Jan. 9, 2007
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) - It's not the end of the world or the end of Buckeye football. It just seems that way.
The Buckeyes were manhandled 41-14 by second-ranked Florida on Monday night in the BCS national championship game before millions of viewers around the world.
It was Ohio State's worst defeat in a dozen years. The Buckeyes came in averaging 410 yards a game but were limited to 82 - almost half the worst previous total by a team in a BCS championship game.
After Ted Ginn Jr.'s 93-yard kickoff return to open the game, the Buckeyes (12-1) went flatter than one of the runways at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
"Is that because we weren't as hungry?" coach Jim Tressel asked. "I don't know for sure if that's the case. I guess that's the coach's responsibility to create the appetite."
It was the fourth time that Ohio State was ranked No. 1 by The Associated Press going into its final game of the season and lost a shot at the national title with a loss.
The most recent came in 1979 when the Buckeyes under first-year coach Earle Bruce ran the table but dropped a 17-16 decision to No. 3 USC in the Rose Bowl. They ended up No. 4.
In 1975, the Buckeyes - led by tailback Archie Griffin who won his second Heisman Trophy that season - went 11-0. During the regular season, the Woody Hayes-coached team mauled No. 13 UCLA 41-20 on its home field. The Buckeyes lost to the Bruins 23-10 in the Rose Bowl to fall to fourth.
Much like this year's Buckeyes, who had a 19-game winning streak ended by the Gators, the 1969 team had won 22 in a row - encompassing a perfect season and national title the year before. But Ohio State was stunned 24-12 by No. 12 Michigan, coached by former Hayes lieutenant and best friend Bo Schembechler to drop to fourth.
In the debacle in the desert on Monday night, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Troy Smith completed fewer passes (4) than times he was sacked (5). Smith hit on just 4 of 14 passes with an interception, and lost one of his two fumbles.
"The spread and the score - who would have ever thought it would be like that?" Smith said. "But there's not that much you can really do about it. Life goes on."
Life will go on for the Buckeyes but it won't be easy to recapture the dominance they displayed in their first 12 games this season.
The offensive line will lose its two best blockers in center Doug Datish and guard T.J. Downing. Smith will take his 25-3 record as a starter with him to the pros. Odds are that Ginn and tailback Antonio Pittman will announce within the next few days that they'll leave a year early to make themselves eligible for the NFL draft.
"It's going to take a while after losing this bunch of seniors. It's tough to even think about right now," said Todd Boeckman, the favorite to take over the quarterback job from Smith. "In the next week or two you start the training for next season because it's a battle. It's a yearlong process. So we've got to keep going."
Boeckman will have a solid set of receivers to work with - Anthony Gonzalez, if he decides to return as expected, along with Brian Robiskie, Brian Hartline and Roy Small. Backup Chris Wells will step in for Pittman, with a couple of highly regarded recruits backing him up.
On defense, Vernon Gholston is the lone returning lineman. The secondary loses half of its top players with the graduation of safety Brandon Mitchell and corner Antonio Smith.
"I'm very optimistic that we can rebuild with what the seniors left us," said Ross Homan, who'll move into one of the linebacker spots. "It's going to be tough; it is every year. We have to work that much harder to replace the seniors that gave so much on the field."
The 2007 schedule doesn't do the new Buckeyes any favors. Road games are at Washington, Minnesota, Purdue, Penn State and Michigan. Purdue and Wisconsin return to the schedule, with Indiana and Iowa dropping off in Big Ten's rotating eight-game slate.
Before even thinking about this autumn, however, the Buckeyes will have to heal the wounds of Monday night's embarrassing game.
"Does that hurt? Absolutely," Tressel said. "You know you always want to do your best - most especially when you know you don't get a chance to go out and play again for a while.
"We always talk about you get as your works deserve, and we didn't deserve to be the champions."