COLUMBUS - The stiff upper lip Jim Tressel and his players displayed after Saturday`s crushing loss to Illinois still couldn`t hide the pain.
What was supposed to be a stepping stone to a second consecutive unbeaten regular season, another Big Ten championship and beyond went up in smoke with the 28-21 loss .
But, hey, it`s still Michigan week, right? Tressel and his players were bound and determined that was the important thing to think about after this disheartening loss.
"We`ve got to pick up and go forward," Tressel said.
"We`ve got to rebound from here," said senior fullback Dionte Johnson. "We`ve got some things toÂ adjust. You can`t turn the ball over next week. The season`s not over. Everybody can`t be hanging their heads. We`ve got to press on."
"It`s not time to sulk," said senior tackle Kirk Barton. "You feel kind of like a bit of a failure if you can`t win on senior day. I just told all the young guys â€˜remember this.` I hope they remember this. It`s our last game in the Horseshoe and it`s the game I`ll remember the rest of my life but its Michigan week as of now. I don`t want (the younger guys) feeling this way on their Senior Day. (Saturday night) we`ll start watching the film and start working on it. We have to start grinding. That`s our shot. We`re going up there. They`re tough. They`re ready for us. We have to get ready to game plan."
The stage was set: Ohio State vs. Michigan. A chance to win and get a shot at redemption in the BCS National Championship game. But with both schools losing on Saturday, all that`s left is the Rose Bowl bid and outright conference title. The rest of the nation gave a big sigh of relief.
"We didn`t send our seniors out the right way," said junior linebacker James Laurinaitis. "We don`t have time to put our heads down. We have to look at each other and look at ourselves in the mirror and focus on Michigan. Everybody around here knows this is â€˜The Week` no matter what happened (Saturday)."
"It hurts to go out like this as a senior," said linebacker Larry Grant. "It`s Michigan week. We`re all ready to start getting prepared starting (Saturday night). We have to keep our heads up and move on."
Sophomore receiver Brian Hartline shook off the notion the Buckeyes were already looking ahead.
"You come to Ohio State to play Michigan," Hartline said, "but we weren`t looking ahead. Illinois just executed really well. The biggest thing that hurts about this is that we no longer control our own destiny in the national title run."
"We still have one of our goals to achieve," said junior defensive end Vernon Gholston. "Winning the Big Ten, intact. The biggest thing is we have to go home and reflect on it a little bit, but we can`t harp on it too long."
"Guys were upset," said Hartline. "We apologized to the seniors for losing their last game. Now we have to pick our heads up and get ready to play Michigan. It`s going to be a battle so we better be prepared."
Tressel tried to take the analytical approach to the problem.
"You have to evaluate the Xs and Os and all that kind of thing," he said, "and work hard to get your emotions right to go and have a tremendous challenge. I guess it`s no different than when you have a hard drive within the course of a game. You have to figure out why it was a hard drive. You have to get your emotions right and get ready for the next drive. This is a whole game. We`ve got to get prepared mentally and strategically and all the rest for the next one.
"We can`t erase how we feel about (the loss) but on the other hand, we know we have a big week coming up. We`ve got to grow from this."
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or ctsports!chroniclet.com.