The 2008 BCS Fiesta Bowl turned out to be a pretty good football game, but truth be told, the aftermath did little to resolve the impressions left on both teams and left lingering doubts about two of the nation’s biggest and best major college football programs-Texas and Ohio State.
This was entry ticket to the game: No. 3-ranked Texas was a one-loss team still smarting from not being selected to play in the BCS national championship game; that honor went to two other one-loss teams-No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Oklahoma. No. 10-ranked Ohio State had lost its last two BCS bowl games and was anxious to shed the losing streak because both losses had come in the last two national championship games against Florida and Louisiana State.
This was the game: Despite being favored by 9.5 points and having scored an average of 43+ points a game during the regular season, the Texas Longhorns were held to 3 points in the 1st half as the Ohio State Buckeye defense stood fast, taking a 6-3 lead into the locker room.
After 3rd quarter scores by Longhorn junior quarterback Colt McCoy on a 14-yard run and a 7-yard pass to senior wide receiver Quan Cosby, Texas pulled ahead 17-6.
In the 4th quarter Ohio State cut the margin to 17-15 on a 44-yard field goal from junior Aaron Pettrey, and a 5-yard scoring pass from senior quarterback Todd Boeckman to freshman quarterback Terrell Pryor.
The Buckeye defense held Texas to 3-and-out and then Boeckman led Ohio State on a 73-yard scoring drive capped by freshman running back Daniel Herron’s 15-yard scamper to pay dirt. A 2-yard extra point pass by Boeckman fell incomplete, leaving the Buckeyes’ with a 21-17 lead and 2:11 left to play.
When a game-coverage camera panned to the sideline, the Ohio State bench players were all smiles and starting to celebrate; never a good idea with so much time left in the game and an explosive Texas offense in possession of the ball.
Enter Colt McCoy. Starting on his 22-yard line, McCoy completes passes for 6, 7 13, 7, 3, 14 and finally a 26-yard scoring pass to Cosby that made the Ohio State defenders look silly and out of position. Cosby caught a short pass over the middle, slipped a tackle and sprinted toward the goal line before diving into the end zone with 23 seconds left to play. The joy on the Ohio State sideline turned to disbelief and grief.
Buckeye quarterback Todd Boeckman had the ball with exactly 11 seconds to play and 55 yards from pay dirt when he was promptly sacked for a 10-yard loss as the Buckeye offensive line was badly beaten when they need to hold and let Boeckman try to complete a miracle pass. On the next play with 5 seconds left, the pass fell incomplete, and that was the game.
This was the impression after the game: Texas won and coach Mack Brown and star quarterback Colt McCoy were gushing about the victory like a geyser in a national park. You would have thought that Texas had beaten Florida and Oklahoma on the same afternoon when, in fact, nothing could erase the Texas loss to the Texas Tech Red Raiders earlier in the year.
The Texas players may be legends in their own minds, but the Texas Tech Red Raiders and a lot of other college football fans are not as convinced.
The simple fact of the matter is that Utah has a better claim to being left out of the BCS national title game than Texas. Utah was undefeated at 13-0 this year and humbled Alabama in the BCS Sugar Bowl; every other contender suffered at least one embarrassing loss.
For Ohio State, it marked a 3rd-straight BCS bowl game loss for the 3rd consecutive year, making it easier to forget that Ohio State won the national championship 6 years ago. One annoying memory is seeing all of the stars on the helmets of the Buckeye players like they are King Kong come alive only to watch how helpless and silly they looked when the defense that had held Texas so well early on could not get the job done when it finally mattered.
If I was Jim Tressel and coach of Ohio State, those stars on the helmets would be removed and stay removed until the Buckeyes win another national championship or at least another BCS game. When you strut and can’t back it up, you look ridiculous. Just ask someone who can back it up, like Joe Namath.
Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley