Post and Courier
December 27, 2014

Buckeyes say they'll bounce back after dealing with defeat for first time in two years

Posted: 12/26/2013 03:00 p.m.
Updated: 12/26/2013 07:06 p.m.


By Aaron Brenner

This is new territory for many of the Ohio State football players and coaches.

Even to the veterans who recall that 6-7 season of 2011, it still feels like forever since the Buckeyes lost a game. OSU went 12-0 as a bowl-ineligible squad last year, and reprised that regular season mark this fall.

Which is why the 34-24 Big Ten Championship defeat to Michigan State, denying OSU a trip to the BCS National Championship game, is that much more bitter.

"It's definitely a weird feeling, just because it hadn't been experienced around here in so long," junior tight end Jeff Heuerman told reporters earlier this month.

"Especially never been experienced with Coach (Urban) Meyer and his staff here. So there's still a little bit of sting, but that's part of the game of football. We've got a big one coming up, so we've got to keep moving forward."

The Orange Bowl might feel like little more than a consolation prize to No. 7 Ohio State, since the Buckeyes aren't facing the ACC foe they'd prefer. Instead of No. 1 Florida State for the national championship in Pasadena, they'll take on No. 12 Clemson in south Florida Jan. 3.

OSU won't have to deal with Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, but the Buckeyes' top linebacker paid high compliments to Clemson's own record-setting quarterback, Tajh Boyd.

"I don't think we can compare him to any quarterbacks we've seen this year, because he's one of the top quarterbacks in the nation," junior first-team All-American Ryan Shazier said. "I feel like he's going to be the best quarterback we face all year."

Shazier also acknowledged the top-flight receiving attack of Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant, plus tailback Roderick McDowell (closing in on a 1,000-yard year), will be a handful.

"Yeah, they're a little bit scary, because they have a lot of great players, a lot of speed on their team," Shazier said. "A lot of guys can do a number of things with the ball in their hands. But we also have great players on defense, and we've just got to try to cover their athletes."

Ohio State's passing defense is No. 105 in the country, and a normally sound overall unit was shredded for a total of 75 points in its last two games against Michigan and Michigan State.

"We've just got to break on the ball a little better, and be more sound in our gaps and responsibilities," Shazier said. "Just communicate a little better. It's the little things we've got to fix."

If it turns into a shootout, Ohio State won't mind. Its offense is led by Big Ten offensive player and quarterback of the year Braxton Miller and running back of the year Carlos Hyde, who each have rushed for more than 1,000 yards.

The Buckeyes are playing in their ninth BCS bowl, tied with Oklahoma for the most in the country, with a 5-3 record. That tradition gives the Buckeyes an easy way to explain why they're not planning to roll over just because they're not in the bowl game they envisioned a month ago.

"We owe it to ourselves and this team, and the university, to keep moving forward and not dwell," senior left tackle Jack Mewhort said.

Still, it's going to be a task to shake off the bad memories of coming that close to playing for a national title.

"Yeah, I think it shows a lot about your resilience, how you can bounce back from something," Mewhort said. "Sports is a good character-builder. You're not going to win them all. Obviously, for a while there we did. But it had to come to an end.

"Now it's just on us to handle it like grown men. That's the juncture we're at, and that's what we're going to do, is handle it like grown men."



Ohio State reporter Kyle Rowland of ElevenWarriors.com contributed to this report.