No shortage of great memories while covering Ohio State football
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Change of pace for the last one. What were your top memories from covering the Buckeyes?
— Patrick Murphy (@_Pat_Murphy) June 19, 2018
Because I’ll be on previously planned vacation during the final week of June, this will be the last Ohio State Question of the Day before Land of 10 ends its run on June 30. It will also be the end of my time in Columbus, as I’ll be attending Tulane Law School beginning in August. With that in mind, I thought Pat’s question offered the perfect chance to reflect on the best moments in my five seasons as a journalist on the Ohio State beat.
Above all else, I’ll always remember the 2014 season and the incredible ride it offered. I was putting the finishing touches on the cover story for the football preview issue of Buckeye Sports Bulletin — a story about the last chance for Braxton Miller and the Class of 2011 to win something at Ohio State — when news broke that Miller had sustained a season-ending injury just a couple of weeks before the season opener.
That alone was crazy enough, but that season really had it all: A redshirt freshman quarterback going 11-1 before also getting injured, the shocking Virginia Tech loss, a crazy double-overtime win in a Penn State whiteout, the crazy improvement of the offensive line, the triumph of Cardale Jones, the huge group of second-year superstars, a Heisman-worthy performance (if it were awarded, you know, after the entire season) from Ezekiel Elliott in the final three games of the season, the death of Kosta Karageorge, the 59-0 blasting of Wisconsin, the jokes between Tyvis Powell and Jones, a cathartic win against Alabama and, oh yeah, a national championship. We may never see anything like it again.
Other than that season, which stands alone in its greatness, here are some other memories that stand out from my five seasons on the beat.
- Perhaps the first thing I noticed — and it still amazes me — was the size of the fan base. Even as an LSU graduate, I never saw anything in the SEC that compares to the following Ohio State has. The shocking picture of Cal’s stadium bathed in scarlet came early in my first season and offered a clue that Buckeye Nation was a literal term. My first employer, Buckeye Sports Bulletin, had subscribers in all 50 states, and the Ohio State fan base devours so much coverage that a seemingly limitless amount of outlets can cover it and turn a profit. On road games, the Ohio State beat often had more writers in the press box than the home team. More often than not, the fan base made covering this team easy and fun.
- Here’s what happened in the first Ohio State-Michigan game I ever saw in person: There was a full-on fight with multiple ejections early in the second quarter, a crazy back-and-forth game ensued, Ohio State’s defense looked like it would never get a stop … and then it did, on a 2-point conversion with the game on the line after Michigan elected to go for the win instead of playing for a tie. And then while we were back in the press box writing about the craziness, the Kick Six happened and Ohio State was suddenly in a position to play for a national championship. (Though Michigan State ended those hopes one week later.)
- My favorite interview subject might have been former graduate assistant and Woody Hayes disciple John Johnson, who later went on to manage Buster Douglas to an upset of Mike Tyson. He was one of Hayes’ most trusted confidants, and his story about the time Woody dialed up Richard Nixon at the White House to beg him not to resign is an all-timer. He also touched on a number of other topics in a previous interview that’s worth reading.
- The 2015 season was baffling from start to finish. The Buckeyes looked like world beaters against Virginia Tech and then almost lost to Northern Illinois and Indiana. And then they did lose to a much less talented Michigan State team — also playing without quarterback Connor Cook — and morphed into a juggernaut for the final two games after taking Ed Warinner off the sideline. Who knew the offensive coordinator should probably be upstairs in the coaching booth? Not Ohio State’s coaching staff, apparently.
- The 2016 season — my first at Land of 10 — was very nearly death by road night game. The Buckeyes played road night games at Oklahoma, at Wisconsin and at Penn State, the latter two coming in consecutive weeks. There’s nothing like writing until 3 or 4 a.m. and then getting up a couple of hours later to either drive or fly home. It was hard and brutal and also some of the most fun I’ve had.
- I don’t think we’ll ever know what happened in the Iowa game last fall. I really don’t. It’s a great life lesson, though. Sometimes you’re in a position to make the College Football Playoff only to have a Brian Ferentz-coordinated offense (which finished the season ranked No. 116 of 129 teams in total offense) hang 55 points on you. (OK, there was one interception returned for a touchdown.) Life is weird.
- Ohio State has exceptional athletes, and most of them also were great quotes. Some of my favorites to talk to, in no particular order: Joshua Perry, Sam Hubbard, Michael Bennett, Tyvis Powell, Cardale Jones, Billy Price and Joey Bosa (who had the best dry humor, even if it didn’t always translate in print).
I’m sure there are plenty of things I’ve missed or forgotten, but this article might never end if I got to everything. Thanks to everyone who followed along with my coverage. I’ll miss it, and I’ll miss y’all.
Read more answers to questions about the Ohio State Buckeyes here.