It hangs at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center’s indoor football facility, home of Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes. Every day they see it overlooking one of the end zones. Two words representing the unfinished business that the Buckeyes look to attend to this weekend vs. Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game.
“The Chase” continues.
Ohio State went to the Circle City one year ago riding high. The Buckeyes were undefeated, needing just one more win to clinch a spot in the BCS National Championship Game vs. top-ranked Florida State. Instead, OSU stumbled out the gate vs. Michigan State, rallied but fell short in a 34-24 loss to the Spartans.
That was the start of plenty of adversity for the Buckeyes, but several of the players who spoke to the media on Monday praised the team for being a tight-knit group. Junior linebacker Joshua Perry said the aftermath of last year’s conference title game had something to do with that.
“I think a lot of it started this past offseason, this winter going through mat drills and all the fourth-quarter training and stuff that we did. That brought us tighter together because all that was for the chance to get back here and to be able to achieve our goal of winning a championship,” Perry said. “We had the videos that kind of showed us missteps from the Big Ten championship, and then we come out here and our coaches are grinding us and we still have ‘The Chase’ banner up from last year, the chase that we never finished.
“I think that’s where it came from, last offseason and guys just pulling together and saying that we’ve got unfinished business last year and goals that we’re trying to achieve. We’re trying to send the seniors our right.”
Those seniors have accomplished a lot during their OSU careers. Meyer even listed some of those accolades during his Monday press conference: three division championships, a 35-3 record in its last 38 games, 24 straight wins and going three years without losing a Big Ten regular season game.
Still, there’s something missing.
“So the challenge I have for them and the challenge around here is now go finish the job,” he said. “One thing you'll notice I did not mention in there was a championship, and that is an opportunity to get it done this week.”
It won’t be easy. The Badgers are favored in the game, likely because of the absence of Barrett, who fractured his right ankle last week against Michigan. Another factor working in UW’s favor is Melvin Gordon. The likely Heisman finalist has rushed for 2,260 yards and was named the Big Ten’s Running Back of the Year Monday night.
The Buckeyes remain hungry and optimistic, however. Going into the game feeling like an underdog, whether Las Vegas agreed or not, is not an unfamiliar feeling to this team.
“It kind of feels like we’ve been the underdog all year,” sophomore tailback Ezekiel Elliott said. “Not many people have believed in us, and we’ve taken that underdog mentality every week.”
A win could go a long way to giving ‘The Chase’ some closure in some ways. It would also be huge for the Buckeyes as individuals.
“Personally, I’ve never won a championship,” Elliott said. “I didn’t win a state championship. I haven’t won anything from high school to college. You come to Ohio State to compete for championships, so this is an opportunity to get one of our goals this year. It’s the next step of our journey.”
Added senior linebacker Curtis Grant: “We’ve been here before, and it’s like a second opportunity. You can’t let it go away. I don’t get to do this anymore, so it’s all or nothing for me.”