INDIANAPOLIS – It had been 705 days since Ohio State’s 24-16 loss to Florida in the Gator Bowl.
A new head coach, 24 games and two undefeated regular seasons passed by before the Buckeyes tasted defeat again.
Saturday night in the Big Ten Championship Game, No. 2 OSU (12-1, 8-1) fell to No. 10 Michigan State (12-1, 9-0), 34-24.
It was the first time since Urban Meyer took over as coach for the Buckeyes that OSU had failed to come out on top.
Meyer said after the game that the loss was painful but losing is a part of football.
“I just feel we’re all very blessed and fortunate to have these kids on our team. I love that locker room,” Meyer said. “I don’t know. You know, it’s going to haunt all of us I imagine for a little while, but that’s part of the game.”
Junior quarterback Braxton Miller has been the starter for every game of Urban Meyer’s tenure, with the exception of two games earlier this season when he was sidelined with an injury. He said the loss is something that OSU has to grow from.
“You know, just grow together as a team,” Miller said. “Things happen in games, really don’t go your way. (You’ve) got to come back and fix the mistakes. Keep your head high, come back stronger.”
Miller ran for 142 yards and two touchdowns while tallying 101 yards and a touchdown through the air against the Spartans. But it was not enough to push the Buckeyes to victory, as the team gave up 17 straight points to Michigan State to end the game.
Junior linebacker Ryan Shazier said the loss hurts all the more because of the consistent success OSU has seen over the past two seasons.
“I take every game personally. I put my heart and soul out there every week, every game and it just hurts because we’ve been winning so much and just been doing everything together and been grinding so hard as a group,” Shazier said. “And it just hurt just to lose that game but it also hurt just to lose that game with my brothers and all the stuff we went through, so (we’re) just going to have to go through a little bit of adversity and just get ready.”
He added feeling like the team had accomplished so much but with so little to show for it.
“It kind of sucks,” Shazier said. “You’ve gone on such a long streak and not being able to finish it off, but our main goal was just to win this Big Ten Championship and whatever goes on goes on after that so we’re just focusing on this game today and we weren’t really worried about our win streak.”
After then-No. 1 Alabama suffered a loss the weekend before, the Buckeyes found themselves poised for a shot at a national title if they could beat the Spartans.
But with that chance lost, Meyer said he just wanted to accomplish something with this group of players.
“I mean does it make the loss harder? No,” Meyer said. “What makes the loss harder is, I really wanted these guys to experience something special. And we are. I imagine there’s a chance we’ll get invited to a great bowl game. If we do, they’re going to get a very good Buckeye football team that’s going to stick together and try to win this game.”
With a spot as a BCS at-large team likely for OSU, the team is going to have to rebound from the loss. But that shouldn’t be a problem for the Buckeyes, defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell said.
“These seniors will do a great job. You think back, these seniors have been through a lot of stuff in four years,” Fickell said. “That’s (why) I grabbed (redshirt-senior left tackle) Jack (Mewhort) and some of those guys and just went by them and said, ‘Hey man, I really appreciate what you guys have done over a four-year period and I’ve been with you through a lot of that.’
“So this is a journey … and sometimes you rip your chest open, you give it your all and then sometimes you don’t get what you expect in return and that’s a part of life.”
Senior running back Carlos Hyde, who has been an important cog in the OSU offense this season, said the loss is something painful and unusual for the Buckeyes.
“We hurt right now,” Hyde said. “Like you said, we haven’t lost in almost two years and we’re going to let this one sink in, move on, get ready for whatever bowl game we go play in and get ready for that team.”
OSU won’t find out who their next opponent is until Sunday night when the BCS matchups are announced.
But redshirt-freshman right guard Pat Elflein said the team has to be ready to move on from the loss, despite the disappointment.
“We accomplished a lot, but this is all about how we respond to the next event,” Elflein said. “So we’re going to respond the right way and go get the next one. It’s over with. Gotta put it behind us.”