The Ohio State Buckeyes were by no means accustomed to losing, having won 24 straight games on their way to two straight undefeated regular seasons.
When that streak abruptly came to a halt Dec. 7 at the hands of the Michigan State Spartans, a feeling crept through the players that had never been felt since coach Urban Meyer arrived in Columbus.
“It’s definitely a weird feeling, just because it hadn’t been experienced around here in so long and especially it hadn’t been experienced with coach Meyer and his staff here,” junior tight end Jeff Heuerman said Friday. “There’s still a little bit of sting, but you gotta keep moving. It’s part of the game of football.”
Heuerman was a freshman on the OSU team that lost the 2012 Gator Bowl, the last losing effort by the team before falling in the Big Ten Championship to the Spartans, 34-24, and said having to deal with a loss for the first time in almost two years is not exactly easy.
“There’s still some lingering effects,” Heuerman said.
The No. 7 Buckeyes streak of two unbeaten regular seasons came on the heels of a 6-7 year in 2011, the program’s first losing season since 1988. That much success might be rare around the college football world, but later falling in a game that all but could have guaranteed a chance to play for the BCS National Championship in some ways magnified it.
“I continue to watch film over it and just kept asking myself, ‘How did this happen?’ and ‘Why did this happen?’” junior linebacker Ryan Shazier said Friday. “(I would) just lay in bed sometimes and just couldn’t stop thinking about it because it felt so unreal.”
Meanwhile, freshman defensive end Joey Bosa said he’s trying to put his first college loss behind him.
“I’m trying to not think about it anymore. Pretty much gotten over it, but it was really hard,” Bosa said Friday. “It still gets at me every once in a while, but it was really hard for a couple days.
“We had an opportunity to go 25-0 and play for the national championship. Obviously if you lose that opportunity, it’s going to make anyone upset.”
Down, 27-24, to the Spartans with just more than five and a half minutes to play and a fourth and two staring the Buckeyes in the face, OSU junior quarterback Braxton Miller was stuffed on a rush around the right end. The Spartans took over, and scored a few minutes later to put the possibility of a 25th straight win out of reach. Heuerman said that play is one he’s replayed in his mind “about a million times.”
“Obviously it’s one of those plays that you wish you could have back. But it’s part of the game of football,” Heuerman said. “One play, yeah I wish I could have it back but you gotta move forward and you gotta move on from it.”
With the chance to play for a national championship gone by the wayside, OSU (12-1, 8-1) must now prepare for its consolation prize of the Orange Bowl, where it is set to take on No. 12 Clemson (10-2, 7-1) Jan. 3 in Miami.
“Obviously we’re not going to where we thought we were going and where we wanted to be going, but we’re playing in the Orange Bowl,” redshirt-senior left tackle Jack Mewhort said. “I think when you start looking back and looking at the what ifs, that’s bad for a team … The coaches made clear to us that there’s no moping around here. We have a big game to go win so that’s our responsibility.”