The Redeem Team

By Kyle Rowland on November 26, 2012 at 10:00a

12-OH said the Buckeyes

If you rewound the scene 10 years, the imagery was remarkably similar. Ohio State, with a newly hired head coach, was clinging to an undefeated season on a cold November day. Late in the fourth quarter against Michigan, a Buckeye interception near the south end zone acted as the final straw, leading to thousands of fans streaming on the field in euphoria. 

Fast-forward to Saturday in Ohio Stadium and the movie replayed for 105,899 scarlet-and-gray clad fans. But instead of making reservations for a winter haven like they did a decade ago, Buckeye fans are finalizing plans to spend the holidays with grandma, in-laws and at home on the couch.

There is no Big Ten title game in Indianapolis, no national championship game in Miami, no Rose Bowl in Pasadena; heck, there is no Gator Bowl in Jacksonville.

Ohio State, stung with a postseason ban after former head coach Jim Tressel knowingly used ineligible players throughout the 2010 season, was banned from the 2012 postseason. A coaching staff and team are left to ponder all the ‘what-if’ scenarios.

The 2002 team, honored between the first and second quarter during Saturday’s 26-21 win over Michigan, knew their fate after they won the rivalry game. Tempe, Ariz., was the destination, and there was nothing that could happen to change that. So, in a way, the 2012 team shares that certainty. It’s just not the formality they were hoping for.

Blame for Ohio State’s current situation has been passed around to several different people. But athletic director Gene Smith has drawn most of the fans’ ire, despite Tressel putting Smith in the position to make a decision regarding the NCAA penalties.

Smith has ben criticized for not taking a bowl ban a season ago, though there was no guarantee Ohio State would have steered clear of a ban this season anyway.

“No, I don’t have any regrets,” Smith told Eleven Warriors earlier this month. “A lot of people want to talk about that, but the reality is you make a decision based upon the information in front of you. We had a lot of smart people (involved). I didn’t make that decision on my own. You look at all the previous cases and I think we did the right thing at that particular time.

“Hindsight is always 20/20. It’s the easiest thing in life.”

On Saturday, it was Tressel who was hoisted triumphantly on his players’ shoulders and paraded around Ohio Stadium while Buckeye Nation approved with an ovation reserved for a king.

“This is a special place with special people,” Tressel told the Columbus Dispatch as he walked off the field.

Urban Meyer's first Buckeye team went unbeaten12-0. Not bad for your first time out.

Nearly two years after the initial reports of NCAA impropriety, fans are ready to move on. Tressel gave them 10 years of near unprecedented success. They thanked him, there is closure and now it’s on to the Urban Renewal.

Saturday provided the final chapter in an opening act that will be remembered as one of Ohio State’s finest and most improbable seasons. The Buckeyes’ play didn’t always resemble a Van Gogh, but the final product was, like The Starry Night, perfect.

“For the moment, this is as good as it gets,” Meyer said.

There were many reasons for the jubilation – a 12-0 season and win over Michigan being the most obvious. But there was much more than that rattling around Meyer’s head.

Here was the Ohio-born and bred Meyer who just led his lifelong favorite team to prominence. Next to him – eventually – was his family, the group that allowed him to return to coaching after a year sabbatical. It was moments like the postgame celebration that the Meyers missed and welcomed back.

“My two daughters came back, and I was trying to find them (on the field),” Meyer said. “Obviously, the nut-job students won’t let me find anybody, so that’s okay. But to be with my wife and children on that field is something special.”

Meyer’s career has been chock full of special moments. A program overhaul at Bowling Green, an undefeated season at Utah and two national championships at Florida are just the headliners.

A national title may be in the offing for Meyer in Columbus, but it almost certainly won’t happen this season. But that hasn’t stopped Meyer and his players from stating their case.

“I’d say at this point in time Ohio State could go play with anybody in America,” Meyer said.

For large swaths of the season that argument did not exsist. During the month of September, Ohio State made Central Florida look like the Gators, California appeared to be Bay Area rival Stanford and Alabama-Birmingham looked more like the Crimson Tide than the Blazers.

Still, the letter next to each game was a “W”.

“I think we should be No. 1,” junior running back Carlos Hyde said. “I feel like we’re the best team in the nation. It’s sad when you think about it. That was our last game, and the season’s over.”

Past history is proof of how difficult it is to navigate a season undefeated. There are rarely more than two perfect records when all is said and done, and in 123 years, Ohio State has only had six unbeaten and untied teams.

In the past month, Alabama, Oregon and Kansas State, three teams few believed would lose this season, all lost.

Ryan Shazier and John Simon both turned in All-Big Ten seasons for the BuckeyesShazier and Simon stepped up when it mattered most.

“That’s the thing about college football,” senior linebacker Zach Boren said. “If you go undefeated, it’s a special thing no matter who you play.”

Selflessness is one component, according to Meyer, that contributed to Ohio State’s perfect season. The biggest example was Boren’s move from fullback, where he started for three and a half years, to linebacker in mid-October after fellow senior captain Etienne Sabino suffered a broken leg.

After three years of being an offensive lineman in the backfield, Boren was finally carrying and catching the football in Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman’s up-tempo power spread offense. In the season’s first six games, prior to his move to defense, Boren had 16 touches for 75 yards with two touchdowns.

He finished the season as the Buckeyes’ sixth-leading tackler with 50 stops, including 3.5 for loss and one sack. Boren also forced a fumble and recovered a fumble, the latter against Michigan.

The most improbable of Ohio State’s 12 wins this season came against Purdue, in a game the Buckeyes trailed throughout, including late in the fourth quarter. After quarterback Braxton Miller was injured in the third quarter, Kenny Guiton took the reins and engineered a drive that will live in Buckeye lore.

Trailing by eight points, Guiton took Ohio State 61 yards in 44 seconds, throwing a touchdown pass on the final play from scrimmage in regulation. The Buckeyes still faced a two-point conversion. But the calm Guiton lobbed the ball to a wide-open Jeff Heuerman in the end zone.

Guiton continued his heroics in overtime, as the Buckeyes won, 29-22. The next week, Guiton gave the football back to Miller with nary a complaint.

“I’ve never been around a team like this,” Miller said. “The toughness and the swag we have had throughout the whole year. I’m just thankful this team is 12-0.”

If nothing else, Saturday was the completion of a giant springboard to 2013. The senior class laid a foundation that’s as sturdy as the stadium that hosted them the past four and five years.

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

Ohio State will likely begin the 2013 season ranked in the top five, and with another favorable schedule, 25 consecutive wins is not out of the realm of possibility. And if that happens, there will be no guess game. The Buckeyes will be in the Rose Bowl for the final BCS national championship game.

Said Hyde: “Next year, we’ve got a chance.”


Comments Show All Comments

LouGroza's picture

We'll take 12-0 and LOVE IT!! Thank you Buckeyes!

toad1204's picture


Said Hyde: “Next year, we’ve got a chance.”

Guess that sums up Hyde's draft status.  UFM is going to have a full backfield next year. 

Nothing like dancing on the field in 02... 

Poison nuts's picture

That's what I was thinking. That kid is as good a running back as there is in the country & I was hoping we didn't lose him.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

hodge's picture

"The Buckeyes’ play didn’t always resemble a Van Gogh"

Actually, I think Van Gogh is an apt descriptor for the 2012 Buckeyes.  Most artists are embattled, but few rose from the lows he endured to the pinnacle of fame (albeit posthumously) like he did.  In fact, while he was painting much of his seminal work, the art community at-large scoffed at him.  Similar to a team we follow, no?

pcon258's picture

upvote for intelligent art analysis. who says osu fans only care about football?

hodge's picture

Cheers, mate.  These 2012 Buckeyes have so many good metaphors, like the Stones' Exile on Main Street.

Buckeye06's picture

Why are Tressel and Smith getting any of the blame for this bowl ban? Wasn't it the players who sold memorbilia for tattoos?  Why do they get forgiven for being the true offenders here?

BrooklynBuckeye's picture

You're definitely right that the blame starts with the players, but we wouldn't have had a bowl ban, maybe not even limited scholarships or probation, if Tressel hadn't lied to the NCAA. The players messed up, but so did Troy Smith and others, but since those were reported, it didn't affect the program as a whole.

AngelHeartsBuckeyes's picture

Let us not forget the tipping point for the bowl ban is most likely not tattoos, but charities.

Buckeye born and bred. Buckeye til I'm dead.

RBuck's picture

...and Posey/Bobby G.

Long live the southend.

DefendYoungstown's picture

If my memory serves me right, Troy Smith had nothing to do with the bowl ban...

What we can't do in the air we'll do on the ground.

AltaBuck's picture

The main reason why tOSU was slapped with a Bowl Ban was the Bobby DiGeronimo mess.

I am Groot - Groot

AndyVance's picture

The thing that always gets lost when people condemn Gene Smith for not taking a self-imposed Bowl Ban is that there is never a guarantee that self-flagellation would indeed ward off NCAA wrath.
Just like you can't prove a negative, you couldn't say without a shadow of a doubt that the enforcement folks wouldn't have said "that's nice, have another."

Dean's picture

This.  My view is that the NCAA wanted to make an example of us, and you can't do that by just accepting a violator's self-imposed penalties.  We would very likely have found ourselves in the same place, minus an embarrassing loss to Florida, had we skipped the bowl last year.

AndyVance's picture

Absolutely - recent enforcement actions have almost all skewed toward a heavier hand than past precedent, precisely because the league office felt it needed to make examples of teams who had done wrong.
Enforcement in the modern era has little to do with "justice," as even Ohio State's most ardent haters should be able to acknowledge that the school and team paid a far heavier price than the infractions merited... Instead, enforcement has everything to do with sending a message and making an example to those considering skirting or flouting the rules.

Akeem96's picture

The national media likes to make Tressel out to be the villain.  
Did he know that what his players did would make them ineligible?  Sure.  
Did he keep it to himself? I don't believe so.  I will always believe that he reported it up to AD Smith and was talked into keeping it under wraps.  Other than a few cryptic type responses from Tressel when the story was still fresh, there is no proof of this.  
As devastating as the situation was, it was better for Ohio State for this to be only at the head coach level and not at the athletic dept level, so he did what he did to protect the university and shouldered the scandal.  
It was very amusing when Spielman ignored Sean McDonough's question as to why the stadium would react as they did in regards to Tressel.  McDonough then awkwardly brought it up again.  I forget's Spielman's exact response but I interpreted it as "You wouldn't understand, drop it."

Oyster's picture

I agree with you about Coach Tressel.  Just look at the first press conference when Smith jumped in and answered the question for Coach Tressel about telling anyone else about what he knew. 
I can say this, I will never give up my Vest Colored Glasses.

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

BoFuquel's picture

Buck the blame game git on with your life.The BOT runs the show and you know it.That's why Smitty is a god in their eyes.Get real.GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

Bucksfan's picture

It was the Michigan game.  It was the 10th Anniversary of the greatest Ohio State season ever.  There is absolutely no way in hell that ANY stadium during a rivalry game, honoring a former championship team, would ever boo or fail to cheer for the former head coach as he's hoisted onto the shoulders of the players.  There are a lot of moral crusaders out there in the national media that have spent far too much of their previous 2 years overanalyzing the wrong facts in the Ohio State situation. 
It is true that Jim Tressel's failure to disclose was what led to his demise, but that's not what led to the bowl ban.  It was Posey and Herron getting paid by an already-suspect booster for work not performed while they were on probation that really led to the bowl ban.  That was the proof they needed that the tattoo ring was not the only thing awry at Ohio State.  But there is a major disconnect between the media's expectation of the Ohio State crowd, and the actual facts of the case...and this is probably because they tried their damndest to dictate as many attitudes as possible in order to sell advertising.  Fact is, you can't undo 9 wins over Michigan, a national championship, 5 BCS bowl wins, improved graduation rates, and an overall body of work that was positive.
The reaction by the crowd was appropriate.  Ohioans tend to have pretty measured perspectives here.  They know the media coverage of the Ohio State scandal wasn't proportional to the severity of the offense, given what we know about other college football scandals.  And they sure as shit weren't going to boo Jim Tressel, who recruited all the players on the field that were 11-0 playing Michigan.

Alhan's picture

There is absolutely no way in hell that ANY stadium during a rivalry game, honoring a former championship team, would ever boo or fail to cheer for the former head coach as he's hoisted onto the shoulders of the players.

One person behind me booed quite loudly, but was soon drowned out by the majority of the crowd's standing ovation and cheers.

"Nom nom nom" - Brady Hoke


Hello to all great OSU fans, as I am new to the posting. Be gentle with me! What a great TEAM win and I'm so proud to be a Buckeye fan with the win over Scum! It was also great to see the appreciation to Coach Tressel even though we're in the situation we are in. I 've loved OSU since my early years and because of Coach Tressel my love for this university has grown even stronger seeing that I've seen him coach at YSU only 15 minutes from here. Having said that, there was nobody more qualified to be our coach now than Coach Meyer. The only advantage I see to what happened is that Coach Tressel was too loyal to some coaches and thus no changes would've been made. Enter Coach Meyer and you now see what we have and are going to have. The adjustments in the second half were fantastic and are a sign of things to come I believe. With an unbelievable offense in the works and Coach Meyer noting that the teams in contention for the national title all have really good defenses, he is going after that and when he does.....look out college football! Go Bucks!

What time is it? It's 1200 noon on a glorious Saturday afternoon,  and _ichigan still sucks!


Agreed on the crowd reaction to Coach Tress. ESPN and the media were the only ones suggesting Tressel should not have attended or should/would have been booed. Only someone from outside Ohio would say such an asinine thing. The NCAA isn't God and isn't overlord of the universe. I thought this season symbolized one giant extended Middle Finger to the NCAA and the rest of the college football world. Maybe the NCAA should stop being hipocrites and go investigate programs like Alabama and LSU. Nobody can tell me they are 100% squeaky clean. My ass they are. Going to enjoy watching Meyer sticking it to them in the very near future.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

spqr2008's picture

I wrote the Infractions hotline for the NCAA care of Mark Emmert, and basically said that maybe he should be far more concerned with UNC's infractions, as they are far far worse than any questioning of amatuer status, and if in the future they decide to arbitrarily treat Big 10 teams worse than other scandal ridden programs, I would be forced to file a class action lawsuit against the NCAA in the amount of $50 Billion for emotional damages created by the NCAA, and invite all fans whose teams have been sanctioned to join.  Not that the suit would go anywhere, but that I would hold a presser regarding it, and drive stories surrounding it for as long as possible.

Dougger's picture

is this serious? because if you are, that's awesome. 

I like football

bwh's picture

who's the jackass in the bottom right of the headline picture?
Everyone else seem's amped, but he's busy taking the day off...

Melissa's picture

I think it's Travis Howard.

IBleedSandG's picture

Yep, it's Howard. Maybe he was bummed that it was his last road game? Regardless, you just won in Camp Randall and you're singing Carmen Ohio, show some emotion!


btalbert25's picture

This team went undefeated when they supposedly had nothing to play for(I think pride and the name on the front of the jersey debunk that, but that's what people say).  They would be in the national title game if they were eligible.  Think about that for a minute, a team that just went 12-0 is going to come back with a chip on their shoulder because of unfinished business this year.  I think going 12-0 will make this team play even more angry and focused next year so they get to go play for the title.  I love it.  12-0 and still a lot to prove next year.  Meyer can is going to use that as a motivation all offseason long.

buckeye76BHop's picture

If they can do it when it didn't matter, just imagine what they'll do when it does.  This team may go undefeated again...and even easier than this year.  The entire Offense is back and possibly afew on defense (with a possible 6 gone with Hank and Roby).  Defense will be young but fast...and I bet you they tackle better next year.  GO BUCKS!  Can't wait till Sept. 2013...

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

osubuckeye4life's picture

Thank you 2012 Redeem team for a great season!
The coaching staff is hard at work right now. I heard something about Meyer talking to Mariotti about getting even more out of the players next year! Man, that off season conditioning program is going to be hell. These players will be forged through fire.
Plus, the coaches are all over the place on the recruiting trail to make way for the new class to replace the seniors and any departing underclassmen.
Not having to worry about a B1G championship game and possible national championship game this year I think is a blessing in disguise. Also, I would love to see what this staff could do with 30 days to prepare for a team they would be a underdog against.
I hate that the players are missing those practices. However, this gives the staff more time to recruit the next greats for the S&G.