'It's still hard to swallow'
Ohio State still smarting from Michigan State loss
Posted: Monday December 28, 1998 07:14 PM
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The city of New Orleans is a college football player's dream: Cajun food, Bourbon Street, jazz and the excitement of playing on national television in the Sugar Bowl.
Despite the attractions and distractions, what happened on November 7 -- the day Ohio State threw away a shot at a national championship -- still weights on minds of the Buckeyes even as they prepare for a New Year's Day date with Texas A&M.
"Every day. Every day," flanker Dee Miller said when asked if he still thinks about the painful 28-24 loss to Michigan State.
That shocking defeat -- to a 28-point underdog who trailed by 15 points on the road midway through the third quarter -- dropped the Buckeyes from the No. 1 spot they had held all season. It also all but vaporized their shot at the Bowl Championship Series title game. Florida State will take on Tennessee January 4 in the Fiesta Bowl to decide who's No. 1.
"We screwed up," offensive tackle Tyson Walter said. "We weren't really into the game mentally, I don't think. We made a lot of dumb mistakes that we shouldn't have and that's the thing that's going to stay with us forever, that we lost that game. They didn't win it. We just screwed up."
"It's still hard to swallow," Miller said, "because I know if we'd have won that game, we'd be playing in Tempe."
But it's not as though Ohio State is consumed by the loss. The Buckeyes came right back to pound Iowa 45-14 and then beat 11th-ranked Michigan 31-16. A pair of mammoth upsets two Saturdays later -- A&M stunned top-ranked Kansas State and UCLA fell at Miami -- got Ohio State a return trip to the Sugar Bowl.
Even Ohio State offensive coordinator Mike Jacobs said he's still got a Michigan State hangover, but is confident that the Buckeyes are capable of moving on.
"You're never going to erase that dream and ambition of what we had coming into this season," he said during Sugar Bowl preparations Monday. "Certainly that's going to stick with you. But in athletics, you don't get to gloat over those great wins nor do you have time to sulk about those terrible defeats. That was a big one. But I think we showed at the end of the year with the Iowa game and the Michigan game that our players were ready to rebound."
The Buckeyes stress they haven't forgotten the Michigan State game, but don't grieve about it anymore either.
"You can't cry about it, you have to deal with it and just keep going on," Miller said. "That's what we did. We regrouped and beat Michigan, now we're trying to go down and beat A&M."
Quarterback Joe Germaine said, "That game hurts. It definitely hurts. But it doesn't do us any good to think about it now."
Tailback Michael Wiley added, "When I'm out there playing, I'm focused on the next opponent. But every now and then I see a film clip from that [Michigan State] game and I think a little bit about what might have been."
The Buckeyes hope to use the memory of that loss -- and what might have been -- as motivation in the Sugar Bowl. Despite what the polls or the BCS say, they believe they can still state their case that they were and maybe still are the best team in the land.
"There's nothing you can do about it, nothing you can change," offensive guard Rob Murphy said. "We just happen to be in the Sugar Bowl and we're going to give it our best. I mean, there's nothing you can do about it but to just go out and keep on proving to a nationwide audience that we should be the best team."
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