“History is written by the victors.”
That phrase has become a truism throughout the history of time. From Winston Churchill allegedly saying it, to Walter Benjamin loosely stating the same in his Theses on the Philosophy of History in 1940, to imprisoned politician, and future first prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru declaring that “history is almost always written by the victors” in his book Discovery of India in 1946. The phrase was also made popular this century by Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – a video game.
Of all the times the phrase has been thrown around, Nehru’s interpretation rings especially true to the 2012 Ohio State Buckeyes. Even though the Bucks could cap off an undefeated season, they couldn’t write their name in the history books as undefeated National Champions.
Serving a one-year postseason probation, the engraving machine for conference championships and bowl game trophies would get a rest from putting ‘Ohio State’ on any of the nameplates. However, there was still something at stake for the Buckeyes: beating Michigan.
The Gold Pants, a trinket given to the winner of the Ohio State-Michigan game, would be the championship trophy for the scarlet and gray.
While winning conference and national championships are great, beating Michigan (and often) is the absolute requisite needed to be deemed a great coach at Ohio State. Woody Hayes did it en route to a handful of national championships, and Jim Tressel’s string of wins in The Game was partially the reason why The School Up North tossed two pretty good head coaches.
Let’s go back down memory lane to Nov.24, 2012, the day where Urban Meyer secured his first win against Michigan – as well as OSU’s first undefeated season since 2002.
How’d We Get Here
The Buckeyes were fresh off a thrilling victory against the Wisconsin Badgers. Ohio State went into Madison, Wis. and denied Badger running back Montee Ball from getting the outright honors of being the NCAA career touchdown record holder. On top of that, the scarlet and gray silenced Camp Randall Stadium by winning in overtime.
Now sitting at 11-0 and No.4 in the polls, OSU awaited a Michigan team that entered at 8-3, while also being ranked at No.19.
Michigan surged up the polls by going on a three game win streak – taking down Minnesota, Northwestern and Iowa in the process – before rolling into Columbus, Ohio. Things looked good for the Wolverines in their last contest before the Buckeyes; quarterback Devin Gardner was part of six touchdowns, and played a huge roll in the 42-17 win in the Big House versus Iowa.
An undefeated season was on the line for the Buckeyes, but equally as important was the fact that they could take the bragging rights of winning The Game away from the Wolverines. In 2011 under the Luke Fickell regime, OSU fell in Ann Arbor, Mich., 40-34.
With Meyer at the helm, he looked to avenge Buckeye Nation in the one game that defies careers in Columbus. Historically, The School Up North has wrecked havoc on undefeated Buckeye squads five times since 1968. From Woody Hayes to John Cooper, the Wolverines found a way to burrow into the Buckeye loss column.
For Meyer, he wasn’t having any of it.
...It’s free real estate
As is tradition, this kickoff found itself on national television. But before the game, the 21 seniors in the class of 2012 were recognized before the kickoff. Zach Boren, Reid Fragel, John Simon and Jake Stoneburner were just some of the notable Buckeyes to suit up for the final time inside The Shoe.
Once Senior Day festivities wrapped up, like clockwork, the Wolverines made themselves known by winning the coin toss – they deferred and the Buckeyes got the ball first.
Fast starts were things that weren’t seen all that much in year one for Meyer at Ohio State. In the regular season opener against Miami (OH), the Buckeyes took about a quarter to get their act together. In Big Ten contests against Michigan State and Purdue, the Buckeyes offense had issue putting points on the board in the early going.
In the opening drive against Michigan, it was going to be established that the run game was going to lean heavily on the pass game. After Braxton Miller took the snaps, he went right to Carlos Hyde on the handoff. The first three plays were Hyde rushing – the first going toward the left tackle side; the second and third rushes making a break for the right side.
Through the first three plays on the ground, Hyde accumulated 15 yards. That’s not too bad. However, it paled in comparison to the next play by the Buckeye offense. With the run game being established, it was time for Miller to go to the air.
One throw, 52 yards worth of real estate collected. Devin Smith hauled in the catch down to the UM 8. This followed a five yard completion to Michael Thomas – who was just a freshman at the time – that would in turn be the setup for Hyde to punch the ball in from three yards out.
Six plays, 75 yards in just over 2:15 seconds. Ohio State jumped out to an early lead for once, but the Wolverines weren’t backing down.
Michigan’s first drive was clicking; Denard Robinson picked up huge chucks of yardage on the ground, while Devin Gardner was making sideline passes to Jeremy Gallon. As the Michigan men marched down deep into Ohio State territory, the Buckeye defense got a break. Adolphus Washington forced Gardner to fumble on a sack, leading to Boren scooping the ball up.
Senior day was off to a right start. Well, at least it seemed that way at the time.
Ohio State’s next drive fell flat, and became a three-and-out. While the Buckeyes were able to punt the ball to the UM 17, the Wolverines took no prisoners on the first drive back after fumbling. Faced with a 3rd-and-2, Gardner went down the sideline for Roy Roundtree.
Remember those old Gatorade commercials, where the characters are trying to one-up each other by saying “whatever you can do, I can do better?” Well, that’s basically what the Wolverines were saying at this point. While Miller connected for 52 yards with Smith, Gardner hit Roundtree with a 75 yard touchdown.
At this point in the game, the realization set in: this wasn’t going to be a runaway for either side; the winner was going to pull this game out by less than a touchdown.
Both teams opening two drives mirrored each other in terms of plays – first drives went six plays, second drives went three plays. The Buckeyes looked to break up this monotony on their third drive. Braxton Miller literally took control of the whole drive. Ten of the 11 plays on the drive featured Miller either passing or rushing. That last play? A field goal attempt by Drew Basil that sailed through the uprights.
With one quarter in the books, the Buckeyes held on to a 10-7 lead. OSU had 10 carries on the ground that accounted for a net total of two whopping yards. Passing wise, Miller uncorked 129 yards while going 8-of-9. On the other hand, Michigan put 32 yards of rushing into the stat box, while throwing an additional 96 yards.
If the first quarter was a wild ride, then the second quarter was about to be the ride that you reconsider all of your life choices you’ve made as it stops at the apex, and then races to the bottom at almost a 90 degree drop.
The second quarter began with the Wolverines having possession of the ball. As they twiddled away a couple minutes through rushing, incomplete passes and an offense pass interference call, the Buckeyes were set to get the ball back.
Well, that was the theory. On the punt, Corey Brown muffed the catch, and the Wolverines got it back. Now sitting on the OSU 25, it took the recollected visitors five plays to get into the scarlet endzone.
Both teams traded drives without scoring again, but the fact remained: Wolverines on top 14-10. Ohio State wanted to get momentum back heading into halftime – after all, the 2002 national championship team was being honored, and the atmosphere was going to be electrifying.
OSU’s second real drive of the second quarter went back to tradition: running. Hyde took a few carries for around 30 yards. Miller then conducted the drive by going to the air, and scampering when needed. As the Buckeyes chipped away and got to the UM 14, it was time for them to take the lead back. Miller went back to air and hit Corey Brown toward the sideline. The scarlet and gray had reclaimed the lead, 17-14, with 1:30 left before in the half.
As Lee Corso of ESPN’s College Gameday would say, “not so fast, my friend.” On the ensuing UM drive, Robinson busted through a tackle, and raced down the field for a 75 yard touchdown.
Big plays proved to be the difference maker, as the Wolverines found another touchdown that went for at least 50 yards.
Ohio State got the ball back on their own 35 yard line with 32 seconds left. Like before, Miller was about to earn another ‘Man of the Drive’ honor. A rush of 17, followed by two quick passes got the Buckeyes down to the Wolverine 35 yard line. Basil got called in, and digged deep to bury a 52 yard field goal as time expired.
A frantic final two minutes of the half led to three scores, and the away team holding a one point advantage. Even though the Buckeyes didn’t have the lead, they did register one of the more iconic images of the Meyer days in Columbus.
Boren’s sack of Gardner is now part of Ohio State-Michigan lore. Just like when Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson housed touchdowns on the Buckeyes in the 1990s, this sack was another big moment in the history of The Game.
Why this moment?
Ohio State was able to get two field goals on the board in the second half – enough to hold off Michigan for a 26-21 win. Even though scoring came at a premium, the hits kept coming, and the strategies utilized kept the game close. Brady Hoke, like Bret Bielema, found a way to slow down the Buckeye machine in the second half. However, in both cases, Meyer was better at shutting down the opposition.
Beating Michigan is always a noteworthy achievement. The players get their gold pants, the band members get gold pant patches for their jackets, and the students (and fans) get to celebrate the win. This win in particular left a weird feeling, though.
The Buckeyes ran the table and went undefeated, but had nothing besides that. While fans rushed onto the field at the end of the game, there was a bittersweet moment realized: you witnessed this team go undefeated and beat Michigan, but that’s it.
We’ll never know if the 2012 Ohio State team would’ve defeated Notre Dame in the national championship game. Better yet, if Ohio State did play for the national championship, they would’ve shut out one-loss Alabama.
But we do know this: after one year at the helm, Urban Meyer had assembled an undefeated team. What lurked on the horizon, even by Ohio State standards, was unconscionable. One of the winningest four-year stretches in college football was now a quarter of the way done.
The lesson learned from the 2012 Ohio State season was this: Meyer was back, and Ohio State was better than ever before.
We’ve covered all the moments from Ohio State’s 2012 undefeated season, now take the quiz.
The state of the college football world
• The SEC Championship was solidified with the Alabama Crimson Tide facing the Georgia Bulldogs. Whoever pulled out the win in Atlanta (spoiler: it was the Crimson Tide) would punch their ticket to Miami Gardens, accumulated. to face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish for the National Championship.
• Montee Ball broke the NCAA career touchdown record at Penn State. Even though Ball’s Wisconsin Badgers lost to the Nittany Lions, they already clinched a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game.
• Johnny Manziel and his Texas A&M Aggies cruised past Missouri, 59-29. The win capped off a 10-2 year, and undoubtedly cemented the fact that Manziel was winning the Heisman Trophy as a freshman.
Current Events happening around The Game
• Fresh off a re-election campaign, President Barack Obama faces a potential fiscal cliff that is compounded by Bush-era tax cuts and a stimulus measure ending on New Year’s Eve.
• ‘Gangham Style’, the wildly famous song by Korean singer Psy, becomes the most viewed video on YouTube, surpassing Justin Bieber. At the time of Psy dethroning Bieber, ‘Gangham Style’ was being viewed roughly between 7 million and 10 million times per day, according to the LA Times.