The Buffalo Bills.
The Ohio State University.
That’s what Ohio State was left with after Monday night’s bitter 38-24 defeat at the hands of LSU in the BCS Championship Game.
Another round of bad jokes.
Another fast start.
Another fading finish.
Another crunching loss to the SEC champion.
Another frantic search for consolation.
“We competed a lot better this year,’’ Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis said.
The Ohio State Bills? The Buffalo Buckeyes?
It’s an unfortunate comparison, but an accurate one. During the 1990s, the Bills had one of the greatest runs in NFL history. But they will be remembered for losing in the big game.
So will the Buckeyes (11-2), who have fallen twice in the Big Game, both losses coming as the No. 1-ranked team and the outright Big Ten Conference winner.
“Too many times past the 50-yard line [and not scoring],’’ Ohio State wide receiver Brian Hartline said. “We shot ourselves in the foot. Our fans did such a great job of traveling [to the game]. I wish I could put them all in one room and apologize to them.’’
“It hurts tremendously,’’ Ohio State running back Chris “Beanie’’ Wells said. “To go to the national-championship game two times and lose them both, it’s incredible.’’
Last season, Ted Ginn Jr. took the opening kickoff for a 93-yard score against the Florida Gators and it looked like an avalanche was starting. It was — in the other direction. Florida 41, Ohio State 14. The Buckeyes managed 82 total yards and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Troy Smith played in a fog.
Monday night, on the game’s fourth play from scrimmage, Wells roared for a 65-yard touchdown and the Buckeyes tacked on a field goal during their next possession.
LSU promptly scored on its next four possessions. It opened the second half with another touchdown drive, capping a run of 31 consecutive points.
“I don’t think we’ll be making a highlight reel out of the second quarter [when LSU scored 21 unanswered points],’’ Tressel said.
LSU hung in there.
Ohio State seemed to panic.
“This game is about momentum,’’ Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said.
Momentum that didn’t swing Ohio State’s way — again.
Clearly, this was not Youngstown State and Akron. This was LSU — at the Superdome. This was another elite SEC team. And by the end, Ohio State was 0-9 in bowl games against the SEC. In the words of Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, “It’s a fact.’’
He didn’t hide it.
Afterward, he took every shot, square in the jaw.
“I worry about the disappointment of the loss,’’ Tressel said. “I know how hard the kids work. I don’t worry too much about criticism. If you’re not tough enough to handle criticism, you better get out of this game.
“There are a lot of people out there who don’t know how hard this game is and they love to have opinions. If you struggle taking criticism, you need to not be at Ohio State or not be playing the game of football.’’
Unlike last season, the BCS Championship Game was probably more about LSU’s heads-up play than Ohio State’s failings. The Buckeyes had three turnovers and 83 penalty yards, contributing mightily to the outcome, but it was more about LSU making big plays.
With the score 10-10, LSU’s Ricky Jean-Francois blocked a 38-yard field-goal attempt by Ohio State’s Ryan Pretorious, the first major turn of momentum. Ohio State suddenly had trouble moving the ball. You could almost sense the seeping confidence.
“We didn’t feel like they could pass the ball well enough against us to win the game,’’ LSU coach Les Miles said. “We felt they had to run it. Then when we got ahead, we were able to start dictating [the flow of the game]. We just knew we were going to [eventually] hold their offense.’’
One play, early in the second half, seemed emblematic of Ohio State’s problematic night.
With the Tigers up 24-10 but stalled on fourth-and-23 at the LSU 40-yard line, Ohio State’s Austin Spitler seemingly had the perfect angle to block Patrick Fisher’s punt and perhaps reverse the momentum.
Spitler missed the ball.
Fisher still rocketed a 60-yard punt.
And Spitler was called for roughing the punter.
With new life, and aided by a 15-yard personal foul penalty by Ohio State on the next play from scrimmage, LSU stormed downfield and got a 4-yard touchdown pass from Matt Flynn to Early Doucet, giving the Tigers a 31-10 advantage with 9:04 remaining in the third quarter.
“You evaluate effort, first and foremost,’’ Tressel said. “What I appreciated was the effort. Those are the type of things where you are inches away from turning the tide. We didn’t do it.
“We were going after the punt. Our guy did a great job, but it was one of those things. He kind of went right by the ball. It just didn’t go our way.’’
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