Captain's Corner: Time For The Next Season

The Buckeyes left everyone buzzing by holding on to knock off Michigan in yesterday's 42-39 win. Now comes the next season... not 2007, but the bowl season, which is a season all its own. Jerry Rudzinski looks back on Michigan and looks ahead to what's next in this Captain's Corner.

The Buckeyes are one season away from a National Championship. The good news is that I am not talking about the Buckeyes lining up in the fall of 2007. I am talking about the bowl game.

Earle Bruce knows it better than anyone. The first season is the first 10 (or now 11) games of the year. Michigan is its own season. Finally, OSU finishes it off with the bowl game. Is that "Michigan is its own season" phrase over-used and almost tacky in some outside circles? You bet…but it is the absolute truth if you live Ohio State football.

A few hours before the game I literally threw my newspapers away and got away from broadcast media. I was done. I was "OD'd" on the hype. It's not that I didn't want to digest more insight and publicity; it's that I literally couldn't physically, mentally, or emotionally handle anything else with this game. I was maxed. There was nothing more to say, hear or read.

I am generally the guy that is outside or inside the stadium begging for someone to talk to about the different angles of the game. I am the junkie that wants to get in conversations about our defensive ends lining up against the Northern Illinois No. 2 tight end. This was the Michigan game and all I could muster up about 2:00 was "This should be a battle." Time to play the game.

In the first season of 2006, things like turnovers and statistical trends made a big impact. This Michigan season threw much of traditional "keys to the game" out the window. Three turnovers from OSU vs. a turnover-free game by Michigan. Hart with 6.2 yards per carry…and he carried it 23 times. No dazzling special teams plays from OSU. And that Michigan punter, Mesko, should have been given the game ball had the Wolverines won the game. I don't know if some of his punts have come out of the sky yet.

Fans witnessed some very real momentum shifts in the Horseshoe. Michigan ripped off 10 points in that second half before I even knew what was going on. 28-24. There was a whole lot of Tiger Woods fist-pumping on that Michigan sideline early in the fourth quarter when Hart made it 35-31. However, OSU answered.

What an incredible answer on Ohio State's first drive of 14 plays to tie it at 7. What an answer when Smith went 8 of 9 just before half time to make it a two-touchdown game. Pittman's 56 yard run to deflate Michigan's momentum was an answer because it made the game 35-24. The Buckeyes needed to answer up 4 in the fourth quarter when they got the ball on their 17. Touchdown Robiskie.

Congratulations to Troy Smith for winning the Heisman. I don't care if Quinn throws 5 TD's and beats USC. Troy won it. He hung up 42 points against a great Michigan defense that was prepared for OSU. I appreciate Troy passing credit along to his teammates for the 42 points, but Michigan goes to the National Championship game if he didn't take ownership of that offense every day of the year.

Six touchdowns for the Buckeye offense. They did the unthinkable this year in spreading the ball around. Six touchdowns by six different players is amazing. Okay, I could have predicted Wells and Pittman sharing carries this past August. It is not mind-blowing to think they both scored in the Michigan game, but what about the receivers. Ginn and Gonzalez were no surprise. The pre-season discussions though called for Hall and Robiskie to contribute with some catches…I didn't think they would be scoring against Michigan. THE BUCKEYES HAD FOUR DIFFERENT RECEIVERS SCORE TOUCHDOWNS. What?

I have always said there aren't enough footballs to go around with all the talent the Buckeyes have. Bollman and Tressel think differently. There is nothing you can do if you play defense against that. Pittman, Wells, Smith, Hartline, Robiskie, Hall, Hartline, Nicol, Gonzalez and Ginn can beat you on any given play. Have fun game-planning against that.

Terrific game by our defense. 39 points by the Michigan offense proved the Wolverines have incredible firepower. Keep in mind though, 10 of those points came off drives of 3 yards and 9 yards. That was a National Championship performance by the Buckeye defense because OSU held the legitimate No. 2 team in the country to fewer points than the Buckeye offense scored.

I don't think a rematch would be right. It is unfortunate that Michigan is making post game public comments stating things like, "…if we played them again, it would be a whole different game. Guarantee that." Hey, I was on the losing end of games in 95, 96 and 97 and you don't get the chance to re-play an OSU-Michigan game. Players prepare their whole lives to get 60 minutes a year against this particular opponent. The time to get it done is inside those 60 minutes.

One season away from a National Championship.

Buckeye Leaves…

Brian Robiskie – Finds ways to get open and has extremely sticky hands. This guy understands football and prepares like the son of a coach.

Malcolm Jenkins – Total stud. Amazing football player. The bigger the stage…the more his leadership shows. He brings more energy than anyone on the field.

Jay Richardson – I still remember Ryan Miller telling me when I arrived at OSU to "keep your mouth shut and work hard every day…good things will happen eventually." Good things have happened to Richardson and it is because he kept his mouth shut and worked hard.

Troy Smith – If he wasn't going to the NFL I would suggest he become a surgeon. Slicing with precision seems to come naturally.

Roy Hall – Mr. Everything on that first scoring drive.

Pittman and Wells – Akron Ohio's finest were monstrous. The distraction to the Michigan pass defense opened up our aerial attack.


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