THE VIEW FROM THE HEDGES
It's hard to believe that Jim Tressel will begin his eighth tour of duty as Ohio State football coach this autumn. When he started, many OSU fans still smarted over not getting a bigger name coach, such as then-Minnesota man Glen Mason. I doubt you can find many now who still wish that Mason got the job.
So in recognition of the man who made sweater vests en vogue, I present my list of significant games in the Tressel era. Some are obvious, some less so, and some are losses, but all have contributed to the Tressel legacy.
Best Game: 2003 Fiesta Bowl vs. Miami (FL), 31-24 2OT, without a doubt. Also would have won awards for best bowl game, best game ever, and happiest I've ever been peeing myself. Amazingly, this game could have been won by the Bucks in regulation--the officials incorrectly thought a completed Krenzel to Jenkins third down conversion was out-of-bounds. However, the Buckeyes won after Jerry Porter's interference call--which was upheld as one of the best reffing calls in history--and a blitzing Cie Grant. If you would have told me before the game that Maurice Clarett would only have 47 yards and Krenzel would go 7-for-21 (yet still be offensive MVP because of 80 yards rushing) and OSU would win, I would not believe it for a second. Yet there it is--OSU's first national championship since '68.
Worst Game: 2007 BCS National Championship vs. Florida, 14-41, also without a doubt. Everything (besides Illinois and Michigan) came so easily for the 2006 Bucks. Most games were won by halftime, Troy Smith ran away with the Heisman, and away games no longer seemed an issue. Enter Florida, who crushed this OSU hubris like a frat boy crushes Natty Lites at a party. This debacle in the desert paved the way for ridiculous arguments on conference strength and delayed Tressel's ascension into absolute legendary status amongst Buckeye fans.
Best Michigan Game: 2005 @ Michigan, 25-22. While many would argue for next year's 42-39 offensive model, the 2005 game was far more of a struggle--capped with a great comeback. OSU had the early lead, then saw the Wolverines sprint past and lead by nine in the fourth. The Bucks really had to scrap for victory, epitomized best by Anthony Gonzalez's great grab late in the fourth. Antonio Pittman scored the winning TD with 25 seconds left.
Best Game That Was Still A Loss: 2005 vs. Texas, 22-25. In spite the outcome, this game was exciting. Vince Young played badly, then brilliantly as he rallied the Longhorns to victory. The game was back and forth as Texas led early 10-0 but the Bucks dominated the second quarter, but Texas refused to yield and instead of TDs, the Bucks settled largely for FGs. The Longhorns scored nine unanswered in the fourth en route to victory (and their National Championship). In terms of significance for OSU, this game proved that a two-QB rotation would not work as its two-quarterback platoon blew up as Justin Zwick fumbled the ball late and Troy Boy got sacked for a saftety, which ensured defeat. Troy Smith would soon seize the reins for good and OSU would get revenge the following year.
Best First Half: 2001 @ Michigan, with the Buckeyes up 21-0 (26-20 final score). This game was like Christmas. Up until this point, Tressel's first season was largely forgettable and mediocre. However with this victory in this game, Tressel became Tress and captured Buckeye Nation's collective hearts. (You may remember that in his first rally, he said that the team would make the community proud at Michigan, 310 days hence). Jonathan Wells made Tressel prophetic as he ran wild (129 yards, 3 TDs) over Michigan, who could not do anything right--fumbles, interceptions, even snapping the ball (OSU got a saftety off a bad snap in the second half).
Best Second Half: 2002 vs. Washington State, 21 unanswered (25-7). Maurice Clarett, the nation knew ye. After trailing 7-6 at the half, Clarett and the Bucks defense poured it on Wazzu led by then-Heisman hopeful Jason Gessler. Clarett racked up 194 yards in the second half (230 for the game) and two scores as Ohio State beat their first nationally ranked opponent of the year. The image of Clarett bowling over two Wazzu defenders will always make me smile, save until he holds me at gunpoint.
Game OSU Should Have Lost: 2002 vs. Cincinnati, 23-19. Coming off the big win against Wazzu, OSU came out flat versus the Bearcats. The Bucks trailed most of the game, then finally went up on a Krenzel scramble for a TD. UC receivers missed three catches in the endzone during the final minute before Will Allen intercepted Cincy's last attempt, in a move that woud become his trademark. In all of OSU's 2002 nailbitters, this one was the closet, ironically to a team that would finish unranked.
Biggest Statement Game: 2006 @ Iowa, 38-17. While the 2006 Texas game deserves consideration, that game was close in the first half. OSU unloaded on a supposedly good Iowa team (OMG, Drew Tate's back!) in primetime at their place. Troy Boy threw four touchdown passes, including the sickest play in OSU history, Gonzo's catch on a crossing route, then turning on a dime and eluding the defense for a 30 yard score. Sick.
Game That Most Epitomizes 2002: 2002 @ Purdue, 10-6. One word describes this game: CRAZY. Among the myriad of things that happened during the game: Clarett coming out due to his shoulder stinger, a last second first half FG that kept Nugent's consecutive made streak alive, a Chris Gamble game-ending interception, and Krenzel proving that he can win a game on his arm with his feet not set. Luckeyes indeed.
Res ThaSequel's favorite OSU football player growing up was SE #12 Buster Tillman, which even he admits is pretty weird.