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Give Hamby a break

Let it go! Buckeyes' TE not to blame for Texas loss

Posted: Wednesday December 28, 2005 11:42AM; Updated: Wednesday December 28, 2005 11:42AM
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How much did Ryan Hamby's dropped pass against Texas really matter?
How much did Ryan Hamby's dropped pass against Texas really matter?
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In the spirit of the holidays, the Mailbag was pondering a way to make its own contribution to peace, love and understanding in this edition when it ran across this disturbing e-mail sent a few weeks back:

Stewart, what no one seems to be mentioning is that the BCS was one Ryan Hamby dropped catch from all hell breaking loose. Having undefeated USC and one-loss Texas, Ohio State, Oregon and Penn State would be the biggest controversy yet. The BCS got very lucky Hamby can't catch.
--Zack Daubenmire, Jackstown, Ohio

Certainly, it's been fun to play the "What if?" game this BCS season. What if Matt Leinart's fumble against Notre Dame hadn't gone out of bounds? What if Michigan hadn't gotten those two extra seconds against Penn State? And, as the above e-mail references, what if Texas hadn't come back to beat Ohio State? All would have made for a far more controversial Rose Bowl.

But to pin the whole thing on Ryan Hamby? You've got to be kidding me.

Hamby, you may recall, is the Ohio State tight end who received numerous death threats after bobbling, then dropping a wide-open touchdown catch in the much-watched Buckeyes-Longhorns game on Sept. 10. Pretty disgusting. Three months later, you would think all would finally be forgotten, but judging by my inbox, there are still plenty of Ohioans who blame Hamby for the Buckeyes falling short of the Rose Bowl (never mind that they lost a second game, to Penn State), while others seem to consider his drop one of the seminal moments of the season, right alongside the Reggie Bush push.

Personally, I'd completely forgotten about it until watching an ESPN Classic replay of the Texas-Ohio State game a couple weekends ago, during which I came to the following conclusion: Ryan Hamby may be the most unfairly vilified player in the history of college football.

OK, so that may be overstating it a bit, but there's one indisputable fact about the play that makes e-mails like the one above so ridiculous: IT HAPPENED IN THE THIRD QUARTER. You read that right. Hamby did not drop the game-winning touchdown on the final play. Rather, his gaffe was the difference between the Buckeyes going up 26-16 instead of 22-16, opening the door for Vince Young to throw the winning touchdown... more than a quarter later. How are we to know how the rest of the game would have turned out if he had scored? Both teams might have played differently. Maybe Young would have thrown a second touchdown. Maybe he would have tried to force things, thrown a pick, and fallen behind by 17. We'll never know whether that drop truly made the difference.

What we do know is that Ohio State had plenty of other opportunities to extend its lead and a chance to come back after Young's touchdown. In fact, watching the Buckeyes drive to the Texas 29 with less than six minutes to go, already up six, you'd have a hard time believing they actually lost the game.

On the very next play, however, Texas defensive tackle Rodrique Wright stuffed Ohio State tailback Antonio Pittman for a 4-yard loss, forcing Josh Huston to attempt a 50-yard field goal that missed by fewer than 4 yards. Then, on what would become the game-winning drive, an OSU player lined up offsides on a 'Horns third-and-1 play, giving them a first down (Young threw the touchdown to Limas Sweed two plays later). Finally, on the Buckeyes' first play after getting the ball back, quarterback Justin Zwick got chased out of the pocket and got stripped by Texas LB Drew Kelson as he was running downfield.

Somehow, this was all Hamby's fault.

In the spirit of holiday giving, the Mailbag is asking all its readers to please, in the name of sanity, give poor Ryan Hamby a break. The fifth-year senior will be playing his final collegiate game in the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame, and while the Mailbag has no rooting interest, if Ohio State does win, here's hoping Hamby catches the game-winning touchdown.

Not much has been made about the typical Jan. 1 bowl games being moved to the 2nd. What caused the change? If it was simply for TV, the better option would be to play the NFL games on Saturday and keep the college games on the 1st. I think fewer people will end up watching the college games, and the move hurts the exposure of the sport.
--Eric Anderson, Barrington, Ill.

Actually, this isn't a new development -- most New Year's Day games did the same thing the last four times Jan. 1 fell on a Sunday (1978, 1984, 1989 and 1995). And as you might guess, it's entirely TV driven. The sad reality, at least for those of us who prefer the college game, is that NFL regular-season games draw higher ratings than any of the bowls outside of the national championship game. Therefore, the NFL gets first dibs, and the bowls don't have much of a choice but to move to the 2nd.