September 18, 2014

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Tressel was rooting for the Wolverines

 

 

COLUMBUS — Fans cheered, players laughed, horns honked. It was quite a little celebration.

No, that wasn’t the reaction around Ohio Stadium to Ohio State’s 38-6 win over Youngstown State on Saturday, but rather Michigan’s stunning 34-32 home loss to Appalachian State that ended later.

The final minutes of the game were shown on the big screen at the stadium after most of the 105,000 paying fans had filed out. The blocked field goal in the last seconds that preserved the win elicited a large roar in the near-empty stadium. Workers in the press box had to be shushed because they were rejoicing too loudly after the upset.

Down in a room near the home locker room, the Buckeyes smiled when the final score was relayed to them.

Yet Ohio State coach Jim Tressel says he had the opposite reaction. He was rooting for the Wolverines.

“I’m never glad when a conference opponent loses outside of your game with them,” Tressel said on Tuesday. “You’re always rooting for your brethren in the Big Ten.”

That might be so, but such a high-profile loss will undoubtedly make it much easier for Tressel and his staff to emphasize that the threat of a mammoth upset is always present. No. 12 Ohio State is a lopsided favorite on Saturday against Akron.

“Anytime you see an alleged upset anywhere, it’s a great reminder,” Tressel said. “It (the thought) only lasts 30 seconds so you can get your mind back on what you have to do, but I’m sure every time, even if you see one on NFL Sunday where the 0-4 team beats the 4-0 team, it’s just another reminder.”

Defensive back Donald Washington said he has suffered through some awful losses and that it’s best for the Wolverines to just forget about the humiliating defeat.

“You just have to just come back and focus on the next task at hand,” he said. “You can’t dwell on last week because it’s gone, you can’t change it. I’m sure those guys are coming back and they’re ready for week two.”

Appalachian State and Youngstown State are powerhouses in the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly known as I-AA. They met last year in the I-AA national semifinals, eventual champion Appalachian State winning 49-24. Since that was Youngstown State’s most recent game, that was the game tape the Buckeyes watched much of last week to get ready for the Penguins.

“Every time you watched the film you’d say, hey, this (Appalachian State) is a good football team,” Tressel said.

It’s a constant battle for the elite programs, avoiding overlooking an unknown opponent that can make history by winning.

“Our coaches do a great job every week kind of explaining to us that any team coming in here is going to be fired up,” Buckeyes wideout Brian Robiskie said.

Tressel said it’s never easy to prepare a team when everyone is telling the players they should win big. Most of those kinds of games are in September, making it even harder to get a team ready.

“They’re earlier in the year and you know less about yourself, you’re a little more uneasy at the start,” Tressel said. “And you know less about your opponent.”

Ohio State’s players said they expect the Wolverines to bounce back, starting with this week’s game against Oregon.

Michigan is a great football team and they’ll come back,” Robiskie said evenly. “They’ll be all right.”

The Buckeyes acknowledged that the Wolverines’ embarrassment must be similar to what they felt after losing to Florida 41-14 in the BCS national championship game last January.

Tressel was asked if a painful loss must be buried or if a team should try to learn from it.

“I’m sure the thing that bothers every single person on their team is that they didn’t play the best they were capable of playing, not unlike the things we did in the Florida game,” Tressel said. “What do you do? You evaluate how can I be better and you make sure how can I live up to my potential and do the best I can do and then you go to work.

“I don’t know if that’s burying it or not, but you certainly cannot sit there and bemoan it.”