First there was a Rose Bowl victory. Then a victory in New Orleans at the Sugar Bowl. Then that season was vacated, and the school endured into its first losing season since 1988.
Now, a 22-game winning streak. The Ohio State football class of 2013 has been through it all.
“It was a roller coaster ride. It started off basically giving us everything — Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl. And then, not trying to down the Gator Bowl or anything, it’s just not the Rose Bowl or the Sugar Bowl,” redshirt-senior quarterback Kenny Guiton said Monday. “We kind of got spoiled from the start, and then once it got down … I’m (just) happy we got to pick it back up for one last go around.”
Guiton is one of 18 players set to be recognized Saturday for the Buckeyes’ (10-0, 6-0) home finale against Indiana (4-6, 2-4). With a win, OSU will clinch a Leaders Division title for the second consecutive season.
It is a class of seniors that has been under the tutelage of three head coaches in its time at OSU and has gone through the adversity of a bowl ban, among other setbacks.
“My class, we came in with (Jim) Tress(el) and then we went to coach (Luke) Fick(ell) and now we got coach (Urban) Meyer, so it’s been a great experience,” senior safety Christian Bryant said Monday. “Coach Meyer, he came in with a great spirit. He wanted to try to turn this program back to where it was before coach Tress left, and I feel like he did a great job of that.”
The 2013 seniors have posted an overall record of 40-8, including the vacated 2010-11 season. Its 12-0 campaign a year ago was just the sixth undefeated and untied season in program history and the first since 2002.
All that recent success, though, did not come easily after each member was a part of the forgettable 6-7 2011 season.
“It’s been one heck of a ride, (with) just a lot of stuff thrown at us,” redshirt-senior center Corey Linsley said Monday. “For the guys that made it through and the guys that stuck it out, through the ups and downs, it’s absolutely been worth it … There’s a lot of reasons why we were 6-7, and why we’re undefeated now. We’ve done nothing but work hard to earn this spot.”
In just its second season under Meyer, OSU is on the verge of setting a school record for wins in a row if the team takes care of business against Indiana. The coach said he has a high appreciation for those players being honored Saturday.
“This week is all about 18 seniors, (the) last two years have (they’ve) been on a nice run,” Meyer said. “Guys I have a great admiration for.”
Coming back from the depths of the losing season was something not only the seniors had to go through, the older guys played a huge part in turning the team’s success around.
“We did a lot of growing up, as far as maturity goes. I think when coach Meyer got here we realized that we were the older guys now, and we had to assume some responsibility and not just take a back seat and watch other guys do it,” redshirt-senior left tackle Jack Mewhort said. “It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s been a great journey and I love this senior class.”
For Linsley, one moment in particular stings deep on the journey from the Gator Bowl after the 2011 season to 22 straight wins.
“Probably losing to the team up north,” Linsley said. “After that game, everyone was just like, ‘Man, we haven’t lost to those guys in forever.’ I’d say that was the darkest moment of the season.”
Meyer, on the other hand, said he has yet to take a step back and reflect on the success he’s had with the class. He cares more about how they’ve grown as people, particularly the offensive line.
“To think that those guys have developed, I go fight for those guys,” Meyer said. “I love who they are. I love who they’ve become. If I was a college kid, that’s who I would hang out with. They’re sincere, great people that work their tails off. They love Ohio State and they love football.”
Guiton said he wants members of Buckeye Nation to remember those leaving for the way they reversed the program’s bad luck.
“Just turning it around. Turning it around. We had a bad year and everything and coach Meyer came in and changed the leadership around,” Guiton said. “He changed a lot around. He helped for the better.”
Meyer said, though, it’s not quite time to look back on the seniors’ successes.
“I think someday, you’ll be able to look back and reflect. Now is not that time. We have too much work to do,” Meyer said.
Linsley echoed his coach, saying the success will be mute if they don’t finish strong against the Hoosiers in the seniors’ final home game. That attitude has permeated throughout the whole team.
“Honestly, two weeks ago I didn’t even know what our record was. I think that was the feeling on the team, too. What are we? 7-0? 8-0?” Linsley said. “It doesn’t really matter because all we can do is think about the next opponent. When we get (the record for wins), that will be a heck of an accomplishment, but right now we’re just focusing on beating Indiana. ‘Cause Indiana doesn’t really care about our win streak.”
That attitude is sure to be a part of whether the Buckeyes will take down Indiana for their 23rd straight win. Kickoff at Ohio Stadium is slated for 3:30 p.m.