Buckeyes tired of SEC domination
Ohio State looks to end 0-for-9 skid vs. Arkansas in Sugar
The Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Ohio State Buckeyes are tired of hearing how their predecessors have lost all nine bowl meetings with teams from the Southeastern Conference. And they're really angry about head coach Jim Tressel's recent reading material to them.
Tressel produced a fan's e-mail the other day that said Ohio State couldn't compete with and didn't belong on the same field with an SEC team. That's timely since the Buckeyes take on Arkansas of the SEC in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4.
"It was something that most guys may have shrugged off, but me, I took it personally,'' linebacker Brian Rolle said on Tuesday during Ohio State's annual bowl media day. "Having been here in '07 and not faring too well against LSU and watching that game, I just take it to heart. I'm taking that [e-mail] into the game with a chip on my shoulder.''
The pain of the two most recent postseason losses to SEC teams still burns several of the Buckeyes. The 2006 team was No. 1 from the preseason all the way through the schedule, but then was humiliated by Florida, 41-14, in the Bowl Championship Series national title game. A year later, through an incredible number of upsets to the teams ahead of them, the Buckeyes climbed seven spots in the BCS rankings late in the season to earn a spot opposite two-loss LSU in the BCS title game. Just like the year before, Ohio State broke out to an early lead only to have the SEC team dominate the rest of the game. The Tigers cruised, 38-24.
"The last couple of outings, we've been destroyed by SEC teams so it's something that's always in the back of our minds,'' Buckeyes safety Jermale Hines said. He said that 0-9 figure seems to pop up wherever the Buckeyes turn. "Of course it's constantly heard, and you can't really escape it in today's society with all the media, the SportsCenters and the Twitters and the Facebooks,'' Hines said. "It's something that's always with us.''
Tressel is 0-3 against SEC teams in bowl games, including those two lopsided losses and a narrow defeat to South Carolina in the 2002 Outback Bowl at the end of his first season. He tried to downplay the drought. What's at hand, he said, is far more important than what's gone on in the past. "The thing we've got to really focus in on is what it's going to take to play Arkansas who we didn't play in any bowl games in our history -- and not get too caught up in irrelevant things,'' he said.
"But on the other hand, you do like to accomplish things. A great performance in a bowl game the magnitude of this against a team who's very, very good and happens to be in a very, very good conference, of course you use that as a tremendous goal.''
The losses date to Alabama and Bear Bryant beating up on Woody Hayes and the Buckeyes, 35-6, in the 1978 Sugar Bowl -- at least a decade before most of the current players were born.
Cornerback Devon Torrence said the e-mail was just one fan's perspective. "It's an opinion,'' he said, "so it doesn't even really matter.''
Team MVP Dane Sanzenbacher believes that winning is always paramount, regardless of the opponent -- and what conference that opponent is from. "To be honest, I don't know if [hearing the e-mail] is something as a group that really changed our minds,'' the senior wide receiver said.
"Because we already know what the perception is and we know regardless whether it's an SEC team, a Big Ten team or a Big 12 team, our goal is to win this bowl game. So we can't really worry about what's happened before.''
Rolle said hearing those searing words were enough to get him ready for the game now, even though it's still three weeks away. "People downplay us [because] we haven't played too good against SEC teams,'' he said. "[The e-mail] motivates me as a captain, as a senior, as a starter here. And I'll let guys know that this outing is going to be a lot different than the past.''
Until the game, though, there's little the Buckeyes can do but to listen to how bad they've been against the SEC. "It's all bulletin-board material,'' Sanzenbacher said. "We know when it comes down to it, we'll get our shot to prove it.''
Ohio State vs. the SEC
- Jan. 2, 1978 -- Sugar Bowl at New Orleans | Alabama 35, Ohio State 6
The Crimson Tide of head coach Paul "Bear'' Bryant absolutely dominated the Buckeyes (9-3) of head coach Woody Hayes before 76,811 in the Louisiana Superdome. Alabama practiced at home until just four days before the game, while Hayes had the Buckeyes go to New Orleans two weeks beforehand because of concerns that they might not be able to have full workouts in cold, snowy Columbus. Too long at the bowl site? Almost three decades later, that would still be a troubling question for the Buckeyes when they played an SEC team.
- Jan. 1, 1990 -- Hall of Fame Bowl at Tampa, Fla. | Auburn 31, Ohio State 14
The Buckeyes led 14-3 late in the second quarter, but the Tigers flipped the momentum with a touchdown just 11 seconds before halftime. It was just another late-season flop for Ohio State under head coach John Cooper. The Buckeyes had climbed back from lopsided early losses to USC and Illinois to battle Michigan for the Big Ten title, only to lose 28-18, before falling flat in the bowl game.
- Jan. 1, 1993 -- Citrus Bowl at Orlando, Fla. | Georgia 21, Ohio State 14
This game featured two of the premier running backs in the nation in Georgia's Garrison Hearst and the Buckeyes' Robert Smith. Hearst would finish with 163 yards rushing and two touchdowns, Smith with 112 and two scores. With the game tied at 14-14 in the final quarter, Ohio State QB Kirk Herbstreit, now known for analyzing football instead of playing it, bumped into FB Jeff Cothran on a handoff and the ball squirted loose, with Georgia's Travis Jones recovering it at the Bulldogs 20. They marched 80 yards for the go-ahead score and then played keepaway with Hearst continually ramming into the line and piling up yards.
- Jan. 2, 1995 -- Florida Citrus Bowl at Orlando, Fla. | Alabama 24, Ohio State 17
The Buckeyes entered the game at No. 13 after a rare (under Cooper) victory against Michigan. With the score tied at 17-17 in the fourth quarter of this evenly matched contest, the Buckeyes were forced to punt. On second down near midfield, Crimson Tide QB Jay Barker tossed a short pass to RB Sherman Lewis who avoided tacklers as he raced up the heart of the field, crossing the goal line with 42 seconds left.
- Jan. 1, 1996 -- Florida Citrus Bowl at Orlando, Fla. | Tennessee 20, Ohio State 14
A season of so much promise sure slipped away in a hurry. Eddie George won the Heisman Trophy and the Buckeyes were stocked with NFL draftees such as QB Bobby Hoying, DE Mike Vrabel, WR Terry Glenn and OT Orlando Pace. They mauled their first 11 opponents, but once again disaster awaited in the Michigan game where Tim Biakabutuka rushed for 313 yards on 37 carries to almost personally end the No. 2-ranked Buckeyes' national-title hopes. Then in a rainy, windy bowl game, there was more disappointment. Jeff Hall kicked field goals of 29 and 25 yards in the fourth quarter to help Peyton Manning beat the Buckeyes.
- Jan. 1, 2001 -- Outback Bowl at Tampa, Fla. | South Carolina 24, Ohio State 7
Call it Cooper's Last Stand. While the Buckeyes were in the Sunshine State preparing for the game, it was discovered that one starter had a 0.00 grade-point average and that an Ohio State offensive lineman was suing a teammate for a punch thrown during a practice earlier in the season. Heavy favorites to beat the Gamecocks, the 18th-ranked Buckeyes couldn't stop Ryan Brewer, a former Mr. Football in Ohio whom Cooper had not recruited. Brewer rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns -- both in the fourth quarter -- to push Cooper's bowl record to 3-9. Factor in a 2-10-1 mark against rival Michigan and all the academic and legal problems, and it spelled the end for Cooper at Ohio State, who was fired soon after the game.
- Jan. 1, 2002 -- Outback Bowl at Tampa, Fla. | South Carolina 31, Ohio State 28
A new head coach didn't make much difference after all. Jim Tressel, hired to replace Cooper after spending 15 years at Youngstown State, did not inherit all that much talent. The Buckeyes never won more than two games in a row all season, and were rocked by starting QB Steve Bellisari's drunken-driving arrest late in the season. But Tressel retooled with sophomore Craig Krenzel calling signals and the Buckeyes upset Michigan and were favored to beat South Carolina in their second meeting in as many years in Tampa. But Phil Petty passed for two touchdowns and Daniel Weaver kicked a 42-yard field goal as time expired to again give the Gamecocks -- and the SEC -- the victory.
- Jan. 8, 2007 -- BCS National Championship at Glendale, Ariz. | Florida 41, Ohio State 14
Once again Ohio State had a Heisman Trophy winner, this time in QB Troy Smith. The Buckeyes rolled over 12 opponents, including No. 2 Texas in Austin and then No. 2 Michigan at home. Florida head coach Urban Meyer had to stump for his team to even make it into the Bowl Championship Series title game. The Buckeyes were favored, and appeared to be ready to back that up after Ted Ginn Jr. returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. But the Gators controlled every facet of the game from then on, with Smith managing to complete just 4 of 14 passes for a meager 35 yards with one interception.
- Jan. 7, 2008 -- BCS National Championship at New Orleans | LSU 38, Ohio State 24
Different SEC team, different year, same result. Less than a minute and a half into the game at the Louisiana Superdome, Chris "Beanie'' Wells broke through a blockade at the line and sprinted away for a 65-yard touchdown. Moments later, Ryan Pretorius kicked a 34-yard field goal. But for the second year in a row, a Buckeyes lead was vaporized. LSU ran off the next 31 points. Matt Flynn passed for four scores and the Buckeyes turned over the ball three times.