OSU Learns To Cope With Defeat

The loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game stunned Ohio State. In the days following the loss, players dealt with the defeat in their own ways. However, getting back to the practice field - coupled with a heartfelt message from head coach Urban Meyer - has the Buckeyes focused on Orange Bowl opponent Clemson instead of dwelling on the loss.

Michigan State running back Jeremy Langford may have provided the nail in the coffin, but Ohio State's first loss in nearly two calendar years was sealed when linebacker Denicos Allen shed a block from OSU junior tight end Jeff Heuerman three minutes prior.

Down by three points with just under six minutes remaining, OSU faced a fourth-and-2 and called a designed run for junior quarterback Braxton Miller, who immediately headed to the sideline. He looked to be in the clear, until MSU's second-team All-Big Ten linebacker cast aside Heuerman and wrapped up Miller short of the first down marker.

With that, the Spartans left Ohio State to cope with its first defeat under head coach Urban Meyer.

"About a million times," Heuerman said when asked how many times he'd watched the fourth-and-2 stop. "The guy made a good play. It's obviously one of those plays you wish you could have back."

Such is the nature of football players, especially in the wake of a loss that denied them a shot at the BCS National Championship. Instead, the Buckeyes will have to settle for an Orange Bowl berth against Clemson, left to wonder about how their perfect season went off the tracks.

"I could probably tell you every bad play I've had all year," senior left tackle Jack Mewhort said. "I think those are the ones that you dwell on. You could have 80 good plays, and I think you remember the five bad ones. As a player, that's just the nature of the beast. That comes with playing the game."

How the team would react to a loss was of particular interest among Buckeye fans, given that the team hadn't lost in so long. Players weren't immune to such concerns, either.

"You know, it was definitely a weird feeling, just because it hadn't been experienced around here in so long," Heuerman said. "It hadn't been experienced with Coach Meyer and his staff here. There's still a little bit of sting, but you have to keep moving."

The fact that Meyer's health problems and resignation at Florida stemmed in part from the impact of losses also had people wondering if the second-year coach would be able to balance the will to win with maintaining a positive demeanor. After returning from a recruiting trip to Texas, Meyer gave his players the answer they were looking for.

"In the locker room after the game, we were all definitely hurting, but I think he's done a good job of moving forward, also," Mewhort said. "He's obviously the guy that we look at as a template for how to handle things like this, and he's done a tremendous job. He came back from a recruiting trip (Thursday) and came to the middle of the huddle at the end of practice and was telling us how much he loves us and everything. I think that meant a lot to us. I think that when you hear a guy like that come back and say things like that, it motivates you to win another game."

Mewhort said that he's watched the film of the loss to the Spartans several times but has moved on from any lingering bitterness. He said that second-guessing is often "poisonous" to a team and made it clear that he's doing his part to get ready for the upcoming test against the 12th-ranked Tigers.

The Buckeyes began bowl practice on Thursday, and the upperclassmen have focused on making sure that their younger teammates aren't bringing the loss with them onto the practice field.

"I think we did a good job as the core leadership group and seniors of kind of coming out here and making sure we're positive and we weren't living in the past and moving forward," Mewhort said. "I think that's our responsibility. The coaches made it clear to us that there's no moping around here. We have a big game to go win, so that's our responsibility at bowl practice."

For the Buckeyes, who had dreams of bigger and better things, getting back to work is ultimately the only option when it comes to dealing with defeat.

"Grown men, they get up the next day and they go about their business," Heuerman said. "You can't dwell on the past."

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