Jim Tressel earned his keep last Saturday afternoon as the Ohio State Buckeyes put the University of Michigan in its place, and Tressel kept a promise he made to OSU fans only days after he left Youngstown State University for fame, fortune and fanfare.
Winning the first Ohio State victory over UM in Ann Arbor since 1987 has given one of the Valley's favorite sons a considerable helping of each. What's more, he did, indeed, make fans proud of the team, as he had vowed on Jan. 18, when he was introduced to Columbus at a Buckeye basketball game.
Tressel scored extra points with the hometown fans when he pledged that his team would remain on the field after every game to sing OSU's alma mater -- win or lose. "Carmen Ohio" was never sung more lustily than in the Michigan Stadium Saturday.
& quot;We were bellowing, & quot; said OSU safety Donnie Nickey. & quot;I think everybody was screaming at the top of their lungs. And I'll tell you what, it felt real good. & quot;
In his after-game press conference, Tressel said that the 12 seniors on the team would never again experience the Ohio State-Michigan game as they had that day.
Bellisari's blunder: For one OSU senior, the memories will be even more poignant. Quarterback Steve Bellisari, benched for having been arrested for drunken driving, surely must have received the most excruciating punishment imaginable -- to sit on the sidelines as his team played for glory, to watch the others beat Michigan while all he could do was cheer.
Whether Bellisari will have another chance to redeem himself when Ohio State meets an SEC team in the Outback Bowl in Tampa on Jan. 1 remains to be seen.
After the performance of sophomore Craig Krenzel, who started at quarterback for the first time in his collegiate career, it will be hard to deny him the chance to do what Bellisari could not do in last year's bowl game, which the Buckeyes lost 24-7.
That loss to South Carolina triggered the firing of then-Coach John Cooper and the hiring of Tressel within three weeks.
There are those who are already saying that it wasn't so much an Ohio State victory as it was a Michigan loss. Such naysayers are missing the point -- actually the 23 unanswered points OSU scored in the first half and the ultimate 26-20 score over a team that was a nine-point favorite.
Tressel didn't win the Big Ten championship this year. But he did beat Michigan -- and Purdue and Minnesota, all three teams which defeated the Buckeyes last year. And he took a group of young men -- with varying degrees of commitment, motivation and ego -- and turned them into a team that now thinks it's a family. That alone is a considerable achievement. As far as the Big Ten, there's always next year.