Seniors Cap OSU Careers In Style

Ohio State's 19 seniors finished their collegiate careers with the best record of any class in school history after posting a 26-17 victory over Oregon in "The Granddaddy of Them All." The class won 44 games, played in four BCS bowl games, beat Michigan four times and capped their careers with a Rose Bowl championship.

It almost seemed like a lost fact Friday night in the aftermath of Ohio State's 26-17 victory over Oregon in the 96th edition of the Rose Bowl. While many stories and columns were quickly written praising the effort of sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor and the successful game plan created by the OSU coaching staff, Ohio State's seniors capped off the best four-year span in school history in a fitting fashion.

The 19 seniors added a Rose Bowl championship trophy to an already impressive list of accomplishments. The decorated class compiled a 44-8 record with four Big Ten championships (all but one outright), four BCS bowl berths and two BCS National Championship Game trips.

And, oh yeah, four pairs of gold pants.

All in all, it would be hard to think of a more impressive four-year stretch for any class in OSU history. Yet something was missing before Friday – a bowl victory. The fifth-year seniors were there for Ohio State's 2005 Fiesta Bowl victory over Notre Dame, but that was the last taste of postseason success any Buckeye had until the matchup with the seventh-ranked Ducks. National title game losses to Florida and LSU and a heartbreaking loss to Texas in last season's Fiesta Bowl made the victory in Pasadena that much sweeter for seniors like cornerback Kurt Coleman.

"It's been such a great win," Coleman said. "These four years have been great, and I think after every loss that we've had at the end of every bowl has been a learning experience, and last year we were so close to winning, and I think that was one of our biggest motivation factors going into the off-season. … We put in the hard work, and it paid off, and I think everyone just let it all out on the field today."

While Pryor took the postgame spotlight after his breakout performance, several seniors shined in their final appearances in scarlet and gray. Take tight end Jake Ballard for example, who set up Ohio State's final touchdown with an acrobatic 24-yard reception on a third-down play. Or kicker Aaron Pettrey, who returned to the field ahead of schedule after suffering a knee injury in late October. The Raceland, Ky., native calmly booted a 45-yard field goal on the last play of the first half and converted both of his extra-point attempts.

Several other seniors also made key contributions, including Coleman (four tackles), safety Anderson Russell (six tackles and a pass breakup), punter Jon Thoma (averaged 43.7 yards per punt) and defensive lineman Doug Worthington (two tackles, a tackle for a loss and a pass breakup).

"I'm so proud of this group, especially our seniors who took over a young team in August and had high expectations and had some tough moments," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said after the Rose Bowl. "But they never wavered and they never questioned the direction they were going to end up and the young guys came along and improved as we went.

"Our second half of the year was pretty solid and they prepared extremely hard for this football game. In fact, they prepared so hard that we didn't even practice on the 30th or the 31st because they were ready."

This group of seniors leaves Ohio State as the most successful class in school history. Their 44 victories are one better than three other classes (1995-98, 2002-05 and 2005-08).

"For these seniors, we wanted to send them out (as winners)," Pryor said. "It was four losses in a row, and we just wanted to send the seniors out with a win."

Winning is exactly what the seniors will likely be best remembered for.

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