The Buckeyes slayed the giant of college football, the Crimson Tide of Alabama. It was an inspiring and nerve-racking win as the young Buckeyes dealt with adversity and overcame challenges even before the season started. Here's a timeline of what happened
- Two-time Big Ten offensive player of the year and starting quarterback Braxton Miller blows out his shoulder 12 days before the season starts. They were ranked #5
- Redshirt freshman quarterback J.T Barrett wins the starting job even though he hasn't played football in two years
- They get pummeled by Virginia Tech and drop in the rankings all the way to #22
- Penn State takes them to double overtime and they pull out the win
- They beat #8 Michigan State and take over the Big Ten East
- They beat Indiana and win the Big Ten East division
- Player Kosta Karageorge commits suicide before the Michigan game
- The last game of the season, they beat Michigan. The win is costly as J.T Barrett, now a Heisman candidate breaks his ankle. Before his injury, Barrett breaks Drew Brees Big Ten record for most touchdowns in one season with 45 and passes for over 2800 yards
- They end the regular season 11-1, and 8-0 in the Big Ten
- They go into the Big Ten Championship game with their 3rd quarterback Cardale Jones, who's never started a game.
- They annihilate Wisconsin to the score of 59-0 after many (including me) thought they wouldn't win. Jones passes for 257 yards and 3 touchdowns.
- They held Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon - the top running back in the nation and Heisman finalist to under 100 yards
- They make it into the playoffs as the playoff committee votes them in as the 4th seed
Despite hammering Wisconsin with their third quarterback, the national media still had reservations about having the Buckeyes in the playoffs. The 800-pound gorilla was the loss to Virginia Tech. That loss was the second game of the season, with a new quarterback and four new starters on the offensive line. That loss happened so long ago, that it becomes irrelevant. I couldn't name one team that could put out their third quarterback and win in a pressure cooker like a championship game. For weeks the talking heads debated furiously who should be in and should be out.
The day after the win, the committee made their decision. Ohio State was ranked 5th, Baylor was 6th and TCU was 3rd. The playoff committee came out the four seeds - Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State. There were howls of protest
"The Big Ten is the weakest of the five power conferences"
"They only got in because they're Ohio State, it's all about the money"
"TCU drops from 3rd to 6th, how's that possible, they blew out Iowa State?"
"The Buckeyes will be humiliated once again"
The haters couldn't hide their disdain for the Buckeyes as many said Alabama would destroy and humiliate them on the national stage. Alabama was the number one seed and they won the SEC title. I thought the Buckeyes would lose a close game. Some people would call me out for not being a true fan, but I see games in black and white. Saban was the best coach in college football and the Tide crushed Missouri in the SEC championship. But a friend of mine told me Ohio State was a team of destiny. It made me pause for a second - team of destiny, interesting. The media and other fans also gave the Buckeyes a snowball chance in hell of beating Alabama. After all, they've won three national titles in a five-year period. Most predicted a massacre and the game would be over quickly.
It had all the makings of a massacre early on as the Buckeyes turned the ball over twice and Alabama scored on those turnovers. The score was 21-6 and Ohio State seemed lost. Jones seemed to struggle and I wondered when he would succumb to the pressure. I chugged a beer and muttered
"C'mon, guys you have nothing to lose"
Eventually, they settled down and started fighting back, showing that resolve they've displayed all season long. I started to get back into the game with more interest. Near the end of the 1st half, they pulled a play out of the bag of tricks. Both quarterback and the running back did a double reverse and then wideout Evan Spencer throws a beautiful pass into the end zone. Wideout Mike Thomas makes a highlight catch as he leaps in the air and snags the ball. He lands on one foot with an inch to spare on the line. The score was 21-20, it's a game again and the momentum has swung. I remember what my friend said about a team of destiny. Maybe the football gods have decided that Ohio State is the chosen ones, but they must finish the game.
In the second half, they scored again taking advantage of Alabama's only weakness - their secondary. Jones throws a 55-yard bomb to Devin Smith and Ohio State is up 27-21. I crack open another beer and start thinking
"Shit, they might pull this off"
Alabama quarterback Blake Sims throws an interception and defensive end Steve Miller rumbles in for the score 34-21. The breaks are going Ohio State's way, but anybody who follows football knows that momentum can shift quickly. Alabama scores late in the third and score is 34-28 with the fourth quarter starting. I'm starting to sweat, my heart is racing a little faster and the beer goes down faster - 15 minutes until the game is over. The Buckeyes offense stalls and they couldn't move the ball. They go three and out and they're pinned deep. Then a couple of penalties are called against them, making it even worse them. Are the gods going to deny them or are they going to hand them another break? They punted deep in their end zone with barely any field to work with. The punter gets it off fast and it's a terrible punt. The ball barely gets out and it takes a Bama bounce - all the way back to their 23-yard line. It's a gift-wrapped touchdown for the Tide. I'm stunned and blurt out
"We're so fucked"
Only a fumble or an interception would save them. Sims throws an interception on the first attempt at the 1-yard line. The team of destiny dodges a bullet. I'm texting back and forth with friends and none of them can believe what's happening. Neither team can muster any offense. I look at the clock, under four minute which in football feels like an hour. Ohio State starts to move the ball and the momentum swings big time. Ohio State's running back Zeke Elliot blows through a hole and runs 85 yards for the touchdown. The Buckeyes fans in the Superdome go crazy and the Tide fans are stunned. Ohio State goes for the two-point conversion and gets it. The score 42-28 with less than three minutes. Most people think the game is in the bag right? I've watched enough football that I know the game is over when the clock shows zero. Alabama is one of those team that scores very fast and I'm sweating a little harder. The Tide marches down the field and Ohio State gives up a huge play as one of the Tide wide receivers blows by two Ohio State defenders.
It sets up a touchdown and score is 42-35 and it becomes a one-possession game with less than 2 minutes. Alabama attempts an onside kick and it's a textbook kick. The ball bounces high and Even Spencer leaps high and with the tips of his fingers grabbed the ball. All Ohio State has to do is move the chains and run the clock out. That seems logical right? Urban Meyer then picks the worse time to have a massive brain cramp - he throws on first down and Jones goes deep. I'm stunned
"What the hell is he doing?"
The pass is incomplete and they barely used any of the clock. I screaming
"Pound the rock!"
Alabama is too good of a team to give them another chance. That cute play might come back to bite Meyer in the ass. Ohio State goes three and out. I'm getting sweaty palms as Alabama once again starts marching down the field and clock is moving far too slow. Ohio State's defense makes a couple key stops, but there's less than 30 seconds left on the clock, plenty of time to score and tie the game. Alabama moves the chains and they're at midfield. Sims throws a deep pass to the end zone and two Buckeyes deflect the ball. I look at the TV and there are 8 seconds left and Alabama has no timeouts, everybody knows what's coming - the Hail Mary. Sims moves out of the pocket and chucks the ball with all his might. I watch it sail high, making its way to the end zone. The entire stadium is standing and Buckeyes fans across the country are at the edge of their seats. There's a group of players waiting to jump. I'm at the edge of the couch choking the beer bottle. The ball continues on its downward arch and I hear Brad Nessler's play-by-play
"Deep - Hail Mary! Not answered! Intercepted"
The ball goes right into the hands of Ohio State's Tyvis Powell. He grabs it and runs out the end zone, I see the clock - 0:00
I erupt with cheers and a volley of f-bombs. Buckeye fans are in delirium. They pulled off the upset, they beat the supposed giant of college football. Ohio State punched their ticket to the national championship to play against the Oregon Ducks. The team that a lot of people counted out at the beginning of the season, overcame the odds. I really believe this is a team of destiny, we'll see what happens next Monday in Dallas.