Wednesday, January 7, 2009

OSU Football: No need to hang your head

GLENDALE, Ariz. — James Laurinaitis has been the quintessential Ohio State linebacker during his career with the Buckeyes.

The Minnesota-native has been an incredible talent in his four years with the Scarlet and Gray, using his uncanny instincts and a hard running motor, to wreak havoc on opposing offenses like no one in a Buckeyes' uniform has done since Chris Spielman did it more than 20 years ago.

Ever since the Buckeyes 2005 victory at Michigan — where a freshman Laurinaitis filled in for an injured Bobby Carpenter — everyone could see that the player known as "Little Animal" had something very special inside of him.

On Monday night, Laurinaitis — who copped himself a plethora of college football awards in his career with the Buckeyes — walked off the field for the final time in an OSU uniform at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

Unfortunately, it was with his head hanging down in shame.

Instead of riding off into the desert sunset, pumping his fists in glory, the Buckeyes star linebacker simply walked into the team's tunnel, shared a couple of hugs with former teammates' Antonio Pittman (St. Louis Rams) and Vernon Gholston (New York Jets), and then leisurely journeyed down the hallway toward the OSU locker room, stopping a few times to raise his hands behind his head in utter disappointment.

Laurinaitis — who finished the 24-21 Fiesta Bowl loss to No. 3 Texas with nine tackles — realized that the redemption of the last two BCS Championship defeats wouldn't come to fruition.

He understood that many would view he and his troops as washouts.

The Buckeyes were just 16 ticks away from sending Laurinaitis out a winner, but a missed tackle by Anderson Russell on Longhorns flanker, Quan Cosby, sealed the Buckeyes' fate as BCS bowl game losers once again.

But for Laurinaitis, it wasn't just simply "once again" — it was once and for all.
For those who have spent time around Laurinaitis, it came as no surprise that he quickly shook off the loss and reflected on the great accomplishments that he and his teammates racked up during their tenure in Columbus.

"I think it has been an amazing career for all of us (seniors)," Laurinaitis said, following the loss. "We have done a lot of special things. Obviously, it is not the way you want to go out. But regardless, I think this class has done a lot of, like I said, special things.

"Being part of two outright Big Ten championships, four BCS bowl games, two BCS championship (games).

"We have done some good things, and obviously, we wish we would have had this one tonight."

Laurinaitis, who has been the ambassador for the Buckeyes defense the past three seasons, shouldn't be looked at as a three-time loser.

He has helped lead the Buckeyes to many great feats in his career, including four wins over rival Michigan and three conference titles.

Laurinaitis is a winner and should be hailed as one of the greatest Buckeyes to have ever taken the field, while donning the Scarlet and Gray.

Those who don't understand that, should be the one's hanging their head's down in shame.