Unlikely Heroes Laurinaitis, Tyree Deliver

Ohio State's win at Michigan last week was a total team effort. The Buckeyes even got strong performances from a pair of players who had not factored much all year as freshman James Laurinaitis replaced injured linebacker Bobby Carpenter and fifth-year senior Andree Tyree served as a blocking tight end. Click here for more on these two unlikely heroes.

It was one week ago today when Ohio State pulled out a 25-21 win at rival Michigan. That victory helped propel the Buckeyes to a share of the Big Ten championship and a 9-2 record on the year.

OSU awaits its fate on its bowl assignment.

However, we have a chance to look back at the Michigan game and spotlight a couple of unlikely heroes in freshman linebacker James Laurinaitis and fifth-year senior tight end Andree Tyree.

Laurinaitis filled in at outside linebacker when starter Bobby Carpenter went down with a broken fibula. He suffered the injury on Michigan's first play from scrimmage in the first quarter.

Over the course of the game, Laurinaitis subbed in at linebacker whenever the Buckeyes were using their 4-3 "regular" look. He routinely came out of the game when OSU went to the nickel defense. He was credited with just one tackle in the game, although he seemed to be around the ball quite a bit.

"We knew we would go to our nickel package whenever they went to two tight ends or one tight end and one back," Laurinaitis said. "Every time I went in there, I knew I had to do my job."

Laurinaitis said he was surprised to have a chance to play such a big role in such a huge game.

"When Bob went down, I didn't really believe he was going down," Laurinaitis said. "Usually, Bob is such a warrior. You don't expect him to go down. When he went back to the locker room, I thought it was pretty serious. That's because Bob would play if he could. If he could walk, he would play.

"I was surprised and I knew I had to get ready to go."

The Buckeyes bottled up Michigan's running game, allowing OSU to contain the Wolverines offense.

"It was crazy," Laurinaitis said. "We stopped their run. We knew once they had the lead, they might try and pound the ball. Just being a part of that out there in this game – the Ohio State-Michigan game – to be able to get the chance to play, it was an amazing feeling. It was rewarding for Bob and A.J. (Hawk) and my seniors that we were able to get this win for them.

"Our defense has kept us in the game. At halftime, Troy (Smith) came into the defensive locker room and said, ‘Hey, you guys have kept us in it all year. You guys continue to do it and we're going to get points on the board.' It was an overall great team effort."

Once Carpenter returned to the sideline, Laurinaitis said he made a point to visit with him.

"Bob just told me, ‘The coaches believe in you. I believe in you. Go in there and do a great job,' " Laurinaitis said. "He said, ‘No matter what, go in there and be physical.' I've always looked up to Bobby. To learn from a guy like, it's a blessing. He's such an amazing talent."

Michigan tried to drop the ball to tight ends Tyler Ecker and Tim Massaquoi, but Laurinaitis drew rave reviews for hanging with them in coverage.

"It's a little different covering tight ends in practice than it is in a game like this," he admitted.

Carpenter's status for OSU's bowl game remains unclear. If he can't go, Laurinaitis would likely get a shot.

And, with Carpenter and fellow starters Hawk and Anthony Schlegel leaving, Laurinaitis now seems to have an inside track to become a starter next year. Others in the mix would include Marcus Freeman, Chad Hoobler, John Kerr and maybe also Mike D'Andrea if he is able to come back from his latest setback. (D'Andrea did not dress for OSU's last two games.)

When asked if he thinks he'll be in the mix, Laurinaitis said, "I hope so. You never know. There are a lot of good players behind Anthony, A.J. and Bob. I was so blessed I was able to get in there and do a good job. It was a team effort. Our defense has been playing great all year."

Click the link below for a look at a story from earlier this year on Laurinaitis, the son of WWE wrestling star Road Warrior Animal.

What A Rush: Laurinaitis Returns Home To Minnesota

Tyree's Finest Hour

To say Tyree has seen light action in his OSU career would be an understatement.

The London, Ohio, native played in five games as a redshirt freshman in 2002, two as a sophomore and didn't see a single snap last year.

But with his OSU career winding down, the 6-3, 290-pound Tyree found a niche as a blocking tight end. He even switched his number from No. 69 to No. 96 so he could be an eligible receiver.

"I've been at tight end the last couple of weeks," Tyree said. "I have been blocking pretty much. We just wanted to get an extra guy in there and move the ball a little bit more. I was glad to be in there today."

Tyree had only played a handful of plays this year. So it was somewhat of a shock when he was on the field on OSU's first drive at Michigan. He was even nabbed for a holding penalty on that drive. But he stayed with it and helped the Buckeyes manufacture a 13-play, 80-yard march to the game's first touchdown.

"That first drive was a confidence builder," Tyree said. "It let us know we could go out there and do our thing and handle these guys and play the way we like to play."

OSU's picture at tight end this year was blurred by injuries to starter Ryan Hamby and backup Rory Nicol. Marcel Frost and Brandon Smith have been pressed into service there. But Tyree gives OSU a physical player with above average athleticism for a guy his size.

He was also in the game as a lead blocker on Antonio Pittman's 3-yard touchdown run in the final minute.

"This game is about confidence and grinding it out and head to head and seeing who's tougher and who's really ready to play the game," he said. "That's what it came down to today. Every yard counts in this game."

Tyree said quarterback Troy Smith, who ended up throwing for a career-high 300 yards, was like a man possessed.

"You could look in his eyes and see he was ready," Tyree said. "You could tell no matter where we went, we were following him. And he was going to lead us the right way."

Tyree also spoke about honorary captain Eddie George, who addressed the team prior to the game.

"Eddie George was really inspiring," Tyree said. "He laid it out for us. It's the Michigan game. He let us know that we had to be ready and how it was going to be. Everything he said was right."

Of course, the Carpenter injury put a damper on the game. But Tyree said that just meant that the Buckeyes needed to do their best for Carpenter.

"He stayed with us," Tyree said. "He stayed positive. He didn't hang his head. He tried to help us with what he saw. I think everybody concentrated on the task at hand. We cared about Bobby, but we had a job to do. And everybody was prepared and ready to go."

The win got OSU a piece of the Big Ten title. When Penn State defeated Michigan State later in the day, though, they also claimed a share of the title as well as the Big Ten's automatic bid into the Bowl Championship Series. That's OK, Tyree said.

"Obviously, we would like to have an outright Big Ten championship," he said. "But we played our butts off. We are happy with a Big Ten championship no matter what, though."

And to play such a key role in such a major victory is a keepsake Tyree said he will always cherish.

"It meant everything in the world," Tyree said. "In that locker room, there were a bunch of guys in there shedding tears. To go out in this way, I couldn't ask for anything more. Those guys in there fought with everything they have. That makes me proud of all the guys we brought in this trip."

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