Two Years Removed From 6-7, Sting of Defeat Serves as Motivation

By Kyle Rowland on October 30, 2013 at 9:15a
The worst bowl pairing of all time.

Jan. 2, 2012, marked the end of a forgettable season and era in Ohio State football history. Faced with impossible circumstances clouded by scandal, Luke Fickell spent the 2011 season as the Buckeyes’ head coach. The end result wasn’t ideal.

Ohio State floundered through its first losing season in more than two decades, the seven losses tied for the most in program history and the recruiting trail began to dry up. Some thought the Buckeyes could be rendered irrelevant for years to come. But that all changed two days after the first loss to Michigan in seven years.

Urban Meyer was introduced as head coach, recruiting has soared and Ohio State hasn’t lost since. Just when the rest of the Big Ten thought it could play catch-up and even pass the Buckeyes, all of it goes kaput. Not even NCAA sanctions could hold Ohio State back from molding top-five recruiting classes.

“I try not to look back too often. I look back to the beginning of last year and that was very alarming,” Meyer said. “Up to now, we’re just trying to find a way to get to the next week.”

Alarming or not, Meyer knew what he was walking into. And it wasn’t a program in shambles. Titans of the sport – USC, Miami, Alabama, Nebraska and even Ohio State – have gone through sustained rough patches in the past 20 and 30 years. But the Buckeyes, according to Meyer, weren’t on the precipice of another downtrodden period.

At his introductory press conference, he said the program wasn’t broken. Talented players were on the roster they just needed new guidance. Under Meyer, the program has found it’s footing – and flourished. Winners of 20 consecutive games, there’s no letup from the Buckeyes. 

“I guess I have so much respect for Ohio State and the previous coaching staff, I knew all those guys. I knew Coach Tressel very well,” Meyer said. “So I kind of figured it would be [fine]. There are always some issues, but nothing that can’t get fixed, and you can recruit good players at Ohio State.”

That’s the route Meyer has taken as he tries to scale college football’s mountaintop once more. He called then-Penn State lean Noah Spence after his introductory press conference and has had recruiting on his mind and in his blood 24/7/365 ever since. When Meyer takes a job, he gives it his undivided attention.

There are few coaches in the country more affected by loses than Meyer. It gives him more than a bitter beer face. The mental toll they cause led to the burnout and health problems he faced at Florida. He’s promised his family that a year off helped change his outlook. Still, he’s not eager to relive Nov. 27, 2010 – the date of his last loss as head coach.

“Do I still feel it? Yeah, and I just want to avoid it at all costs,” Meyer said.

What about his players? Sure, there are those who played under the previous regime. They piled up wins until that fateful 6-7 season. Losing is fresh in their minds. The sting of defeat registers. But not with the bulk of freshman and sophomores who’ve never lost a college football game.

Saturday is the 670th day and 22nd month since Ohio State last tasted defeat. The Buckeyes are three wins away from setting a new school record with 23 consecutive victories. The combined record of the three opponents standing in their way is 7-14 overall and 1-7 in the conference.

One year after multiple overtime games and more than half the season’s wins coming by a touchdown or less, Ohio State’s restored order, winning by an average margin of nearly 31 points per game.

Meyer has all but guaranteed that complacency will not strike his team. A 20-game win streak, blowouts and three consecutive overmatched opponents be damned.

“That’s something we think about all the time. I mean, that “L” word is not a good word for anyone,” Meyer said. “So the one thing is we coach very hard. And Lou Holtz said it best, ‘You coach hard when you win.’ When you lose, it’s very fragile and if you came out to practice, you’d be like, my gosh, you act like the offense is the worst in the country. They’re ‘Bloody Tuesdays’ around here for a reason. As long as we’re still coaching that way, and we will, they’re very hungry.”

Veteran tight end Jeff Heuerman still has bad memories from the 2011 Purdue game – and much of that year, his first in Columbus. But even he had to inquire about the most recent loss of his college career occurred. Once he confirmed it was indeed the Gator Bowl, Heuerman quickly stated that the team keeps its one-game-at-a-time mentality thanks to the coaches.

“Our coaching staff does a great job, regardless of the opponent,” Heuerman said. “Tuesday will be a tough day. Bloody Tuesday and Wednesday. That’s when games are won and lost.”

Said Meyer, with a smirk: “We’re pretty good agitators around here. The goal is to compete for championships in November. You can bet the focus is very intense.”

It wasn’t any less intense in 2011. Fickell just happened to be dealt an untenable and unwinnable hand.


Comments Show All Comments

gravey's picture

I think about the "leadership" on that 2011 team and wince.  

Buckeye06's picture

I almost went to that gator bowl with the gator I was dating at the time.  What an awful game for both teams honestly

Hovenaut's picture

Glad that season serves as incentive for the guys that went through it.

The NCAA might have wiped 2010 off the books, I took 2011 off of mine....*shudders at repressed memories*.

00Buck's picture

a SEASON LIKE 2011 IS A GOOD THING........  you think about it......and you bring out a reaction from your players....... you use it as a tool to  Just Win Baby ! just WIN !!!  2010 WILL NEVER be removed from my memory....we DID kick the SEC's ASS....  and an SEC lover took it from us........RIGHT GENE SMITH..........  You southern fried freak !!

Upon this Rock, I build my house....and Let no man put asunder

Hovenaut's picture

Not sure about the downvote.....evening that out for you, 00. It's not everyday I get to laugh at the phrase "Southern Fried Freak".

dlb72osu's picture

All things considered, 2011 is best forgotten. I cannot fathom the amount of distractions for these 17, 18, 19 year olds. To simply put the weight of those out of your mind is completely impossible and irrational. We as the OSU fan base should remember all of the Braxton Millers and the Ryan Shaziers of that incoming freshman class, high schoolers that were so successful, walking into that bear-claw trap. Be thankful they stayed. They didn't have to!
There certainly was a fresh breeze a-blowin' come late November, 2011.

I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.

- Invictus

buckeyeEddie27's picture

It may sound strange but I have a few fond memories from 2011. 
The Wisky game was the best tailgating experience I've ever had and that game, that game was one for the ages.
I loved the fact we completed like one pass against Illinois and still got the W.  lol
Ohh, the optimism after the first game of 2011.  Bauserman looked like Montana.
The first half of the Nebraska game I was wondering how long Fick's contract would be. 
I took my dad to the Indiana game that year.  What great weather we had that day. Sunny, just the right temp outside.  Although we started slow 0-10 first qt, they bounced back and got the win.  Living in that moment not worrying about standings, records, legends this, leaders that, and just thoroughly enjoying a day at The Shoe with my Dad watching the Bucks was something I'll look back on the rest of my life and cherish. 
Honestly we looked pretty decent (all things considered) against scum that year.  And lest we forget, if Brax connects with Posey it's Game. Blouses.  Again.  (I know shoulda coulda -whatev)  The L hurt, but it did rekindle by hate fire.  Silver linings I guess.
That whole year I had a sense that despite all the bad things happening we'd still pull an Andy Dufresne and come out clean on the other side.  Might be a rough 2011 but we sure as hell won't be down for long I kept thinking.  I really did just try to enjoy the ride that year and appreciate the excitement of really not knowing (at all) if they would win from week to week.  When they did, it was really really sweet.   Simply put, 2011 made me a better fan.

I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

dlb72osu's picture

BE27 - you are absolutely right on target with the personal memories of that year. How many of those games I shared with friends and family either at the 'shoe or on the couch. And I was never over wrought with anger or dismay at the team or coaches (I had been pissed at Bollman for years by that time).
And your individual memories of certain games did bring a smile to my face as I remembered individual statements and events about the game or a play. Maybe overall we are all better for going through that. It certainly should give us a deeper appreciation for what we have today.
+1 to you, my brethren..

I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.

- Invictus

JozyMozy's picture

+1 to both of you for this line of thinking. Especially you, BE27- it's exactly how I felt watching some of the more abominable losses. After enduring the Bausering during the Miami game, feeling a real hopeless futility that I hadn't really experienced as a Buckeye fan, I had a much better perspective about things. I was able to enjoy games for what they were, wins be damned. The collapse vs. Nebraska? Man, that Miller kid is -special-. The loss at Purdue? Holy clutch, did you see that 4th down TD throw to Jordan Hall???
I'm not -nearly- as stressed during games anymore. That year taught me to enjoy football- especially this coach- because he won't be around forever. National Championships, B1G titles, both just icing on the cake. Beat Michigan. Go Bucks. 

zbd's picture

Having a 6-6 team under investigation at the time by the NCAA go to a meaningless bowl game is the most stupid decision by any AD  (Gene Smith) of all time. 

lax20's picture

I felt that 2011 Buckeyes team was not as bad as some are thinking.  The only 2 games that we were out classed was the Miami and Michigan St game.  The defense was great from both those teams.  The other games were all winnable.  If I remember correctly, all those losses were by 7 points or less.  The difference between an average coach and a very good coach.  The talent was there and starting a freshman at quarterback.  Let us not be too harsh on that 2011 team.

KillrNut's picture

I agree.
The loss to Nebraska in '11 was like a bad joke. Ohio State was up how much in the 2nd half... 24???
EDIT: the team wasn't awful, but the Senior QB was.


The silver lining to that season is it has served as a motivation for the players who were on that team. It also serves as a reminder at how far they've come in just 2 years. Look how far in the toilet USC is. They had no choice to but to hire Lane Kiffin! We are extremely fortunate we got Urban Meyer when we were down. What a difference being TOSU makes.
That Gator Bowl also makes me hope we get Florida again in another major bowl just so we all can stick it to them.

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

Oldschoolbuck's picture

I will always appreciate Fickell for the job he did in 2011 when he was handed an excrement sandwich and turned it into dried-out, left-over (and a little moldy) turkey. As Buckeyeeddie said, we were only a Braxton Miller overthrow from beating Missagain at their place and having a winning record no matter the outcome of a bowl game. Let's not forget, he also brought in his old roommate and best friend, Vrabel!

The Butler's picture

Some thought the Buckeyes could be rendered irrelevant for years to come. But that all changed two days after the first loss to Michigan in seven years.
Urban Meyer was introduced as head coach, recruiting has soared and Ohio State hasn’t lost since.

Not true. After Meyer was named HC, we lost to Florida. He did not that coach that game, but we have lost since he was named head coach

I've trained Canaries in the sport of falconry.


avail31678's picture

Unless of course you interpret it as saying we haven't lost since the Gator Bowl.  Which is totally a viable interpretation since the first sentence of the article says "...Jan. 2, 2012 marked the end..."

Seattle Linga's picture

Time to move on to bigger and better times...........
Isn't it amazing in how little time UFM has taken this team from the shambles of an NCAA investigation and flipped it around without a loss. What else can we possibly expect the man to do....................

gobucks5413's picture

Thats the great part about being a Buckeye...I don't know how many other programs can endure what OSU endured, w/ the scandal, a legendary coach "resigning", a 6-7 season, and a bowl ban, and somehow come out of it BETTER than we were before it, which if you remember correctly, was pretty darn good. It's always good to be a Buckeye!

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

Faced with impossible circumstances clouded by scandal the NCAA, Luke Fickell spent the 2011 season as the Buckeyes’ head coach. The end result wasn’t ideal.

Fixed that for you good sir...

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama

BKLINE20's picture

"It gives him more than a bitter beer face."
Now that is funny. 

pjtobin's picture

It's funny the things you think you want or need turnout different than ya hope usually can have a bright side if you look for it. And how can you not see the bright side to our recent dark and gloomy past. UFM is one of the best coaches coaching. I'm glad he is a Buckeye. Who else was in the mix of coaches to hire? I have no idea. But I'm very grateful we got Urban!

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

gobucks5413's picture

Fortunately, I don't think there were other coaches in the mix...I think Urban was the only one considered, and thankfully, he obliged. Wouldve been interesting to see where we wouldve gone from there if he declined. (thank god we don't have to actually consider that question)