No Guts, No Glory

By Sarah on March 26, 2012 at 2:00p
4 sure. Unlike last year, #4 and #44 rejoice in a Final Four berth

In Newark, New Jersey, on the evening of March 25th, 2011, top-ranked Ohio State was ousted in the Sweet Sixteen when William Buford's three-point attempt at the buzzer clanked off the rim. Buckeye faithful's hopes were crushed as their team, seemingly unstoppable, ended their season much earlier than expected. 

In Boston on March 24th, 2012, almost a year to the day of that devastating loss to Kentucky, Ohio State outlasted Syracuse for a trip to the Final Four. Fans of the Scarlet and Gray celebrated in jubilation1, the high point thus far of a season featuring many ebbs and flows.

In the desert of Tempe, Arizona, on January 3, 2003, linebacker Cie Grant blitzed quarterback Ken Dorsey, his throw falling incomplete, as the Ohio State football team survived double overtime against the Miami Hurricanes. Euphoria is too mild of a word to describe the feelings of Buckeye supporters who had been waiting 34 years for another national championship.

In nearby Glendale, Arizona, four years and five days after that triumphal event, Ohio State was thoroughly humiliated by the Florida Gators2. Heartbroken OSU enthusiasts watched in disbelief as their gridiron Bucks, #1 all season long, looked nothing like the squad they had cheered on the 12 previous games. 

So how were this year's basketball team and the 2002 football unit, both at times frustrating and heart attack-inducing, able to prevail when other versions, who dominated the competition and appeared more skillful, failed?

Often in the world of sports, the losses are analyzed more than the wins. It's simple to attribute victories to superior talent alone, but defeats are treated as more complicated, debated on for as long as those who witnessed them are still alive. 

Although the athletic prowess of a team is important, uncontrollable matters such as matchups, injuries, and even luck, all help determine the outcome of games. One factor in and of itself does not separate the successful from the disappointments.

Even so, there are traits that winners share. For Ohio State in particular, one common thread seems to be, to paraphrase Jared Sullinger, that they know how to push through adversity. 


When the current season began, Ohio State was ranked third in the country and considered the favorites to take home the Big Ten title. A Final Four bid was practically inevitable. All-American Jared Sullinger would tyrannize every opponent. Senior William Buford would break school scoring records. The bench would develop and compel Matta to play a deeper rotation.

Early on, everything was going according to plan, symbolized most by a blowout win against Duke

Then December rolled around and Sullinger dealt with injuries that caused him to sit out a couple games. And then Big Ten action began and the Bucks started off 3-2, looking in control one game and unraveling the next. From the outside, their underachieving was, at best, baffling and at worst, infuriating.

When talking to the media, the players admitted to their struggles, pointing out their problems such as miscommunication, difficulties playing together, and a lack of effort at practice. After they reeled off six victories in a row, it appeared as if they had finally figured it out.


A year ago, the basketball team had all the tools of a champion: experience, offensive explosion, defensive efficiency, and a "sharing is caring" motto that revealed their close-knit nature. Jack-of-all-trades David Lighty could instruct his teammates. Jon Diebler could connect on three-pointer after three-pointer. Dallas Lauderdale could block shots. Buford could nail a jumper from almost anywhere on the floor. Craft could lock down his counterpart. Sullinger could be relied on for a double-double.

They were a fun bunch to watch and an even easier one to love

Before the matchup with Kentucky, the Buckeyes boasted a commanding 34-2 record. Those two losses occurred in the inhospitable venues of the Kohl Center and Mackey Arena, where in each, an opposing player shot the ball unconsciously.

By the end of the regular season, they had earned the overall number 1 seed in the Tournament. 


Holy Buckeye cost me 7.4 years of my life.Everyone said Holy Something, anyway

In his second year with the program, Jim Tressel headed up a ragtag, albeit capable, group of players. Among them were the veteran safety Mike Doss; the molecular genetics major at QB, Craig Krenzel; freshman RB Maurice Clarett, the prima donna with a knack for scoring touchdowns; and the playmaker Chris Gamble, who rarely left the field.  

Each game, it was always a surprise as to who would step up. Sometimes, Will Allen would grab a pick in the end zone to preserve a victory, or Michael Jenkins would haul in a tide-turning catch, or Krenzel would QB sneak the ball across the goal line. 

With half of their wins coming by seven points or less, the Buckeyes shaved years off the lives of their diehard fans. But even when their performance failed to fit the definition, their record remained flawless.


Starting the season atop the rankings, Ohio State was loaded with weapons. The eventual Heisman winner Troy Smith. The electric Ted Ginn Jr. The reliable Anthony Gonzalez. The running back power duo of Antonio Pittman and Beanie Wells. The solid sophomores, Malcolm Jenkins and James Laurinaitis, on defense. 

The Buckeyes looked the part of the nation's best team, as they had their way with the competition, often to a giddily entertaining degree.  It culminated in the much-hyped #1 vs. #2 matchup against Michigan, and in a game for the ages, OSU triumphed over their archrival. They seemed untouchable. 


Despite the winning streak, Matta's erratic group lost three of their next five, including a home game against Wisconsin that they choked away. The following day, the head coach was so fed up with their laziness, that he kicked them out of practice. That was barely a month ago.

Gut-check time had come, and the Buckeyes responded with two wins: at Northwestern and at Michigan State, the latter of the comeback variety and one that clinched them a share of the Big Ten crown. 

With this bunch, though, the course could never run that smoothly.


By the time March came along, Ohio State was annihilating their opponents. However, in January, they had won six of their eight games by five points or less. They had proven they could play in crunch time. 

Still, the Tourney is a different beast. The Bucks barely broke a sweat in the first two rounds, and the dismantling of George Mason was perhaps the most impressive performance of the entire weekend. How could they be stymied?

Thanks in part to a brutal bracket and a meeting with a Wildcats team that posed size problems for the Buckeyes, their dreams were left unfulfilled. No national championship3. No Final Four. Not even the Elite Eight was in the cards.


Leading up to the Fiesta Bowl, the 13-point underdogs had to listen repeatedly to how they didn't stand a chance against Miami, the defending national champions. And yet, all season long, Ohio State had dug deep. They didn't just know how to win; they knew how to not lose, too.

So when it came down to one overtime and then another, they banded together one last time to complete their perfect 14-0 season. 


Fifty-one days after the historic 103rd edition of The Game, 41-14 happened4. Some say it was that very layoff that led to their doom. Some say it was an out-of-shape OL and a QB who indulged too much in the buffet line on the award circuit. Others believe the play-calling was too pedestrian and the loss of Ginn after the first play was too much to overcome.

Or, maybe Ohio State was too confident and when the tough got going, they didn't know how to fight back because they hadn't come close to tasting defeat all season. 


On paper, beating Loyola by 19 points in the first round sounds normal, perhaps even reassuring. However, the match caused enough consternation that Craft gathered the troops for a team meeting before their face off with Gonzaga.

There's still more work to do, though. "It's not supposed to be easy" - Jared Sullinger

If not for that, Lenzelle Smith Jr. claimed, "we would've lost this game. I guarantee you those problems that we talked about would have hindered us." 

Following two years in a row of not getting past the Sweet Sixteen, Ohio State managed to hold off a Cincinnati second-half rally to head to the Elite Eight, where they took down Syracuse. Due to foul trouble, Sullinger only saw the court for seven minutes in the first half, and yet, the score was tied at halftime.

Unlike last season, the Buckeyes have been able to weather different storms down the stretch. They were forced to play a couple Sully-free games in December and were able to survive his temporary absence against the Orange. They pulled out close contests to end the regular season, which gave them the confidence to do so in the NCAA Tournament. When opponents have put together runs, they haven't withered like they would have just one month prior. 

It's possible that, in contrast to a year ago, Ohio State is peaking at the right time. With one weekend left in the tournament, that's to be determined. 

In any sport, the team with simply the most talent can still be the one who emerges victorious at the end. If Kentucky bulldozes their way through New Orleans next weekend, few will be shocked because they have been the best team for most of the season. 

That's not always the case, especially when it comes to Ohio State. For the Scarlet and Gray, it's never that easy.

But as Woody Hayes would remind us, "Anything easy ain't worth a damn!"

  • 1 Like this, perhaps. 
  • 2 How strange that five years later, their coach would become Ohio State's. Sports!
  • 3 But hey, we got this barnburner instead. The bitterness remains. Sports!
  • 4 It still makes me want to vomit, because soul-destroying losses like that never really leave you. Sports!

Comments Show All Comments

Doc's picture

Well Sarah, I hope you are right.  Entitlement has no room for hunger.  I hope this team of Buckeyes can pull out two more wins.  Stay hungry my friends!

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

Abe Froman's picture

13 against Miami? I remember ESPN saying 25 waste spread. Other than that one comment, I liked the article like a piece of center cut peppered bacon! Roll this team in flour and enjoy the show folks!
Regardless of the outcome, this is a great year.

Basking in the wake of mediocrity.....

Doc's picture

Regardless of the outcome, this is a great year.

This is so true.  As fans we obsess with championships, but to be one of the last four teams standing is really quite remarkable.  Thanks for a great seaon guys.  Let's make it magical and win two more.

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

Bucksfan's picture

Agreed.  Clobbering Duke, the buzzer beater to beat MSU to claim a share of the conference, and this tourney run has been no cake walk w/ Gonzaga, Cincy and Cuse.  To beat Kansas and UK would be an immense accomplishment, but just getting to a Final Four is insanely difficult.

RedStorm45's picture

The line was 14...dropped to 13 by kickoff I believe.  Don't get mad when she uses facts.

RedStorm45's picture

?? LOL He said he liked the article other than Sarah saying the Bucks were 13 point underdogs.  I merely said she was factual in her writing.  Sorry if that makes me bitter.

timdogdad's picture

the only thing that would be good about losing on saturday is that we wil not have to  possibly deal with another championship game loss.  it's unreal that we could make an appearance in our 5th championship game in the last 10 years in the two major sports. but sadly it could be 0-4 if we lost next monday night.  i can't take that.  even though there would not be much shame to losing the the nba team ky.  plus add osu soccer a few years ago if you were into that. plus the cavs in '07.    so please bucks, if you win sat, close it out monday!  

William's picture

I remember the soccer championship game, what a let down.

RedStorm45's picture

Indians had a 3-2 lead on boston in the alcs in '07.  


Think of it this '99 we got to the national semis (lost to uconn)...'07 we got to the title game (lost to florida) the third time a charm? Crap, did I just jinx us...

HolyBuckeye1093's picture

Tribe actually had a 3-1 lead in the 07 ALCS with CC on the mound at home. Beckett was the best pitcher in the playoffs and won game 5, Schilling won game 6, and game 7 was the "Lofton hold" followed by the Pedroia bomb and the collapse was complete. Sry to bring up the painful memories.

RedStorm45's picture

You're right...and I think we trotted out C.C., Carmona, and Lee or something like that.

Brutus's picture

There is no doubt in my mind that if that idiot third base coach would have waved Lofton home, like any reasonable person would do, the Tribe would have gone on to win that game and beat the Rockies in the World Series. If memory serves, it would have been a one run game with one out and Garko on second or something like that. The momentum had completely swung in the Tribe's favor by that point. Not waving Lofton home effectively ended the game. Dammit, thanks for making me relive that horror.

I've been talking about the Ohio championship jinx for years. I'm not an MLS fan, but I think you could technically argue that the Crew broke the jinx. As far as I'm concerned, it still exists.

buckeyechad's picture

I couldn't help but imagining an uncle rico voice while I read this

Brutus's picture

There is also no doubt in my mind that if i could go back in time, I'd take state.

buckeyedude's picture

Why don't you just go have yourself a dang quesadilla?!



Lincoln's picture

Joel Skinner :(

BuckeyeChief's picture

I said the same thing last night...

"2014 National with it!!!"

thorvath22's picture

I'll take national runner can't be afraid of success, even in the face of failure.

but I guess if you ain't first, you're last.

Denny's picture



coloradobuckeye's picture

This is the year. The Buckeyes win it all.

Let your hobbies and interests supplement your life, not be the main course.

JozyMozy's picture

Sarah is such a boss. great read. 

Sarah's picture

Thanks! And I enjoy The Boss, anyway. 

LadyBuck's picture

Great job, Sarah. I especially enjoyed the picture up top and commenty thing. 

thatlillefty's picture

This article stirs so many emotions. Those '06 & '11 squads were such an absolute joy to watch yet led to such heartbreaking endings. I suppose that's what makes this run so special.

Great read Sarah

RedStorm45's picture

Double-digit final 4's....1 title.  4 runner up finishes.

'06/'07 (even '10) and so many teams from the '90s that all came up a few plays short (or perhaps more) of a title.  

I should be used to it - parents are both from northeast Ohio and unfortunately raised me on the browns (both teams I guess), indians, cavs, and buckeyes.  I've seen 1 title in my lifetime out of all that.

Sarah's picture

Yeah, I definitely have conflicting emotions when I think of those two teams. I don't know if I've ever had more fun watching their respective regular seasons, but the way they ended was tragic (in a sports-related, non-RL definition of the word). 

And thank you. 

Abe Froman's picture

I wasn't talking Vegas odds, that is why I noted ESPN. I DO remember someone (guessing Mark May) noting 25 points.

Basking in the wake of mediocrity.....

osukdawg76's picture

Here were some of my favorite quotes, courtesy of


"Because they are not going to beat Miami. If Miami loses, it will be because Miami beat itself. I don't see that happening. Until you beat the best team in your conference, don't tell me you can beat Miami. You have four weeks to come up with a passing game!"
Trev Alberts, 12/11/02

"Miami 42 Ohio State 10"
Mark May 1/2/03

"Nobody has our talent. We're way too fast for Ohio State. What conference are they in? The Big Ten? Ohio State and Nebraska are both power teams. It'll be like Nebraska was last year (a 37-14 Miami victory at the Rose Bowl). Nobody can hang with our speed."
Miami tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. New York Daily News 12/28/02

"Nobody outside of Columbus thinks the Buckeyes are the second best team in the country."
Jim Rome, 12/16/02

"I can't tell you how many comments I've heard about Ohio State playing down to the level of its competition. Folks, that's not what's happening. The Buckeyes aren't a very good 12-0 team. And they won't be a very good 12-1 team after they lose at home to Michigan on Saturday. Here's where I stand on a mythical Ohio State-Iowa matchup: The Hawkeyes would win big." “My predicted final score? Try 48-10, 'Canes -- a mismatched score for a game involving mismatched teams,”
Tim Brando, Sporting News "expert" 11/20/02

"Ohio State is a 14-point underdog if it plays Miami for the national championship. Ohio State's band has a better case for (being) number one in its field."
Danny Sheridan, USA Today 11/21/02

"Iowa would beat OSU by two touchdowns."
Trev Alberts, 11/28/02



And from everyone's favorite asshole, Dennis Dodd, who has a well-known hatred for Ohio State:

"I can't bring myself to pick Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. To win? No, no, no, not even close. I called my priest this week to confess I was considering the Yuckeyes would come within two touchdowns of Miami. But this is Miami. Its equipment manager can outrun your defensive backs. Its quarterback never needs drycleaning. What's the point when his uniform never gets dirty? Right now, Larry Coker is agonizing over a superior game plan that reads, "Punt on fourth down. Sometimes. Sorry, Bucks, it stops here. This will be a Fiesta Bowl awakening that will put you back in your proper place -- back in the Big Ten struggling to beat Northwestern.
Forecast for Columbus? A high in the teens. Call it Miami 26, Ohio State 13. "
Dennis Dodd 1/3/03

I, for one, welcome our new coaching overlords.



TheHannimal's picture

Oh man, just reading those gets me fired up. Even though we won that game nearly a decade ago I still want to destroy that turd Trev Alberts.

RedStorm45's picture

"Lines" aren't set by crappy ESPN analysts.

osubuckeye4life's picture

I remember the analysts like it was yesterday. No one gave OSU a shot in that game. December was a long month that year. I just wanted it to end so I could see the game! 


I remember the game very well too and the aftermath the next day. 


I really hope this years basketball team will have the honor of "living forever".


This team has been through a lot this year and has not given up. They have fought and clawed their way back through thick and thin. 


Let's GO BUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!