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That Team Up North: When Ohioans play for ‘TTUN’

The loss is even more painful when it is a native of Ohio who is the main villain.

USA TODAY Sports RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about Ohio State’s rival. We are talking all things TTUN. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our ”That Team Up North” articles here.

Confession time — when I saw this week’s theme for articles a while ago, I winced. Not that the theme is not a worthy one, or that I did not believe I would be able to come up with a topic for an article, but a more deep, personal feeling.

Loss. As in I remember even more losses to “That Team Up North” that predate the woeful 2-10-1 spell from 1988 through 2000, although I will touch on that below, unfortunately.

Quite often, those losses are remembered and associated with players from the state of Ohio who decided to go up north and play for the Michigan Wolverines. If anything, it makes the losses even more painful.

All three of the players could have played for Ohio State, but chose not to, and instead went to the Buckeyes’ biggest rival. Think about having a romantic crush, and not only is your love unrequited, but you find out that your crush is instead going out with the person who makes your blood boil. It kind of reminds me of lyrics from an old Joe Jackson song, “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” ~

“Is she really going out with him?

‘Cause if my eyes don’t deceive me

There’s something going wrong around here”

  1. WR John Kolesar, 1985-1988

The native of Westlake, Ohio had major contributions in two painful Ohio State losses, in 1985 at Ann Arbor (27-17) and 1988 in Columbus (34-31). The first loss was when Kolesar was a true freshman, and caught a 77 yard touchdown pass from Wolverines QB Jim Harbaugh (yes, I remember watching him play in college). The second loss was when Kolesar was a senior, and in John Cooper’s first year as Ohio State’s head coach.

If anything, the second loss was even more painful, as Kolesar had all of the yardage needed to score the go-ahead touchdown to win the game for the Wolverines, with a 60-yard kickoff, then a 40-yard touchdown reception.

2. Desmond Howard, 1991

Now we are into the realm of the 2-10-1 era. Howard was a Cleveland native who had starred at Cleveland St. Joseph, along with his teammate, quarterback Elvis Grbac. Both went to Michigan, and here’s where the pain meter starts to rise.

In 1991, Howard had established himself as a favorite for the Heisman Trophy. The 1991 Michigan/Ohio State game was a natural platform for Howard to display his talents and worthiness of winning the trophy. Ohio State head coach John Cooper, already under fire for losing three times in a row to Michigan (1988-1990), had instructed his punter not to kick the ball to Howard.

And then... In the words of the late Keith Jackson, “Hello Heisman”.

Here is another thing that added salt to that wound — not only did Michigan wind up trouncing Ohio State 31-3, but Ohio State announced the morning of the game that John Cooper had signed a contract extension. My cousin John, who was at the game, told me how he was repeatedly told by gleeful Michigan fans how Ohio State should sign John Cooper for forever.

3. Charles Woodson, 1995 and 1997

In the case of Charles Woodson, a native of Fremont, Ohio, it is still painful to contemplate that an Ohioan went up to Ann Arbor, but it is a little more understandable, considering Fremont is so close to the Ohio-Michigan border line. Woodson has stated on many occasions that he grew up a fan of the Wolverines.

I am including the 1995 loss (31-23), as Woodson was instrumental in helping to shut down Ohio State WR Terry Glenn that day. The 1997 loss (20-14) was similar to Desmond Howard, as Charles Woodson’s performance for a national audience helped Woodson to vault past Tennessee’s Peyton Manning to win The Heisman Trophy.

Three Ohioans who played crucial roles in five Ohio State losses to “That Team Up North”. Whenever you hear long-time Ohio State fans lament about Ohio high school players who decided to go up to Ann Arbor, perhaps you will understand why.