Tuesday, March 11, 2014
By RUSTY MILLER The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer isn’t one to dwell on what-ifs, but he can’t help but think his Buckeyes would be a prime contender for the NCAA national championship.
The Associated Press
"I can't stay here and live in the past and wish and hope," said a wistful Etienne Sabino, a senior linebacker. "There's nothing I can control. I try not to think about it."
But the underclassmen feel a void, as well.
Star quarterback Braxton Miller says it's an injustice that the Buckeyes paid the price for others' mistakes in judgment.
"I'm really disappointed," said Miller, who will be a junior next fall. "They got in trouble before I got here. With the probation, it's very disturbing for the players. We put in the hard work and went 12-0 and, you know, should have had an opportunity to go to the national championship game. It's not fair."
There are other considerations, of course. The lack of a bowl game denies Ohio State weeks of practice that even a mediocre bowl-bound team with a 6-6 record gets. It also denies a national stage to an unbeaten team, perhaps preventing the seniors from another opportunity to impress pro scouts. And it eliminates an additional high-profile chance for Meyer to show off the rebuilding project he's overseen at Ohio State, one that might be very appealing to potential recruits who are glued to the TV during the postseason.
Meyer believes the players will just have to work harder to make up for those missed practices. And that the coaches must work even harder to reach recruits and spread the word of the rebirth at Ohio State in the wake of the Tressel trauma.
Those are still minor considerations, he believes, compared to what the seniors lost.
"Everybody has a dream of playing for a national title and our guys don't get that opportunity," he said softly.
Despite the premature end to their season, the players take great pride in that perfect record. NCAA rules allow players to leave a team -- without having to sit out a transfer year -- when a team gets hit with major penalties. Yet none of the Buckeyes left under those circumstances. They stuck around, and will be rewarded with rings for winning their Big Ten division and will be remembered as a unit that provided a cornerstone for what's to come.
"This season just kind of sets a tone for the future years," senior fullback and linebacker Zach Boren said.
That doesn't mean being left behind isn't painful.
"We're really proud of what we did going 12-0. We accomplished everything we could. We won our division, we won our big game (Michigan) at the end," Mewhort said. "I want to stress how important that was to us to win every game possible for these seniors. They led us. It was all for them. But it does get a little frustrating as you get close to bowl season.
"Because you still have that fire burning, you know. You want to go out there and compete."