They were not yelling for tailback Dan Herron, who goes by the moniker “Boom.” They were not calling out the last name of starting left tackle Alex Boone, either.
As Ohio State senior quarterback Todd Boeckman trudged off the field after firing an incomplete pass against Troy on Sept. 20, a number of the 102,989 fans in attendance were simply booing the team captain for his performance.
And Alex Boone is still in disbelief.
“I think one of the most disappointing things … is the fact that he went out there and he did what he could,” Boone said. “I think a lot of the seniors were very upset when he got booed. I think that shows a lot of disrespect from the fans.
“This kid took us to the championship last year – how can you boo him? He didn’t play so great against USC, but who did? None of us did. We all got smashed. People started booing him and everyone got mad about that.”
During the second quarter against the Trojans, Boeckman was inserted for his second play of the game. Facing a second-and-17 situation from his own 31-yard line, Boeckman attempted to hit wide receiver Brian Hartline on a medium slant pass but came up short.
He was immediately pulled for freshman Terrelle Pryor, who had earned his first career start. Pryor completed a pass that was negated by penalty and the Buckeyes punted.
“He threw a bad pass, but he said to me he’d make that pass nine times out of 10,” junior lineman Jim Cordle said. “He hadn’t played and he wasn’t loose.”
Boone said several of his teammates – Boeckman included – asked him not to talk about the situation, but the senior lineman said he felt compelled to stick up for his teammate. When the boos rained down, Boone said he felt the line had made a mistake.
“He made the right read and he threw the ball and it was a little short,” he said. “All of a sudden people are starting to scream and the O-line is like, ‘Oh man, did something bad happen?’ We thought maybe someone hit him or something happened. That’s not right and I don’t think that’s fair. I think people should give him another chance. Stand behind your team, you know?”
Boeckman himself spoke briefly to reporters following the game but was not made available for one-on-one interviews. He was not questioned about the incident, but did praise the body of work put forth by his successor in Pryor.
Head coach Jim Tressel did not come down on either side of the situation, expressing his disappointment but also adding that such treatment comes with the territory when playing quarterback at Ohio State. Cordle echoed that final part, pointing out that a lineman can get away with mistakes a quarterback can not because of the nature of the position.
“He’s thrown some pretty good balls and he’s been a part of the fans having a lot of things to cheer about over the last five years, but that’s part of the deal and it’s disappointing, but we’re certainly not going to sit and scold anybody because we’ve got enough problems of our own,” Tressel said.
Boone, however, took the different approach.
“I think a lot of people don’t really think about the impact it has on Todd or us,” he said. “The kid deserves a lot of respect. He’s on the Ohio State football team and he deserves respect. Booing from the opponents, that happens everywhere. But from our own fans, that was something we did not like.
“That shows no respect to the player.”