The last time I felt this way was the 1976 Rose Bowl. Ohio State had handily beaten UCLA early in the season, were undefeated and #1 and it was Archie's last game. The one red flag heading into the game was that the previous game against TTUN, Archie's 31 game, 100-yard rushing streak was broken with 46 yards total on 19 carries. The tension was high in the news commentary leading into the game about a rematch and how the previous loser can learn from their mistakes while the winner has little to know what to change.
The game had a quiet first half but the wheels started coming off in the second half and we could feel the game slipping away. It was apparent much earlier than this year's game that we would lose, but this was to be two-time Heisman's Archie's sendoff, with an undefeated season, a national championship and proof that Woody could get it done. Prayers were made, Archie was too good of a person and player to have this not be a storybook ending. I think that the 1976 Rose Bowl loss was the precipice that numbered the remaining days of Woody's coaching. I could not open the newspaper or listen to talk radio for a week as I didn't want to think about those young men and the devastation that they felt with this loss. I was only 10 years old. It still hurts. UCLA did nothing wrong, they just got it done with great coaching and execution.
The loss this time hurts the same way as those players will be haunted by "what if?" nightmares that will never go away. But, our future is bright for next year with a solid coach on his way up (if there is even more "up" than this year for Coach Day), a returning Heisman candidate, solid backups that benefited from much second half playing time this year and unlike 1976, a solid and attractive brand in Ohio State with top recruiting classes projected. And, an anger and focus heading into 2020 that should make opponents quake in their cleats.
All of the Bucks that are graduating, or leaving early, can look at the coming years and know that their hard work and determination left the program in great shape and we will continue to bring in top recruits going forward. I hope that to a man, they return and share with future Buckeye teams, the passion and pent-up frustrations of how things ended this year so that when the future puts the big prize within their grasp, they reach up and grab it and hold on for all those that came before them and had it slip away.