Win Over Michigan Could Build Momentum for 2012
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — During Big Ten Media Day back in July, Michael Brewster revealed his goals for the 2011 season.
Among them were winning a Big Ten championship and getting back to a BCS bowl game, but the primary goal for Brewster and his senior class was leave Ohio State better than they found it.
More realistically, however, they can leave it better than they made it. Though Brewster was not one of the guys who committed NCAA violations, his friends and classmates are largely responsible for Ohio State’s 6-5 season.
Suspensions and early departures have crippled the Buckeyes this season, but a victory over Michigan in the regular-season finale would do a lot for everyone on the roster.
“To end on a win is always a good note, and one against a rival like Michigan would definitely do numbers for the young guys going into the next season,” senior left tackle Mike Adams said.
“And for us ending our careers on a good note with a win over the team that we hate more than anybody.”
This group of seniors always thought they would go out on top, as champions. If not national champions, then at least continuing Ohio State’s six-year streak of winning Big Ten titles. That officially went out the window with Ohio State’s 20-14 loss to Penn State, although the Buckeyes were actually eliminated earlier in the day by Wisconsin’s victory over Illinois.
The 2011 Buckeyes have been through hell and back. They lost their beloved coach, the man who recruited them to Columbus. They lost some of their best players for the first five games of the season. They lost more players for the first two games of the year. Their star quarterback abandoned them.
Their backup was benched three weeks into the season and their star wideout was hit with a second five-game suspension stemming from the violation that would eventually lead to Ohio State’s self-imposed scholarship reduction.
It has been ugly at times. A lot of times, but nothing cleanses the soul at Ohio State like kicking the hell out of Michigan.
“I think it would be huge. It would definitely heal some of the pain and send us out on a good note and get them ready for next season,” Brewster said.
“Kind of like 2001. Not a great year, but they beat Michigan and kept it rolling into next season. I think that would be great if we could do that.”
That was Jim Tressel’s first season in Columbus and the Buckeyes were only 6-4 heading in to the regular-season finale against Michigan. Not many were giving them much of a chance against the heavily favored and No. 11-ranked Wolverines in Ann Arbor.
The Buckeyes were coming off a 34-22 loss to Illinois at home, but Jonathan Wells broke through for three first-half touchdowns, along with 129 yards, and Ohio State stunned Michigan 26-20.
They would eventually lose their bowl game, 31-28 to South Carolina, but that victory over Michigan set the stage for Ohio State’s success in 2002. Maybe not their national championship, but let us not forget that the 2001 game at Michigan was also the first big one for quarterback Craig Krenzel.
“It’s the Ohio State-Michigan game. It’s the biggest game of the year. This game is bigger than any bowl game. It’s bigger than any game out there. It’s the most important game on our schedule,” senior linebacker Andrew Sweat said.
“We embrace it and think about it every day, in the summer, winter, no matter when. It’s the biggest game of the year, so we have everything to play for.”
It will be a big test for freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, along with a number of other young players in the starting lineup. It will also be an important moment for this senior class, and an opportunity to change perception.
“A win at the Big House, yeah, I think would be a great way to end my career here,” Adams said.
“Everybody wants to beat Michigan, and I've never lost to them, so I definitely want to keep that going.”
With a win Saturday, maybe the program could keep something positive going into next season.
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