From Columbus Ohio, Marky Mark, Philly Ray, Dr. Reilly and yours truly, to deliver this eyewitness report for your 12-0 The Ohio State Buckeyes! What a way to end the cold and flu season!
The pilgrimage started Friday afternoon, around 5:00 pm as Marky Mark rolled in to pick me up at my mom’s. With a sort of half smiling, have warning grin…
- Mom of JoeyV: “You know there are going to be lots of cops down there Joseph.”
- JoeyV: (vernacular not accepted by Mom yet, but one half of sister population goes exclusively with it) “So why are you informing me of this misuse of state government funds?”
- Mom of JoeyV: “You know exactly why I am telling you. Be careful.”
- JoeyV: “I will.” I was amazed at the ease of this purely voice reflexive response…more than a few years in hibernation.
Off we went down the highway. Not too long into the drive, the flakes of snow start falling, and with increasing velocity that it was creating intermittent waves across the road. Me and Marky Mark, both of warm climate locations, oh let’s say the last 26 years immediately understand we are not in Kansas anymore. Another 15 minutes into the drive, a dear traipses across the highway, far enough away that it caused no application of brake pressure in our direction, but close enough to see the deer surge into oncoming traffic on the opposite side of us and slam right into the side of a car traveling at acceptable highway speeds. Bambi Alert: Amazingly I saw the deer run away after impact, again showing the importance of wrapping up when you tackle, a theme amplified the next day on Denard’s long run.
With the driving direction south towards Florida, the snow finally stops. Of course, the phone lights up from Philly Ray with this eloquent text…”You two fat asses better be on your way.” The energy amongst the gang is already at a fever pitch and this only incited Marky Mark and me even further as I rebut with a variety of anatomical references back to my life long friend. Things are moving along nicely until …as Marky Mark tells the story….”Then as we continue our trip in I-71 south, we encounter a highway traffic nightmare .. complete stand still ….. of course, we contemplate options and/or the possibility of how long this could last …. luckily, we happened to be stopped adjacent to an exit ramp … Rt 61. Mt Gilead Ohio. History Alert via Wiki: 2000 Census Numbers 3,290 people of which 2.2% are not white folks according to the racial profile. Additionally, a notable native and resident listed was Claude Dallas, self described mountain man convicted of involuntary manslaughter and later escaped from prison. (Back to Marky Mark…I cut across a couple lanes (or stopped traffic) to the entrance of the off ramp and examine my GPS …. I tell JoeyV that I think we should exit and consider an alternate route around the problem .. particularly, since we had no idea how long our delay could last ,,, I exit and cross the overpass .. JoeyV looks down the highway and reports “brake lights as far as the eye could see” …. and we’re feeling good about our decision to venture into uncharted territory …. again, I scan around on my GPS and dial in on a coordinate some miles south of our exit point (in hopes it’s far enough) …. she guides us through the country back roads and ultimately back to the highway … maybe 10 miles further south and only about 5-10 minute delay to our destination …. and JoeyV exclaims, “They can’t stop us!!!”
Making it to sister’s we plot the meeting point for Philly Ray and Dr. Reilly. Yea, its the Buckeye’s let’s head to Eddie George’s bar restaurant and make sure we patronize one of our legends. Before we do, Marky provides this pearl of wisdom to my nephew, embarking on the last half of his senior year of high school regarding his collegiate plans.
Marky Mark: “What are you going to study?”
Nephew Corey: “Neuroscience.”
Marky Mark: “I can tell you are not going to have near the fun I had in college.”
Uncle JoeyV: Noddingly agrees with his drinking buddy but voices nothing in fear of auditory record.
The gang gets to Eddie’s place, and it is a nice crowd. Full of energy and lots of OH-IO intermittent chants. Beers, shots, and breakfast all follow late into the night… a standard of lateness only set for those folks where the bars are not open 24 hours. Much of the evening was just the healthy exchange of stories and reflections on many years of camaderie with beers being the common denominator. We know it is just a tuneup; we do not worry about tomorrow, and we go hard on evening one. As we part for the evening with Philly Ray and Dr. Reilly, we all agree to meet at my sister’s at 8:00 am so we can start tailgating.
9:00 am and we are in the car. My sister’s valiant effort to provide a nutritional base over an expected heavy dose of hops goes for not as her breakfast quiche falls with a resounding thud as the gang’s night before activities leave a general feeling of queasiness. Brother in Law Barry, drops us off as close as possible to the stadium without becoming ensnared in traffic. We begin the walk of approximately .5 mile to begin the festivities and are generally surprised just how cold it is. And we are dressed for the occasion; full gear… hat, gloves, thermal shirts, socks etc…..
We head to the legendary Varsity. The atmosphere is juiced. We pound several quick ones and begin to make our way to the stadium. Dr. Reilly is confident we can find a friend of a friend to stop and have a few beers in the tailgate section. We never find a friend, but rather a jar asking for donations, which we figured if you had cash you could drink. We do, we quickly deposit two more and head to the stadium. Marky Mark and I are together, Philly Ray and Dr. Reilly, other parts unknown.
Tickets as shown are great seats. About 45 yard line upper deck, but not too high in the row count that had the players resembling ants. We are in our seats to watch the famed script Ohio. Sluggish and cold, I again error on the video release, and hit the camera button. Sorry Marky! Then, the first “Oh pooh” moment during senior introductions, defensive and inspirational leader, John Simon comes out last in the tunnel, limping and in street clothes. A well informed JoeyV is stunned by this development. I cannot believe Urban got this past me.
The Buckeyes take a first quarter lead of 10-7. Miller hooks up on the opening drive with a long pass to Smith that sets up a touchdown run by Hyde. We look good overall and Michigan’s big play is a 75 yard pass to Roundtree. It is interesting that most of the fan base screams at Brady Hoke during the quarter. He is wearing short sleeves in the arctic weather with most of the OSU faithful mocking him for a lack of toughness but rather, let’s just say insulation associated with a Walrus.
Lots of action in the second quarter. Michigan draws first blood to go up 14-10. The key a fumbled punt return by Brown. Marky Mark and I are screaming because no one is back on the punt return for the Buckeyes. Figuring they are going for the block, the Buckeyes miss and rough the punter only to have Mr. Brown sprint for return coverage while covering the wideout and drops it. Two mistakes, and the Wolverines take the more damaging one…recovery deep in Buckeye territory. After a couple of alternating possessions, and a heavy dose of Carlos Hyde and the Buckeyes go up 17-14. Marky continues to lament that we are being “Fickelled.” Things only madden for him as on the ensuing possession, Denard goes on a 67 yard jaunt. Two Buckeyes, I think Bryant and Shazier, hit him from opposites sides sandwich style, with exactly the perfect application of opposite forces to keep Denard straight up with the always prevalent lack of the arms for wrapping…and Denard scampers for 67. Somehow with only .40 left on the clock, the Buckeyes get a 52 yard field goal and are down 21-20 at half. We are thankful, concerned and paranoid…it is yet again another Buckeye football game.
The second half begins with what was the dumbest coaching decision of the day by Brady. (Don’t worry if we would have lost Urban would have his own…stay tuned.). Opening drive, 4th and 3 from their own 48, and a timeout to for the genius mind of Brady to forget the punt and decide to go for it on fourth down. Here is how I understand what purportedly happened in the exchange between Brady and Denard.
- Brady: “They know you cannot throw because of your strained arm ligament so they will be expecting the run.”
- Denard: “Listen, I have not been able to throw since I have been on campus. What was that guy’s name Ke$ha? Give me the damn ball; Tick Tock goes the Clock.”
Denard takes a two yard loss, Buckeye football and the stadium erupts. More walrus jokes for Brady. Hyde Miller three times in alternative fashion and we settle for a 28 yard field goal. Michigan on the next possession fumbles, Buckeyes recover on the Michigan 37. First and goal from 4. WTC? Miller back to pass and is sacked for a 6 yard loss. Next play snap over the head of Miller for a 12 yard loss. Third down and infinity, Basil misses from 39 yards we are still only up 23-21 and have just blown two relatively easy touchdown opportunities. For a moment I forget about the cold as I go ballistic. Meyer catches my full wrath in front of 105,000 eyewitnesses. I go into full Loserville mold knowing we are doomed as the darkness of my past becomes a full light. Even Marky, typically as negative as me even told me to chin up a bit. For the record, of the 11 plays the Buckeyes executed to that point in the second half, 10 of them were running plays. There was no need to get cute at the goal line. We needed some Raw-Hyde! Ugh!
We start the 4th Quarter and our driving only to see Miller fumble at the Michigan 28. I am in emotional free fall relaying to Marky that we are going to get the ball back with less than minute, down by one and needing a miracle field goal to win it. With 9:18 left we force yet another fumble, this one recovered at the Michigan 10. A touchdown and we will cruise to victory. Three straight runs and on fourth down we kick the field goal to go up 26-21. One more possession by Michigan and Gardner throws a pick that the Buckeyes get on the Michigan 48. Buckeyes run out the clock on a huge third down and seven run by Hyde to win the game 26-21. Relief, exhaustion and bitter cold! It was more difficult than it needed to be but we won and after a long season, that is what counted the most.