a healthy Nathan Williams in the D Line rotation, that would be nasty. 

Jason Priestas's picture

It would be nice. I'll just comfort myself imagining a healthy Williams back with everyone on next year's line. It's going to be scary good.

btalbert25's picture

I was wondering about next year.  I don't follow draft projections and all that, is there an indication that Simon may be in position to take a the leap?  Does anyone have any insight as to whether or not that's even a possibility with him?  This D-line returning with Nasty Nate could be really really good.  The line backing corps with Shazier and Grant should be pretty sweet too.

William's picture

Don't think Simon leaves early. I think the players all realize the potential this team has. I think a lot of them realize how next year might be very special.

btalbert25's picture

Yeah, I hope so too.  The only thing that worries me about next year is that O-line.  Losing Brewster, Shugarts, and Adams is going to hurt.  I agree though, this team could be something else next year.

William's picture

I think we'll still have a good starting O-line with Norwell, Linsley, Bobek, Hall, and Mewhort. But we will have no depth, which is extremely alarming. The defense should be something to behold next year though, the only starter they will lose is Sweat.

Buckeyejason's picture

He's coming back for sure. As good as he is, scouts are going to see the lack of size (height-weight) not muscle, lack of true position and downgrade him to an extent. I see him being a solid 2nd-3rd round pick at the very highest.


Jason Priestas's picture

Simon, Williams, Hank, Bellamy. Bennett and some of the younger pups providing depth. Wowza.


Seth4Bucks's picture

I've been thinking the same thing myself. I'm trying to temper my expectations for next year by remembering Tyler Moeller. We were all expecting him to come back and be a force and he's failed to live up to those expectations. It's honestly not his fault because of all the off time he's had to deal with over the past couple of seasons. He's been playing good, especially lately. But he's not quite the player we were all hoping for.

You know the greatest thing about that win in Wisky though? We don't HAVE to talk about next season. The future is bright for the Bucks' chances THIS season.

bsaucy81's picture

I just read the Routes to Indy column on ESPN.  Can someone explain why Penn State would go to Indy if they win 2 of their last 3 games.  Lets say that Ohio State beats Penn State, but Penn State beats Wisconsin and Nebraska.  Lets also say Ohio State wins out.  Wouldn't Ohio State be undefeated within the Leaders and Penn State would have 1 loss?  Does the Big10 look at overall Big10 record or just within the Division? 

Bucksfan's picture

BSaucy, this seems to be a common misconception about how your standing within your division is determined.  It's your overall conference record that matters in winning the division, not your intradivisional record.

bsaucy81's picture

Is that how other conferences (that have a true championship game) do it as well?

JKH1232's picture

In all Division 1 cases, yes.*


*I can't be arsed to look up Div IA, II, III or NACA procedures. 

Bucksfan's picture

That's right.  And, the games against your division foes provide tie-breakers.  In case of a 3-way tie, it goes to BCS standing, I believe (much like the maligned 2008 Big XII South race)...but that is very rare.

SO, it means the Michigan game still matters, and in its first year this bad boy might come down to that game (as it should)...and there's a chance at a rematch the following week.  CRAZY.

btalbert25's picture

That's the B1G dream scenario right there.  Have Ohio State Michigan mean something big, and then let's get the same game the following week in the first ever B1G title game.  That equals ratings gold. 

Maestro's picture

We need to GSD and hope PSU loses.

vacuuming sucks

M Man's picture

I would love that.  That's exactly what I would like to have happen.  There's a problem, though.  Because I'm quite sure that you guys have to win out, and over here in the Legends, I don't think that we would overcome Little Brother's record if we helped you win out the regular season and we consequently had two conference losses.  We have a very tough road ahead: @Iowa, @Illinois, Nebraska, TheOhioStateUniversity

I think it is almost guaranteed that our game in November will mean an awful lot, and probably to both schools.  And I'd say that we'd be looking at a good chance of a rematch too, but Little Brother messed all of that up for both of us.

Jason Priestas's picture

Just last week, I was thinking UM was in for an 0-4 or 1-3 November (sorry, recent history is my guide). But Iowa and Illinois are looking like wins all of a sudden, so who knows.

M Man's picture

The bizzarro-world scenario in which OSU and Michigan played The Game and then a B1G Championship rematch would have to be:

  1. OSU wins out (including a win versus Michigan);
  2. PSU loses another game (they face UW and Neb.), in addition to a loss to OSU;
  3. Little Brother loses two more games (they play Iowa as well as Northwestern; unlikely that they'd lose to Minnesota or Indiana), AND;
  4. Michigan beats Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska, and loses only to OSU.

All four items have to occur.  Each one of those items is not terribly implausible.  But for all of them to happen, is kind of crazy.  Particularly Little Brother dropping games to both Iowa and Northwestern.  Which would make it incumbent on us to, uh, beat OSU in The Game to get to the B1G Championship.  And so that part -- the critical importance of The Game -- seems likely to be renewed yet again.

timdogdad's picture

i hope we're on the same cycle as 09-10.  a debacle in oct and then turn into a run first. pass some  team with a young qb, good defense plus better special teams.  and a team that wins out including the big ten champ game. and goes to the rose bowl. and then ramps up to 2012 with a great team.  along with a settlement on the coach and the ncaa issues.  i love how special teams has gone from a liability to the edge that will win a game.   

jenks's picture

On the special teams point: 1) I'm not sure how much he's doing, but Doc is the coach/coordinator and it's looking mighty good. 2) That promotion was one of Fick's first decisions as head coach.

M tots's picture

With all these (justifiable) hopes and dreams of the B1G Title Game, I sure hope the NCAA doesn't come in and crush all of them with a post-season ban  :(

BucksfanXC's picture

Curse your tongue. I can't believe you would say something like that out loud. Go knock on some wood and sit in the corner for awhile and think about what you just did. LOL

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

argyle182021's picture

I went to a basketball camp in high school at Ohio State and our lodging was the dorms in the 'shoe.  I could not imagine living in those windowless rooms year 'round.  Must've been incredibly depressing.

bucknut3011's picture

I lived in the stadium.  It wasn't all that bad.  In fact, the Stadium dorm is the only dorm that has an alumni association.  It had the highest return rate of any dorm on campus.  I was proud to live in the stadium -- I guess I felt a part of the tradition.  Sometimes late at night (er, early in the morning), we would sit up and wonder over all the years of football history that took place just outside.  It's too bad the dorm moved; I consider my time in the dorm an honor and a privilege.  I think it would be great to move it back and offer to kids who work hard and strive for excellence.

elloyd1681's picture

Thanks again, Ramzy.  Loved it.  

BuckeyeFanInBoulder's picture

Terrific writing and a terrific nod to what this game meant for this team.  Being in attendance for that one would have been an immediate addition to the lifetime thrills list.  I re-watched that game twice on Sunday (say what you will).  It was as if the older guys on the team were so relieved to prove to themselves that ESPN was wrong about them, their friends and their previous coach that actually getting a victory despite the last 11ish months just broke them.  That was a mammoth undertaking.  I'm sure they know they also proved some of their biggest supporters wrong in a big way... but to be honest, based on the excitement from some of their own tweets after MSU's Hail Mary, I'm not sure they even believed it until last Sunday.  Speaking of believing, in my opinion, on Saturday night Braxton and Fickell both finally believed they were the heirs to the throne and acted accordingly.  Fickell still looks like he's having a mind-left-body moment when the camera is on him, but he was obviously thinking clearer than in September.

In addition to that, Boom ran well, the O Line was great, the D Line was maniacal despite holding, and the special teams (Buchanan inclded, twice) hit hard!  This game seemed to be a turning point in the secondary too.  I believe the whole secondary are going to be really good for the next several years... they still have room to improve but I love how hard they like to hit.

I am trying to convince myself to remain calm and take it one game at a time, but I think a trip to Indy is possible, which is insane after starting 0-2.  If I had to guess, I would put Sparty in that game with us... and that would be quite a rematch.


ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

Buckeye football is alive and well!  I figured we'd go 2-2 in October with victories over MSU and Illinois.  I never would have thought one of the two wins would be Wisconsin.  And I think it's the best possible way to go 2-2 - win the last two, take momentum into November.  We were just a little bit of competent offense and one defensive meltdown away from a 4-0 October. 

I can see us winning out, getting to Indy, and trying to get revenge on one of the teams that beat us.  What a story that would be.  I want to see it happen so bad.  I want the rest of our season to be one big middle finger to all of the haters and ESPN. 

Class of 2010.

BuckeyeChief's picture


"2014 National with it!!!"

BuckeyeChief's picture

ESPN 2; the score is 59-56 with 4:16 left; All O no D

"2014 National with it!!!"