On Jan. 18 at a home basketball game against Michigan, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel told the Buckeyes” fans that they would be proud of their football team when it faced Michigan in Ann Arbor. After the Buckeyes” 26-20 victory over the Wolverines on Saturday, Ohio State fans are proud of their team as well as their Michigan-slaying coach Tressel. He called his shot and hit it out of the park.
“He is no prophet, but he backed up his words,” said Don Bryant, father of Ohio State flanker Ricky Bryant. “That”s been a long time coming for the fans at Ohio State, so you”ve got to love it.”
While Tressel”s choice of words didn”t guarantee a victory, the pressure was on him with four losses coming into the Michigan game.
“We didn”t promise any wins, we promised that you would be proud of us and I think that whether we won this game or not, you would have been proud of us,” Tressel said after the game.
In a one-game season, Ohio State shocked the second-largest crowd in Michigan history by flying out to a 23-0 lead at halftime. They played with passion that would make any Buckeyes” fan proud.
Ohio State running back Jonathan Wells ran as if he had a chip on his shoulder. Wells and his offensive line put the Michigan defense into submission by running for 122 yards and three touchdowns, all in the first half. Wells simply outran the Wolverines” defense on two breakaway runs, where he had been caught from behind in previous games.
“I give credit in the offensive line and my confidence grew with every carry and I just wanted to go out there and help my team,” Wells said.
The Buckeyes” vigor was unmatched by the favorite Michigan. It had been 14 years since the last time Ohio State had defeated the Wolverines at home.
The team”s play was surprising to nearly everyone except of course, Tressel.
“We did the things we needed to do today to win and it just happened to be against Michigan,” Tressel said.
The business-like manner with which Tressel has handled the Michigan game made it unclear as to just how much the victory meant to Ohio State. But for anyone who stayed to watch the Buckeyes” post-game celebration, it was obvious.
Chants of “Tressel! Tressel!” filled Michigan Stadium as players danced on the field took turns carrying the Ohio State flag. The Buckeyes attempted to jump into the stands a la the Green Bay Packers” “Lambeau Leap,” but were pulled down by Michigan Stadium security. Some fans even rushed onto the field. The excitement of the fans wasn”t lost on Tressel.
“I don”t know how many tickets we had, but I think they did a tremendous job,” Tressel said.
With the win, Tressel did what even Ohio State coaching legend Woody Hayes couldn”t do by defeating Michigan in his first attempt.
It remains to be seen whether Tressel”s legend will go the way of former head coach John Cooper or the way of Hayes and Earl Bruce, but the win is one that Ohio State fans will enjoy for the next 362 days and beyond.