OK, I picked Ohio Sate to win by just four. I'm SORRY! Really, I took a lot of grief by picking the Bucks, but I just had this nagging thought that we really were a good team of individuals - high school All-Americans as far as the eye could see - and if we could just play up to our potential in one game - this would be the game. And although we are "frequently wrong but seldom in doubt" here at Bucknuts, this time we were right and the game was seldom in doubt after halftime.
Can you have more fun than this? I don't think so. At least not legally…
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List to the right; list to the left…Too many thoughts to make them into a coherent paragraph. So what else is new…So, I am making a list of my stream-of-conscious thoughts in this week's scUM-Bucket of Bullets column.
1. It took Coach Cooper thirteen years to beat Michigan twice. In four years, Tressel has beaten them three times.
2. I was born in 1952. Since then, the Buckeye-Wolverine series was tied 25-25-1. Until Saturday. Life is full. Life is good.
3. One final clip of Bullets to Lloyd Carr. I call it "The Carr Wreck factor". He can beat any team in the country and he can lose to any team in the country. I say, get rid of him and bring back Gary Moeller. At least he was consistent!
4. A win against Michigan still makes the year for me. I am Old School. 1-10 and beating Michigan is a good year. 7-4 with a wildly inconsistent team and beating Michigan is a great year.
5. Sandlot football never looked so good. I say bring on 3-4 more Tarblooders and put their whole team out there at once!
6. What game this year did we totally outplay the opposition and dominate the game? Just this one. Go figure…
7. One loud crowd. ONE LOUD CROWD! Yeah, the fans got down a bit after Michigan drove with ease to make it 14-7. After that, the crowd dominated. Even the Michigan band seemed to lose their "valiant" fight. It was glorious.
8. The bravest man of the day? The student that head-butted Anthony Schlegel after the game. As #51 remarked, "I've done that before but never without a helmet on!" You think this student missed the memo on the open container law?
9. Michigan helped John Cooper to an early retirement. I wonder if Tressel is returning the favor to Lloyd Carr. At the end of the game Saturday, Lloyd had the forlorn look of a Kerry-Edwards bumper sticker.
10. How about the Sheik, Ashton Youboty? While no one was looking, he has quietly become one of the great corners around. I like the formula, coach: get us some great ones, get ‘em in here early and just let ‘em play.
11. And speaking of getting us some more great ones, a bunch of recruits were in town for the weekend. If that game doesn't make their socks go up and down, then they just weren't meant to be Buckeyes.
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Once per lifetime, these things will come…We are spoiled, us Buckeye fans. We have seen so many great players and great games and great wins that we end up with the short memory of a beaten cornerback. In your lifetime, you will never see another Mike Nugent. You will never see another Teddy Ginn.
As to the Nuge, he is simply the best kicker in the game and - arguably - the best that college football has ever seen. One more piece of Nuge-essence: The average starting position for Michigan after all our scores had to be about the 17-yard line. And when Mike lined up for that 48-yard chip shot, you just thought "money". Next year, when we are back to holding our breath on extra points, we will appreciate him all the more.
And Ginn. He's sick. He did these things in high school but that was in an inept Senate League. This is the national stage - against good teams that are laying for him. Four punt returns for TD's in about eight games' worth of punt returning is something you haven't heard of since the Chip Hilton books went out of print. And that ridiculous return that broke Michigan's back looked like he sold his soul to the devil. No human being has those skills. He has the most punt returns for a score in the history of OSU - for a career. And he's done it in part of a season. And don't forget - his best position is defense…
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One Glenville, two Ginns and one great day…Donte Whitner comes back from knee surgery after just a couple of weeks. Troy Smith rolls up the most total yards by a Buckeye against Michigan ever, Teddy caps a fabulous career in just his freshman year, then his father goes out with the rest of the Glenville Tarblooders and beats St. Ignatius later that night to move to the semis in Division I high school football. Glenville has already taken out powerhouse Lakewood St. Ed who, some said, could only be beaten by forfeit. Maybe the most impressive part of that day of fame for Glenville was how each of the characters showed their character. Troy and Teddy were humble and reverent. They were appreciative and balanced. We get another super athlete from Glenville in Jamario O'Neal next year and we are on the fence about superstar linebacker Freddie Lenix. Man, if they have Glenville on the resume, I say get off the fence and get them into a Buckeye uniform…
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Mr. Smith comes to Columbus…You have to smile a bit (well, I've been smiling for 24 hours straight now…) when you hear the OSU coaches say that this team's offense "evolved" over the course of the year. If Justin Zwick hadn't been hurt against Iowa, I doubt that Troy would even be playing now. And the offense didn't evolve, it completely changed to fit the beautiful sandlot style that Smith brings to the table. Troy ran up more total yards of offense in one game (386) against Michigan than the total offense ran up in a majority of the rest of the games. OK, so it's not classical Tresselball, but this kid has taken over. The other players feed off his leadership and his positive attitude. It should be more humbling to the rest of the skeptical Buckeye nation (this author included) when you realize that Troy was basically the last player taken in his recruiting class and that he still had to promise the coaches that he would qualify academically (he hadn't qualified yet as of Commitment Day). So, in this sudden scourging of the OSU program for underachievers and backsliders, let's give a tip of a helmet-full-of-Buckeye-leaves to one Troy Smith and the triumph of the human spirit…
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ESPOut…ESPN has made a marketing decision to exploit the Ohio State University in order to promote their media network. Yes, it's scurrilous and crassly commercial but that's the world we live in, folks. Bucknuts has been running a series of articles about this manufactured story that is being used to cross-promote the ESPN magazine, truth and reputations be damned. So I organized a little experiment and had a dozen sports guys I know call up and cancel their ESPN the Magazine subscriptions. At the end of each call, the operator asks why you cancel; that's when the fun begins. These made-for-profit journalists only understand one thing: you vote with your wallet! I would like to see thousands of Ohio State fans do the same thing. We can call it "Don't Mess With Tress" or "ESPO'd" or whatever you want to call it. The important thing is to call it. Call them and cancel! Tell your friends to call and cancel, too. Why support a magazine that is trying to profit off the Buckeyes by ruining their reputation? Sports Illustrated and the Sporting News never looked so good. Bucknuts says: Your Bucks stop here. ESPN and out…
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Michigan and Ohio State must be wearing flip-flops…From our perspective of just 12 weeks ago, it appeared that OSU had the edge on the Wolves in most of the key areas that had changed from the previous season. Defensively? We were re-loading and they had an average squad that didn't seem much improved. Offensive line? We each lost 2-3 to the Bigs. Quarterback? We were starting a third year guy. They were starting Gutierrez. Running backs? We had two returning seniors plus a promising freshman. They had journeymen. Yes, yes…But here's how it played out. That damn Gutierrez never does play and a kid right out of high school has the best freshman QB season in Michigan history. Hey - same thing at tailback! While our QB and TB positions were, well…struggling for most of the season. Their new line looked like the Chinese Wall. Ours looked like the john wall. Their defense came together. Our defense came to play in bandages.
For all the po-tential that each team beheld, it seemed like everything that could have gone wrong did for the Bucks and everything that could have gone right, came through in spades for the Rodents (well, there was that little Carr Wreck in South Bend…). So it goes with pre-season polls and Murphy's Law. (We subscribe to O'Brien's Law around here, which states that Murphy was an optimist.)
Yet, the final flip-flop would have made a Senator proud. After all the sturm and drang, the Buckeyes restored their rightful place in the pantheon of this series. And we can move on safely into the winter months…
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I stand corrected…I tremulously made the point last week that we had a lot of "under-achievers" (you could also read: "whiners", "failures" and "criminals") in addition to the compulsive talker Maurice Clarett. In fact, I named my All-Scoundrel team and waited for the hate e-mail to roll in. Of the 100+ responses that last week's column generated, all but three were positive (yes, I consider all breast enhancement e-mails as positive…). But my favorite - by quite a bit - came from someone that disagreed when it was suggested that I might have singled out Mike Burden unfairly. One supporter responded, "I don't think Burden was singled out unfairly considering he was heavily into drugs and, after he got kicked off the team, he was sentenced to prison. This is a fact because I was his Unit manager. Him and his group of gangbangers did win the Correctional Institution flag football championship though". Burden's particular po-tential obviously didn't go completely to waste, after all…
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Kids say the darndest things…As we've noted in the celebrated case of Maurice Clarett, some kids don't know what they are saying until they actually see those sayings in print. Then the fun can begin. We begin with a few of our favorites over the past couple of weeks from kids that OSU has been recruiting. Jonathan Stewart, the great RB from Washington was asked how he did on his SAT. He replied, "I was going to take it but it slipped my mind". It also slipped that he scored a 650 the first time he took it, with low marks on the dates and times segment… Ronnie Wilson, a big Florida recruit who seems to want to come here more than we want him (I know what "is" is, but what does "offer" mean, anyway?), was also asked about those pesky SAT's and he said, "I took the SAT's last year and passed". This year, they are no longer offering them pass/fail, unfortunately… Walker Ashley, who has committed once or twice but is still looking, was asked what position he intends to play at the next level. The 285-pound Ashley said he played most of his time at defensive tackle but also played "a little bit at wide receiver". Covered by a DB that was a sumo wrestler, presumably… And finally, Ohio's own Alex Daniels tried to make an official visit to Oklahoma last week. In setting up the trip, he was asked who was going to accompany him. And he said that it wouldn't be his parents. "I am bringing my trainer instead. He is a lot more level-headed than my parents". But Alex could spell R-E-S-P-E-C-T on his SAT's…
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And won last thought…Some 13 weeks ago, I took a bunch of combustible variables and tried to simplify the whole process by predicting that we would go 9-2 in the regular season (with some breaks) or 8-3 (without). Then some five weeks ago, that looked as naïve as a punter trying to get the angle on Ted Ginn. But here we are now at 7-4 and let's ponder for just a moment as to what occurred and what might have been.
The two losses I "expected" were to Wisconsin at home and Purdue on the road. When we lost to Wisconsin, we were really out of sync and they were a Top Five team in the nation playing for a national championship. When we lost to Purdue, they were at home, we screwed up the first half, yet were tied with minutes to go. Not so bad, either of those two…
The loss at Iowa was the nadir, the bottom of the pit. We got smoked. Yet, we were in this game for the first half and then the team up and quit in the second half. Who could have known that a good Iowa team playing their sixth-string QB would go on to be co-Big Ten champs (Ferentz for coach of the year, anyone?) or that little Drew Tate would be the QB of the year (in my book)? Not so bad there either…
But then there's Northwestern. It was nighttime. It was on the road. But it was Northwestern. Yet… The Wildcats went on to set a world record by winning four overtime games this year. That tells you a little about their character. And it was one of those freakish years where everything just fell right for them (anyone remember 2002?). It still hurts - hey, I could have gotten to my 8-3, after all - but, upon reflection, it wasn't as bad as it seemed at the time.
Upon reflection, the whole year wasn't as bad as it seemed "at the time". Woeful offensive stuff, huge defensive lapses, leadership issues and off-the-field distractions simply set the table for a confluence of All Good Things when it counted most: against Michigan. Thank you guys for not giving up and for not giving in, when many of us were sorely tempted.
Earle Bruce said that if you win the Michigan game, you can walk down High Street in the off-season with your head held high. If you lose, you have to take the back alleys. Welcome back to High Street boys!
And Coach Tressel said, before he ever coached a game at Ohio State, that "it is not about the ball". He was right. As he usually is - in the long run. But let me tell you coach: we had a ball on Saturday. And we all have our heads held high today!
Thanks for that. Thanks a bunch…
E-mail Mr. Bucknuts at firstname.lastname@example.org