Woulda, coulda, shoulda…The clock struck twelve and the magic ran out on Saturday as our previously undefeated and BCS's #1 ranked OSU Buckeyes couldn't stand up to a stiff wind and an inspired Illinois squad, going down to defeat in overtime, 23-16. All of the little things that broke the Buckeyes' way during their improbable run, simply just broke as the tired and pressured OSU team finally succumbed on the road – where else?
It wasn't unexpected, of course. 1975, 1979, 1996 were the other years that Ohio State got off to 11-0 starts, only to see the dream disappear in the 12th game of the season. No OSU team has ever won 12 games in a year – why should this year buck that trend set over the past 113 seasons?
Even the karma and friendly refereeing didn't come to pass (as it were…). Craig Krenzel scrambled for his life but his best run was incorrectly called "short" at the goal line in a critical first quarter series. The Bucks shot themselves in the foot repeatedly starting with the next set of plays when they got three successive false start penalties from Illinois' 1-yard line. Three successive penalties by – that's right – three different linemen! And the disciplined Buckeye special teams didn't help much either, contributing 1) A 15-yard personal foul penalty on a kickoff that wasn't even returned 2) A clipping penalty on punt coverage that was so egregious that even Big Ten refs couldn't miss it and 3) A 59-yard punt return by the Illini's Eugene Wilson that changed the game's momentum.
Steady Mike Nugent couldn't deliver in his usual fashion as he missed two field goals – one against the wind that would have changed the early complexion of the game and one sloppy shot near game's end that would have probably kept OSU out of that disastrous overtime. His Illinois counterpart – John Gockman – nailed three field goals, after having hit only three all year! Wow.
And remember how this Buckeye team adjusted so brilliantly
at halftime? Well, no more. Illinois came out in the second half as if their
coaches had spent the break in the visitor's locker room. Dustin Fox – the
steadiest DB on the team – was beaten like a rented mule by the Illini's
Walter Young (ten catches for 145 yards). It got so bad that they removed Fox
for true freshman EJ Underwood, who had previously lost his job to a wide
The play calling? Abysmal. Like a Chinese fire drill when
they tried to run. And like the offensive line was on roller skates when they
tried to pass. We missed Darrion Scott on defense and Maurice Clarett on
offense. The offense looked like it was on ten-second delay. In the first
period, the Illinois punter kicked three times against the wind for a total
of about 60 yards. We had 29 total snaps in Illinois territory in the first
half. Total points? Six.
So the critics were right. Tressel can't coach at this
level. His team ultimately showed its lack of heart on the road. When we got
into overtime, Chris Vance dropped a sure game-winner right in his hands. Then
our guys got beat – not once but twice – on little flares into the end zone
for the winning score as we…
Wait. You're kidding me! Holy crap – they called
both of those passes out of bounds? No way! Maurice Hall made it
into the end zone while I was throwing up next to the TV? Ohio State won? They
Omigod! OSU won! OSU won! Twelve in a row! We're
undefeated! One game for the national championship! Tressel is God! And God is a
Buckeye! We won! We won! We won!
Hey – did you ever really doubt it? Really?
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