EXPECT THE BUCKEYES DEFENSE TO PLAY MUCH BETTER: OHIO STATE BEATS MICHIGAN STATE AND HEADS TO BCS TITLE GAME
Twice since the Michigan State Spartans became the final member of the old Big Ten Conference in 1958 have they ruined a perfect Ohio State football season. In fact, as it played out, they likely cost the Buckeyes the 1974 and ’98 national championships.
Saturday night in Indianapolis, they will try to make it three times.
The ’74 game in East Lansing turned into an infamous ending in Ohio State lore and I will never forget watching it on television.
It was the season after the famed 10-10 tie at Michigan, in which the Buckeyes finished 10-0-1 after stomping USC 42-21 in the Rose Bowl.
It was November 9, 1974 and Archie Griffin was on his way to winning his first Heisman Trophy a month later. Again, the Buckeyes were ranked No. 1 and 8-0.
A Spartan running back named Levi Jackson ripped off an 88-yard touchdown to put the Spartans ahead 16-13 with 3:17 remaining, when Ohio State drove right back the field in the final minute.
At the Michigan State 1-yard line with only 29 seconds remaining, this is where things got strange. They were tackled for no gain, and Michigan State players piled on the Ohio State ball-carrier, refusing to let him off the ground as the clock ticked down. Ohio State was out of timeouts.
Furiously, Ohio State tried to first get the officials to stop the clock to force Michigan State defenders to let offensive players get up. As the clock ticked to zero, fullback Champ Henson plunged into the end zone with the football. The umpire signaled touchdown and the Buckeyes celebrated.
Other officials waved it off, stating the clock struck zero before the snap.
Then, some 45 minutes later, the Big Ten officially ruled the offense did not get the snap off before the clock expired and if they had, the offense was not set for one full second and would have been penalized.
Woody went berserk in the locker room when Big Ten Commissioner Wayne Duke walked in.
"I need to speak to your team," Duke said.
"Woody could sense what was coming and he started to scream, "Wayne, don’t you F--- me Wayne! Don’t you F--- me!” fullback Bruce Elia recalled.
When Duke broke the bad news, Elia said Hayes cocked his fist and tried to punch him, but assistant coach George Hill wrapped himself around the head coach's arm.
"He was trying to throw a punch, but he couldn't with George hanging on his arm," Elia said. "He just would not accept that we lost that game. We all wouldn't accept it."
Later while watching the replays that night on his television show, Woody said, "Watch how we can't get up. Watch 'em hold down our players. Finally, when we do get up—there's about two seconds—we ran the play and went into the end zone. They ruled a touchdown and then they called it back and said it wasn't.... When there's that much of a pileup and near the goal and the clock is running out, it's up to the officials to blow time-out. That's where they blew it!
“The officials say time had run out, but they should have stopped the clock on that pileup. And if there was illegal motion there should have been a flag thrown on it.... Both sides were probably offsides on the last play, it looks like to me.... The thing I resent is that no effort was made to get them to un-pile. It's just as grossly unfair as it can be.... I'm just as bitter as the devil.... But if you take something like this lightly, you'll be laughing more than you'll be winning."
The loss left Hayes very bitter at Duke and Michigan State until his death 13 years later.
That ’74 team went on to beat Michigan 12-10 on four field goals by Tom Klaban, but later lost 18-17 to USC in the Rose Bowl when the Trojans converted a two-point conversion at the end of the game.
The 1998 team, led by All-Big Ten quarterback Joe Germaine, had ripped through opponents from the beginning of the season until facing Michigan State at Ohio Stadium in the season’s ninth game. The Buckeyes were 8-0 and a unanimous No. 1 and only three wins away from playing for the first BCS Championship.
They jumped on the Spartans 24-9 thanks to a pick-six and looked to be cruising to the win. Then in the fourth quarter, they went conservative on offense and the Spartans’ offense started making plays. Suddenly, they trailed 28-24 to Nick Saban’s team. Germaine drove Ohio State to the red zone but four incompletions into the end zone ended the game and Michigan State had one of its biggest wins in school history. It was Saban’s biggest win to that point in his career, because he had always been bitter at Earle Bruce for firing him as secondary coach 17 years earlier.
“That Michigan State game was the only real disappointment of my Ohio State career,” Jermaine told me later. “I still know what happened. That loss cost us the national championship.”
The Buckeyes then beat Iowa 45-14 and Michigan 31-16 (in one of only two wins over UM under John Cooper), before getting by Texas A&M 24-14 in the Sugar Bowl. Meanwhile, Tennessee beat Florida State, playing a third-string quarterback, in the Fiesta Bowl in the first-ever BCS Championship Game – in the Fiesta Bowl.
Saturday night, obviously, will be the first meeting between the two teams on a neutral field.
This time, I see the Buckeyes’ defense playing much better than a week ago in Ann Arbor, if for any other reason than Michigan State’s offense does not have to capability to be explosive. Instead, the Spartans likely will try try to grind out long drives and keep Ohio State’s offense off the field, similar to the way Iowa approached the Oct. 19 game in Columbus in which the Hawkeyes led 17-10 at the half.
And I think Ohio State matches up much better with this type of offense than it does a spread. But one thing is for sure – Mark Dantonio and the Spartans will pull out all the stops. If there is a crucial field-goal attempt, or a punt when its fourth and less than five yards or so at a pivotal point, don’t be surprised to see a fake – as well as a reverse or two or throwback pass to the quarterback.
Dantonio always goes into a big game with a slew of trick plays up his sleeve. And this is Michigan State’s biggest game in years.
I still think the Buckeyes move the ball and score enough points to win, as they will rely first on the passing game -- more than they have in more than a month. Something to the tune of 28-13, good enough to get the Buckeyes to Pasadena for the Jan. 6 BCS title game, because….
MISSOURI WILL UPSET AUBURN…
The Columbia Tigers will beat the Tigers from the Plains Saturday, in the SEC title game which starts at 4 p.m. in Atlanta – four hours before the Big Ten title game.
While Auburn would have a difficult time leaping a winning Ohio State team with a win, Missouri surely would have even a tougher task, coming from No. 5 in last week’s BCS standings.
I just think that Missouri’s front four will control the line of scrimmage and slow Auburn’s running game while Auburn’s defense is vulnerable. And let’s face it, who wouldn’t be surprised of a letdown after that Iron Bowl finish?
Missouri 27, Auburn 20.
NEBRASKA SHOULD FIRE PELINI
The Cornhuskers’ brass has missed a golden opportunity to improve its program by not dismissing Bo Pelini following his embarrassing actions during and following the loss to Iowa last Friday.
First, he was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct while almost striking an official with his hat and then he went off on the media after the game:
“If they want to fire me, go ahead," Pelini said while also calling the pass-interference flag "chickens---" and accused Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz of having worse sideline behavior than his own.
The 38-17 loss capped a disappointing, injury-riddled 8-4 regular season for the Cornhuskers, who have now lost exactly four games in each of Pelini's six seasons.
Surprisingly, Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst, who arrived from Miami, supported Pelini and said there was "unfounded conjecture and speculation" about the coach's status.
“We very much look forward to our upcoming bowl game and coach Pelini continuing to lead our program in the future,” said Eichorst.
Part of their problem may be the large buyout of nearly $7 million since Pelini is under contract through 2017.
If they do indeed keep the former Buckeye safety following the bowl game, Cornhusker fans need to get used to more Pelini eruptions and more four and five-loss seasons. When I watch Nebraska, I see a team that often shoots itself in the foot and can’t come up with a crucial defensive stop when needed. Plus, the Huskers have the worst ball security skills in the country.
With quarterback Taylor Martinez departing after the season, there is no reason to think Nebraska will win any more than eight games in 2014, and that likely would lead them to fire Pelini a year from now -- provided he doesn't embarrass himself even further between now and then.
Last Updated (Thursday, 05 December 2013 13:38)
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