Despite the raging success of Thad Matta and the men's basketball program, Ohio State is still a football school at heart. I don't need to tell you that 2011 was a rough year on the football front, but thanks to an athletic department that fields teams in everything from rowing to pistol, there were still plenty of good moments to go around.
We present to you our 4th-annual look at the top 11 Buckeye moments of the year.
11. Destroying Duke
One of the perks of averaging 27 wins per year -- as Thad Matta has been able to do in Columbus -- is getting a better draw in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge. This year, Matta's Buckeyes finally drew the Duke Blue Devils, the preeminent program in college basketball in the last 20 years.
With both teams ranked in the top five of polls -- the Buckeyes at 2nd and Duke at 4th -- the matchup at the Schottenstein Center was the highlight of the intra-conference slate, though the Buckeyes entered as 7.5-point favorites.
If only the game lived up to the advanced hype. The Buckeyes placed four in double figures led by 21 from Jared Sullinger and 20 from William Buford on the way to 85-63 stomping
The game was so lopsided, Coach K could only say the following: "Sometimes you get your butt kicked. I've had my butt kicked and we've kicked butt. Tonight, my butt is sore."
10. Eat Too, Brutus Gives Back
Granted, this isn't exactly a Buckeye moment in the purest sense, but indulge us for a second.
In 2010, we held the first Eat Too, Brutus, a tailgate to bring the site readers and writers together for some food, suds and fun prior to the Miami game. The turnout was better than anticipated and the game might have been even better as the Buckeyes handled the Hurricanes in the Shoe.
We already knew that we wanted to turn this event into an annual affair, but we decided to add some spice to it this year by raising money for the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research. After months of planning, things came together for the event, held prior to the Wisconsin game on Homecoming and through the generous contributions of our corporate partners and the awesome readers of this site, we were able to have a blast while raising nearly $6,000 for the charity.
If you were lucky enough to have attended, you know what I'm talking about. Chances are, you also got to meet Greg Oden and Mark Titus.
If you were unable to make it, don't fret. We'll be doing it again for the Nebraska game on October 6, 2012.
9. Jantel Lavender Makes History
When center Jantel Lavender concluded her Ohio State career in March, she departed as the most decorated hoopster in Lady Buckeye history.
Putting up double figures in every game of her collegiate career, she finished second all-time in the Big Ten in scoring and first in rebounds. She also collected 18 weekly Big Ten Player of the Week awards, good enough for another record.
Perhaps most impressive, she became the first athlete -- man or woman -- in a BCS conference to capture four league Player of the Year awards.
Currently balling for the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA, Lavender should be making one more stop in Columbus -- to have her jersey retired.
8. Men's Volleyball Captures a Title
Ohio State men's volleyball has long enjoyed success on the court. Prior to last season, the program had earned 17 Final Four berths and even played in two championships, though losing both (most recently to UCLA in 2000).
That string of success, but not quite ultimate glory came to an end in 2011, however as the 3rd-seeded Buckeyes captured the program's first-ever national championship in a five-set victory over 4th-seeded UC Santa Barbara in State College, PA.
After suffering a defeat in the 2010 Final Four at the hands of eventual national champion Stanford, the squad, led by seniors Steve Kehoe, John Klanac and Kevin Heine resolved to finish things with a bang in 2011 and they did just that.
The Buckeyes dropped the first set 20-25, but responded to win three of the next four, 25-20, 25-19, 22-25 and 15-9.
And then, they celebrated.
7. Jared Sullinger Does Work
Jared Sullinger was always going to be a Buckeye. His older brother, JJ, played three years in Columbus, the final two for Thad Matta, and Jared was a McDonald's All-American starring for the nation's #1 prep team, Northland, just minutes from Ohio State's campus.
When he finally did make things official by signing with the Buckeyes, he wasted little time getting to work.
The 6-9 forward started all 37 games for the Buckeyes, leading the team to a 34-3 record, a Big Ten regular season and tournament championship and the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
He led the team with 17.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, while shooting 53.6 percent for the field, while putting up 19 double-doubles along the way. Oh, he also scored 40 points in a December 2010 victory over IUPUI, good enough for an Ohio State freshman record.
As such, he was named Big Ten Player of the Week four times and Freshman of the Week so many times that it became a running joke that the award would soon be named after him. This led to him being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and capturing the 2011 Wayman Tisdale Award from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association as the nation's top newcomer.
He'll be playing in the NBA soon enough, but while he's in Columbus, we're soaking up every minute of it.
6. David Lighty Rocks Cleveland
One more than one occasion last year, the Buckeye basketball team looked absolutely invincible. One of those nights was on March 20th, when Ohio State took on George Mason in a second round NCAA Tournament game.
After falling behind 11-2 early, the Buckeyes absolutely caught fire, unleashing a hellish 50-15 run -- that's right, a 50-15 run -- over the final 16:23 of the first half to take a commanding 52-26 lead into the locker room.
Several players had great nights, but none had the night David Lighty did, playing in front of his friends and family in his hometown.
The senior glue guy finished 7/7 from downtown and 9/10 from the floor overall on the way to 25 points as the Buckeyes demolished George Mason 98-66, good enough for the most lopsided Tournament win in school history.
Afterward, an emotional Lighty hugged family members that had watched him play his final college game in Ohio. "Couldn't be any better," he said. "A perfect ending."
5. The Best Vacated Night of Your Life
Officially, the game never happened. But for the thousands of Buckeye fans at the Superdome and the millions more that watched the Sugar Bowl on television, we know what we saw.
And what we saw was a Buckeye team that started hot, racing out to a 28-7 lead over Arkansas (thanks in small part to buttered gloves on the hands of Razorback receivers), ultimately taking a 28-10 lead into the locker room at the half.
And then the Tresseling happened. Sensing a chance to pry the 0-9 SEC bowl game monkey from the team's back, the coach went conservative, attempting to run the clock out for most of the 2nd half. Typically, this strategy worked well for Tressel, but a rare Boom Herron fumble a safety when he was tackled in Ohio State's end zone, coupled with a hot Ryan Mallett, saw Arkansas storm back into the game, finally closing the gap to five points as the Buckeyes took over with 4:33 remaining in the game.
Attempting to kill the clock, the Buckeyes kept the ball on the ground picking up two first downs before the drive stalled at their own 36 with a little over a minute remaining in the game. On the ensuing punt, the Razorbacks brought the house and were able to block a Ben Buchanan punt, getting the ball back at the OSU 18 with 1:09 to play.
From pure ecstasy to outright despair in the matter of a few hours, Buckeye fans were now facing the prospect of moving to 0-10 against the SEC in bowl games and with as hot as Mallett had been playing in the 2nd half, little hope remained among the faithful. On first down, Mallett threw incomplete to tight end D.J. Williams. No worries -- still plenty of time and just 18 yards to go for the winner.
And then Solomon Thomas happened. After Mallett was pressured on 2nd down, he tried to throw underneath, but the much maligned member of the Tat 5 stepped in front of the intended receiver for his first career interception, ending the SEC bowl curse.
Sure, it may not really count in the books, but I'll not soon forget that absolute insanity that was the 2011 Sugar Bowl, nor the beautiful, mocking S-E-C chants that Buckeye fans serenaded their Arkansas brethren with throughout the game.
4. Diebler Goes Ham
By the time his senior season rolled around, Jon Diebler had become pretty much automatic from three point land.
On March 13, 2010, in a game during his junior season, he surpassed Jamar Butler for the Ohio State record for three point field goals made at Ohio State. A little over 11 months later, he would go on to break the Big Ten's three pointer mark when he banged in his 33rd career bomb against Purdue.
In short, the man made it rain. But the highlight of his bombs on parade came during a game against Penn State on March 1st, when the senior drained his first triple, missed his second and then caught fire by making nine-straight to finish 10/11 from downtown for 30 points, helping the Buckeyes capture the Big Ten regular season conference crown with a 82-61 romp in State College.
It was part of an impressive week for Diebs as he followed that performance with a 6-9 outing from downtown against Wisconsin in Columbus to go out 17-20 from three land in his final two regular season games as a Buckeye.
3. Homecoming Magic
October was a rough month for Buckeye football fans.
It started with an ugly loss to Michigan State at home that nearly saw the Buckeyes suffer their first home shutout in nearly 30 years before scoring late in the game.
The following week saw the team squander a 27-6 third quarter lead in Lincoln as the Cornhuskers stormed back for a 34-27 victory after Braxton Miller was knocked out of the game with an injury.
The team would go on to pick up a win over previously unbeaten Illinois in Champaign to stop the bleeding, but Ron Zook and all.
After a bye week, the Buckeyes welcomed Wisconsin to town and aside from last second loss to Michigan State on a Hail Mary, the Badgers had looked practically unbeatable up to that point with quarterback Russell Wilson slicing people through the air and running back Montee Ball destroying the survivors on the ground. As such, Wisconsin entered as seven point favorites for a rare homecoming treat -- a night game at the Shoe.
Sporting Pro Combat uniforms and feeding off the energy of the home crowd, the Buckeye defense came out and did its part, limiting the vaunted Badger running game to just 104 yards on the ground. Special teams showed up as well, with a Ryan Shazier punt block leading to a quick seven as part of a 14-point third quarter to give the Buckeyes a 17-14 lead heading into the final stanza.
Drew Basil would add a field goal early in the fourth to pad the lead and Braxton Miller followed six minutes later with a 44-yard touchdown run to put the Buckeyes up 26-14 with just a little over four minutes remaining in the game.
That's when Russell Wilson went to work. The quarterback found Jared Abbrederis on a 17-yard strike to close the gap to 26-21 and then, after forcing an Ohio State punt, Wilson took over again and found Abbrederis again, this time on 49-yard pass to put the Badgers up for the first time since the first half. Wilson would find Ball on a two-point conversion, giving the Badgers a 29-26 lead with a little over a minute to play.
With the fanbase expecting nothing at this point, Jordan Hall took the ensuing kickoff back 42 yards to put the Buckeye in business at their own 48. The offense would gain 12 more yards on the next three plays, putting themselves at the Wisconsin 40 with 20 seconds remaining.
Needing a touchdown, magic happened. And Columbus partied into the night.
2. Dealt With
After his Badgers handed Ohio State its first loss of the season in a 71-67 upset at the Kohl Center in mid-February, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan offered up a bit of advice to Buckeyes everywhere after he was told of a fan apparently spitting on Jared Sullinger on the court after the game.
His response, "Deal with it," soon became a rallying cry as towels were made in anticipating of exacting some revenge in Columbus a little less than a month later.
The home fans were not disappointed as the Buckeyes used two big first half runs to turn what had been a relatively close game into a blowout. The team would go on to shoot a blistering 68% from the field for the game, including an insane 93% from downtown (14/15) in a 93-65 laugher, that concluded a perfect season at home for Ohio State.
The win improved Ohio State to 29-2 on the year, locking up a top seed in the NCAA Tournament and providing a few hours of glorious Bo Ryan taunting. Dealt with, indeed.
1. Urban Comes Home
2011 was easily the worst Ohio State football season in over a decade.
A tattoo for autographs scandal exploded into a beloved head coach withholding information from the NCAA and ultimately to his ouster on May 30th.
As if that wasn't enough, the team's MVP saw his career end early in a hasty exit to the NFL via supplemental draft, five other players were suspended for portions of the season, and finally, handful of players received either new or further suspensions for getting paid for work they did not complete.
The team suffered on the field, going 6-6 and is in position to lose a 7th game in one season for the first time in over 100 years.
As if that wasn't enough, the NCAA returned its final verdict, which led to nine lost scholarships over three years, a postseason ban in 2012 and one more year of probation. It was as bad as everything was good from 2001-2010, and all delivered in a series of punches to the gut that played out over nearly the entire calendar year.
But somehow, the Buckeyes landed on their feet when they convinced one of the best coaches in college football to return home and help lead the program back to greatness. After weeks of rumors and speculations, dreams became a reality when Urban Meyer stepped up to a podium at a press conference in Columbus to announce that he had agreed to become the head coach of the Buckeyes.
So much stink, nearly evaporated in one move. And best of all, the Wolverines only got to celebrate the rare win over the Buckeyes for about 48 hours.
And now, once again, we look to the future.
HONORABLE MENTION: The men's hockey team earns a sweep in Ann Arbor; Braxton Miller signs on the dotted line; A.J. Hawk and Ryan Pickett earn rings; Evan Turner and Mike Conley come into their own during the NBA playoffs; Nick Swisher gets his own field; Dane Sanzenbacher turns heads as an undrafted free agent; Braxton Miller sets a record with an 81-yard scamper against the Hoosiers.