Posts Tagged ‘College football’

Tightrope Walking

January 5, 2011

It was down to this.  Ohio State was punting from their 38 yard line.  With a good kick, Arkansas would have the ball back needing a touchdown to win, but they’d have to drive the length of the field, and they’d only have about sixty seconds left and no  timeouts. 

The TV broadcast was showing Ohio State’s punt formation from behind.  I remember thinking two things.  First, the line seemed awfully widely spaced.  Second, I hoped the kick wasn’t blocked.

It was.  Once the commotion stopped, Arkansas had the ball at Ohio State’s 18 yard line, 1:09 on the clock, and still needing a touchdown.  Ohio State’s season seemed to have careened off the road to victory and right off the side of a cliff. 

Ohio State had no time outs left.  I was wondering if the best strategy might be to let Arkansas score a touchdown to give Ohio State as much time as possible to respond.  It was just asking too much for the defense to force one more stop.

Fist down.  Incomplete pass.  Three more downs to weather.

Second down.  That’s when it happened.  A defensive end dropping back into coverage intercepted the ball.  Ohio State had it back.  Two kneel downs and the game was over.  Emotion had swung from a confident expectation of a win to a looming disaster of a loss and then back to actually celebrating the win.

These swings were the story of the game.  An Arkansas receiver would be wide open, only to drop the ball.  Ohio State would convert a fourth and short in their own territory only to fumble the ball back behind the original line of scrimmage.  Like the truly great games, it seemed to come down to a handful of plays, and like the truly great games, just enough of those plays went Ohio State’s way.

What Next for the Big Ten?

December 14, 2010

The Big Ten has new division names and branding.  I’ll be honest, I just don’t know about this.  Legends and Leaders.  Wow.  I’ve been turning over in my mind, over and over again.  Every time I start to come around and think, “This really isn’t so horrible,” I snap back thinking, “Yes it is.”  Maybe they’re the sort of thing that needs to be grown in to.  They’re definitely different, maybe cutting edge, and maybe in a few years we’ll all look back and think how innovative and cutting edge the name are.  Right now it feels like the idea that the Big Ten is a group of college athletic teams that compete against each other, or event that it’s a collection of academic institutions educating and doing research has been lost in the idea of the Big Ten as… something.  Something about legends and leaders. 

The logo bugs me too.  When I look at it, I feel like I’m looking at one of those squinty eye pictures where it’s supposed to be three dimensional. Except I could never get those to work right.  I know what’s trying to be done with it, but I just don’t see it very well.  I liked the old logo. 

I’ve read some comments that the G/0 looks like a 6, which makes me wonder if this is some master plan for the logo to still be valid if the conference grows to 16 teams.

With each new step and announcement, I’ve started regretting how the addition of Nebraska to the Big Ten is being handled.  I have no problem with Nebraska being added.  I liked the division makeup originally, but I have started to sour on it.  The division names have lost me.  More and more I’m wishing there was just an east division with Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, and Purdue, and a west division with Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Wisconsin.  Sure, the east would have three of the strongest traditional teams in Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State, and the west would only have one in Nebraska.  But I really think that would have worked out in the end.

Another Day at the Office

November 28, 2010

The scene after the Michigan game yesterday was strange in its unimpressiveness.  In a blink of an eye, the stadium was practically empty.  No one tried to rush the field.  In fact, the crowd started filing out with time still left in the third quarter.  After singing “Carmen Ohio,” the victorious players vanished to their locker room.  The OSUMB didn’t even take the field after the game; instead they just lined up and marched out.  The scoreboard had a graphic of six Big Ten championship trophies frozen on it.  For whatever reason, the public address system played “Sweet Caroline.”  I wasn’t sure if that was in celebration, or a polite hint that the show was over.  I kept waiting for an usher to come up and ask me to leave as the stadium was now closed.

Before the game, assuming the right outcome, I had planned to linger and savor the moment.  It seems I was one of the few who decided to do that.  Maybe it was the cold weather.  Maybe it was the routine nature, which is hard to deny given the uncompetitive nature of the game that had just ended, that is was the seventh victory in a row against Michigan, and that a sixth straight conference championship had also been won.  Whatever it was, the crowd seemed as excited as if they had just watched a MAC team come to Ohio Stadium for the sole purpose of losing so that the home team could collect the profit from a home game.  It is a sad state of affairs for Michigan when they have as much cachet to opposing fans as Akron, Kent State, or Bowling Green.

But still, I lingered.  Watching my first Michigan game in person in Ohio Stadium, and seeing my team triumph, I saw no reason not to linger and savor the moment.  Beating Michigan, winning conference championships: I pray these never become routine to me.

Eye of the Beholder

November 21, 2010

It may have been ugly at times, in fact it was ugly at times, but yesterday’s game between Ohio State and Iowa was also a thing of beauty.  Two teams, trading punches, neither one having more than a one score lead.  The longest play by either team was 26 yards, Ohio State accomplishing it through the air and Iowa on the ground.  The two teams kept throwing themselves at each other, round after round, answering score for score, play for play, hit for hit.  This was no spread offense, no defense, free for all.  It was a classic Big Ten game.

And now it’s Michigan week.

Thinking Back

November 17, 2010

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

— Robert Frost

Four years ago today, former Ohio State assistant and Michigan head football coach Bo Schembechler died.  That means four years ago it was also the eve of #1 Ohio State and #2 Michigan’s titanic game.  The winner would be a lock for the national championship, the loser left wondering what might have been.  The next day, Ohio State would take one path and Michigan another, and for the four years since then, they have continued on these diverging paths.

Thinking back four years ago for myself, I had no inkling I would have the opportunities to live and work in London and Utah.  Or that I would travel all over Europe, and a fair bit of the west.  My interest in photography was still in its infancy.  I was fencing then, but never imagined I would learn to ski or run a half marathon.  Law school was an abstract possibility… someday… maybe.

Band Saves Day

November 14, 2010

The low point was the illegal wedge on a kick return.

I didn’t even know what an illegal wedge was.  I’m still not really sure.  This article about banning it in the NFL helped a little, but still, I’d thought kick offs were the one place the old flying wedge lived on.  Or so I thought.

Ohio State had started great.  The first drive included a bomb that covered half the field in one long ranging arc.  It dropped into the receiver’s hands, inches from the defender.  But that was it for highlights for a long, long time.  With a first down at Penn State’s 11 yard line, the Buckeyes would only net two more yards before kicking a field goal.  Penn State would go on to score twice to take a 14-3 lead, having moved the ball seemingly at will, and where driving late in the second quarter.

Having converted one fourth down on the drive already with a quarterback sneak, the Nittany Lions faced another fourth and one at the Ohio State 20 yard line.  Finally, there was a spark of life from the Silver Bullets and Penn State’s running back was dropped for no gain.  Buckeyes football.  There was 1:41 on the clock and momentum was with the home team to try and score some points before the half. 

But it was for nothing.  First down, a quarter back scramble out of bounds for two yards.  Second down, a four yard run up the middle.  And on third down, an incomplete pass.  The boos that had started on the drive’s first play were raining down in force as the punter came onto the field.  As the Columbus Dispatch’s Ken Gordon said at the time, “emotional, over-the-top vitriol,” as soon as the team plays badly.

I don’t boo my own team.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t times I’m frustrated or disappointed with them, but I don’t boo them for it.  I don’t think it’s right to expect a team to try and crawl their way back into a game without the support of the fans, especially a team of young college kids.

Penn State would just run out the clock and both teams headed to the locker rooms.  The crowd was in an ugly mood.  It hadn’t passed by the time the visiting Blue Band finished their The Who halftime show and it was time for the OSUMB.

Looking down at the field, I couldn’t figure out where the band was.  I saw a few members on the west sideline, but it didn’t look like near enough.  They must be down there, blending in with the Blue Band or something, I thought.  I just couldn’t figure out where they were hiding, and it was almost show time.

The marching band was doing a flash mob show, building off the idea of what had taken place last spring in the Ohio Union.  It quickly became clear how they were doing exactly that.

The band members I saw on the west side line turned out to be the percussion and sousaphone players.  They started out on to the field, and to my shock, were just sort of wandering out at random, they weren’t marching.  And then I realized where the rest of the band had been.  They were coming out of the A-deck portals, walking down the aisles, and jumping down on to the field.  I watched a group of trumpet players jump the railing, and then head towards the field, again almost wandering.  Steadily the band appeared on the field, until suddenly, they were all there, spaced out and filling it all up.  President E. Gordon Gee would even go on to reprise his role with Brutus.

The halftime music wasn’t anything fancy, just pop tunes: Journey’s “Don’t Stop Belevin’,” Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” and Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” before closing with “Proud Mary.”  But it had an amazing calming effect on the crowd as they sang along with the choruses.  It was one of the neatest marching band halftime shows I’ve ever seen.

In the second half, Ohio State would score 35 unanswered points to win 38-14 by pounding the ball with a relentless ground game and returning a pair of interceptions for touchdowns.  But it was the halftime show that turned the crowd around.