COLUMBUS — Ohio State honored it's 2002 national championship team on Saturday afternoon at Ohio Stadium by doing what that triumphant squad accomplished 10 years ago ...
They won them all!
The fourth-ranked Buckeyes used nearly 400 yards of offense and an opportunistic defense which caused four turnovers, to take down the rival Michigan Wolverines, 26-21 — finishing the 2012 season undefeated (12-0, 8-0 Big Ten).
After the 2002 team put former head coach Jim Tressel on their shoulders following the tearjerking first quarter moment of appreciation, new Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer had those same feelings of accomplishment after Saturday's game — his first against the Wolverines.
You see, Meyer had a mission coming into the season. And on Saturday ... that mission was accomplished.
"Very emotional time," Meyer said. "And obviously this is the state I grew up in. This is the state I made a comment on last November, December, whenever it was, that our objective is to make the great state of Ohio proud.
"I imagine tonight there's a lot of people in this great state very proud of what their football team, no one else's, this is the state of Ohio's football team.
"And I'm sure they're very proud."
Star quarterback Braxton Miller, who has been a catalyst for the Buckeyes' quest for perfection this season, finished with 240 total yards and a touchdown pass, while tailback Carlos Hyde rushed for a game-high 146 yards and a score in the victory.
"It's a perfect season, you can't ask for anything better," Miller said. "You have to get all the wins you can, especially against The Team Up North and at home."
Hyde said Saturday's game is the very reason he chose to come play in Columbus.
"That's exactly why I came here, to play in big games like this against
our rival in the 'Shoe," Hyde said. "Having a shot at being undefeated made it even more special."
The Buckeyes' defense looked shaky at the start giving up three touchdowns and 219 total yards in the first half. However, after a few half time adjustments, the defense became the "Silver Bullets," holding the Wolverines scoreless in the second half, while surrendering just 60 yards — eight in the final quarter of play.
And the defense did it without the services of their heart and soul, senior defensive end John Simon.
Buckeyes leading tackler on the season, sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier, said after the game that they had to step up with such an integral part of their unit out of commission.
He said the defense is used to elevating their play when leaders go down.
"It was rough not knowing if (Simon) was going to play," Shazier said. "I thought the whole week that he was going to play. When he told us he wasn't going to play, we had to bring it in together as a team, like when (Etienne) Sabino got hurt. We had to win it for him."
The Buckeyes got on the scoreboard first after driving 75 yards on six plays on their opening series, highlighted by a 52-yard pass from Miller to Devin Smith deep into Michigan territory. The drive would culminate with a three-yard scoring run by Hyde.
Michigan would answer later in the first quarter when quarterback Devin Gardner found receiver Roy Roundtree on a 75-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 7-7.
After a Drew Basil field goal gave the Buckeyes a 10-7 lead to finish the first quarter, the Wolverines began to have the breaks go their way in the second, as they recovered a muffed punt by the Buckeyes Philly Brown that set them up well inside Ohio State territory.
The Wolverines would take advantage, gaining their first lead with 10:42 to play before half time, when Gardner ran in a short touchdown to go up 14-10.
The Buckeyes would regain the lead later in the quarter, when Miller connected with Brown on a touchdown pass from 14 yards out.
However, the Wolverines would waste little time crushing the Buckeyes momentum again, as senior quarterback Denard Robinson raced 67 yards for a touchdown on a keeper to put the visitors back ahead 21-17.
The Buckeyes would use a 52-yard field goal by Basil to pull the lead to within one at the break.
The second half was all about defensive dominance for the Buckeyes, forcing two fumbles and an interception to keep the Wolverines from scoring.
Senior linebacker Zach Boren, who led the Buckeyes in tackles with nine during his final game, said the Buckeyes won "The Game' because their toughness and determination drilled into them by their coaches put them over the top on Saturday.
"This team is tough all the way from the seniors to the freshman and extends to the coaching staff," Boren said. "The way we train, how the coaches drill us, it all comes from turning the little things into big things."
The Buckeyes would pick up a couple Basil field goals in the second half to go along with the inspiring defensive effort to get the win and wrap up the season in perfection.
The 2012 Buckeyes will not be able to win the BCS Championship like the 2002 squad they honored on Saturday ... but they could still achieve the Associated Press national title without playing in the post-season.
Meyer said he isn't going to lobby for the voters to select the Buckeyes for the crown, but did state that his team can play with anyone in the land.
"I think this team could play and compete with any team in the United States of America as of now," Meyer said. "I didn't say that several weeks ago because we couldn't. I understand but I'm not going to get into the what ifs and can't control what you can't control. What if we would have done this, what if we would have done this?
"We're 12-0. I'm going to see to it when you walk into that Woody Hayes facility this team will never be forgotten, because they deserve that."