For everything that Ohio State’s program-record 24-game winning streak meant to the players, coaches and fans involved, it always seemed to be missing the validation that can only come from beating the best in the postseason.
Ohio State’s 2013 team failed to put a stamp on its memorable run, and now the legacy of that streak remains uncertain as a result of the No. 2-ranked Buckeyes’ 34-24 Big Ten Championship Game loss to No. 10 Michigan State.
The winning streak spanned the length of almost two calendar years, and after missing out on the postseason in 2012 because of a bowl ban, the 2013 Buckeyes re-wrote history. These Buckeyes scored more points and more touchdowns than in any of the previous 123 seasons of Ohio State. They beat Michigan for a second consecutive year, and did so in a classic installment of The Game. Most importantly, there was a second consecutive undefeated regular season, and this gave Ohio State an opportunity to validate all of these accomplishments, but Michigan State stole the show.
Ohio State scored 24 unanswered points to make it 24-17 in the third quarter, but that was after spotting the Spartans a 17-0 first half lead. The Buckeyes took a 24-20 lead into the fourth quarter, leaving the team 15 minutes away from a likely berth to the Bowl Championship Series championship game, but the Spartans scored the last 14 points of the contest.
With 2:16 remaining in regulation, Michigan State running back Jeremy Langford shed tackles and scampered 23 yards to the end zone to effectively end the game. Now, Ohio State players aren’t sure what to make of the events of the last two years.
Senior center Corey Linsley said he is split on how he’ll rate the last two years of his career, saying he’ll reserve a portion of judgment until after the bowl game while also acknowledging the pain attached to losing out on the program’s first postseason game since the Jan. 1, 2012, Gator Bowl.
“It will all determine with this next game,” Linsley said after the loss. “That’s all it will be. … We’ll all be disappointed with what could have been, but whatever happens in the bowl game is going to show what kind of people we are.”
As matters currently stand, the program has plenty to boast about, including a 24-1 record under second-year head coach Urban Meyer and two Leaders Division championship trophies to add to the program’s expansive trophy case. Missing from the team’s resume is a conference crown, which it was only eligible for this season.
Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, who had a team-high 10 solo tackles, described the feeling of his first loss since the Gator Bowl by simply saying “this sucks.” Coming into the game, Ohio State wasn’t focused on keeping the streak alive, Shazier said, though he also suggested that the missed opportunity against Michigan State leaves something to be desired.
“You go on such a long streak and not be able to finish it off,” he said. “Our main goal was just to win this Big Ten championship.”
Shazier said that Michigan State, now bound for its first Rose Bowl since 1987, is the best team the Buckeyes played during the team’s memorable two-year run. The Spartans didn’t provide many unfamiliar looks in delivering Meyer’s first loss, either.
The loss was a matter of execution, Linsley said, and not a lack of preparation. Linsley also rebuked the idea of attributing the Buckeyes’ slow start against the Spartans to the draining 42-41 win in Ann Arbor just seven days prior.
How you lose seldom takes away from the fact that it’s a loss, though. In time, junior quarterback Braxton Miller said, the Buckeyes will heal.
“Things happen in games, really don't go your way,” Miller said. "You got to come back and fix the mistakes. Keep your head high, come back stronger.”
Considering that Ohio State had to sit out the 2012 postseason, the Buckeyes are accustomed to waiting for their chance. Healing likely isn’t going to come as they wait for the next chance at validation during a bowl game later this winter.
“It’s going to haunt all of us, I imagine, for a little while,” Meyer said, “but that's part of the game.”