Buckeyes show class in accepting BCS defeat
The first 16 seconds of the national championship game Monday night were ecstasy for Ohio State fans -- the next 59 minutes and 44 seconds ticked off the clock in degrees of anxiety, anger and agony.
The high point of the game for OSU was Ted Ginn Jr.'s runback of the kickoff for a touchdown that put Ohio State ahead 7-0. It was the only time the Buckeyes would lead.
The only sure thing going into the game was that a native of Northeastern Ohio and a former assistant coach at Ohio State would be the winning coach. At game's end, Ashtabula native Urban Meyer's Florida Gators had racked up 41 points while Jim Tressel's Ohio State University Buckeyes had 14.
It wasn't until well after the game was over that OSU fans had anything to cheer. Coach Tressel and several players provided that with their classy response to a humiliating defeat.
They held their heads up, they took responsibility for not getting the job done, and they gave credit to University of Florida players and coaches -- who, almost to a man, outcoached and outplayed their OSU counterparts.
No one tried to blame the 51-day layoff between OSU's defeat of Michigan and Monday's game. No one said the loss of Ginn for the rest of the game after his touchdown affected the outcome -- although surely some aspects of the game would have been different with Ginn on the field. No one blamed spotty officiating (C'mon, there is no way Florida scored that second touchdown on a four-yard run -- even the TV commentators were talking only about where the ball would be placed after the review. But there's little doubt that if the ball had been put on the one-foot line or the one-yard line, Florida would have eventually scored.)
A fan takes his victories where he can get them, and last night the only victory came in the post-game interviews, when Tressel and his players triumphed over their obvious disappointment and gave credit where credit was due.
Tressel steps up
The first question Tressel faced was about his uncharacteristically risky decision to go for a first down on his own 29 yard line when his team was down by only 10 points. "We thought we could make it," Tressel said. "The good news was our defense did a great job of holding them to three points, which was outstanding. But it ended up being the wrong call, clearly."
"They looked fast on film, and they proved to be as fast as they looked," said center Doug Datish of Howland, in an honest, perhaps understated, appraisal.
"For whatever reason, we just didn't come out to play as well as we could," receiver Anthony Gonzalez said. "That's very disappointing, considering the stakes. To go out like that, you couldn't have a worse taste in your mouth, really."
Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Troy Smith tried to carry the blame. "My seniors, I want to apologize to them because I wasn't able to send them out on the right note," Smith said. "I think I could have played better."
Tressel disagreed: "It was a combined effort, starting with the coaches."
Meanwhile, the Florida Gators -- underdogs going into the game -- got to celebrate their 41-14 victory and claim, convincingly, that they and their Southeastern Conference were unfairly denigrated by much of the sporting press.
Football is a game of winners and losers, good games and bad games, ecstasy and agony. But, in the end, it is a game, and Smith put things in perspective during his interview. "If this is the worst thing that happens in life to us," he said, "we're pretty cool."
That sentiment may not resonate with OSU fans who paid thousands of dollars to go to Arizona for the game, but it's the truth.
The sun came up this morning for Tressel, Smith, Ginn and all the Buckeyes and their fans, proving that there is life after even the toughest of defeats on a football field.