There are a ton of emotions when the name is said. The sadness of walking off the field, losers at home thanks to a stunning upset. The determination that loss fostered in the team. The jubilation of confetti falling from the rafters of AT&T Stadium, a goal reached in part because of the sadness and determination.
The Buckeyes aren’t looking back, but looking forward is looking back. Seeing maroon and orange will bring back a nasty memory but also many positives, and the name sets off a feeling Ohio State fans and players can’t quite forget.
You can say it around Ohio State players. They won’t think you’re a jerk (trust me, I asked).
Because not only does the name signify an opportunity that awaits Sept. 7, it also points back to perhaps the pivotal moment for Ohio State on its way to the 2014 national championship.
“I mean, this might sound weird, but I don’t think we would have had the season we had had we not lost,” Taylor Decker said. “I think down the road we probably would have lost a game, and it would have been too late in the season to bounce back from it. While I don’t want to lose a game, I think it turned out to be a positive, really.”
Decker seems to be right. After all, sometimes what is good must be cleared out to be replaced by something that is better. Oftentimes, you have to start from a low place to reach a high one. The loss to Virginia Tech was certainly a low.
The memories are grisly. Seven sacks in the game, six in the fourth quarter. Three interceptions tossed by J.T. Barrett in his second start. The third loss for Ohio State in four games, causing some people to wonder – exactly where was the program under third-year coach Urban Meyer?
It didn’t feel good.
“It’s definitely a blemish, and that one is going to hurt forever,” Decker said. “The week after that game, all the hate that came out, it was not comfortable and it was not fun to deal with.”
Of course, everyone remembers what happened next. Ohio State righted itself with four straight dominant wins, fended off challenges from Penn State, Minnesota, Indiana and Michigan and then ripped through the postseason to win the national championship. All of it – losing two starting quarterbacks, the preponderance of youth, the fun the team had – has been written up before.
Now, the challenge is putting it all back in the bottle and using it again. The first test will be at Virginia Tech, and there are reasons to be worried. The Hokies have some legitimate talents on defense in such players as Kendall Fuller and Dadi Nicolas, and Ohio State must settle on a workable quarterbacks solution. The opener will be on the road, at night, with the eyes of the college football world on Lane Stadium.
And, of course, the specter of last year will float over the proceedings.
“I don’t want to go into this season thinking, ‘Oh, we have to get revenge,’ ” Decker said. “I think it’s really dangerous to play on emotion alone.”
The Buckeyes must manage those emotions, be ready and understand – what happens in Blacksburg can set the tone for the rest of the season.
“I mean, a couple of things really pop into mind,” linebacker Joshua Perry said. “First off, first game of the year, so all that stuff that comes along with it, but secondly, it’s a game we need to be successful. Not even because of last year or any of that stuff that happened, but because it’s the first game and we need to step off on the right foot and get going early.”