Can OSU escape the Gator Chomp?

WHEN the Ohio State Buckeyes face the Florida Gators the afternoon of Jan. 2, OSU fans hope nobody hears music that sounds like “Jaws” or sees the Gator Chomp.

The two teams with 6-6 records for this season will encounter each other in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville.

According to the University of Florida traditions, “When the band plays music that sounds like ‘Jaws’ or you want to show that the opposing team in any sport does not have a chance, you stick one arm straight out in front of you and clap the other down on top of it, like a big alligator mouth (well, vaguely).”

The Gators have the Gator Chomp, but the Buckeye faithful hope the Luke Fickell-led team has more bite.

A plus for the Buckeyes is freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, who was named the Big Ten Conference’s Thompson-Randle El Freshman of the Year. After becoming the starting quarterback in the fourth game of the season, he threw for 997 yards with 11 touchdowns and only four interceptions.

Included among Miller’s accomplishments was a 14-25 effort for 235 yards with two touchdowns – all season highs – in the final season game against Michigan.

Miller, however, isn’t OSU’s only asset as several players made noteworthy plays.

One of the favorites is Dan “Boom” Herron, voted by his teammates at season’s end as the team MVP.

During the regular season, team captains were selected each week, but the team voted this month for four to be remembered as the 2011 captains. They are senior center Michael Brewster , Orlando, Fla.; senior running back Herron, Warren; senior linebacker Andrew Sweat, Washington, Pa.; and junior defensive lineman John Simon, Youngstown.

Fickell deserves praise for the way in which he has coached the team this season. Despite the woes he inherited, the team ended with a 6-6 record. That compares to 7-5 season record compiled during the first year that veteran coach Jim Tressel, an outstanding individual, coached at OSU.

The Gator Bowl will be the second time for the Gators and Buckeyes to meet; the first was during the 2007 BCS National Championship game in Arizona when the No. 2 Gators defeated No. 1 OSU, 41-14.

Fickell isn’t the only first-year head coach at the Jan. 2 game. This marks the first year of coaching for Gators head coach Will Muschamp, who was hired last year after the departure of Urban Meyer now at OSU.

Muschamp has named assistant Brian White to call the plays against OSU in the bowl. White is credited with beating the Buckeyes four times in six tries as Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator from 1999-2005. Before being named to that Badgers’ post, Wisconsin was 2-25-3 all-time against OSU.

White was quoted by senior writer Scott Carter as noting, “We’ll come to a consensus of how we want to attack Ohio State and playing a really good, efficient offensive football game. We’re going to try and execute what we do best. That’s put the ball in our playmakers’ hands.”

Fickell was only 5 years of age when the Buckeyes played in the Gator Bowl in 1978. Although that’s more than three decades ago, anyone at all familiar with OSU’s past knows about the unfortunate incident involving legendary coach Woody Hayes and Clemson player Charlie Bauman during that game.

During a recent interview session, Fickell said, “We’d like to put a completely different spin on Ohio State’s Gator Bowl history (this year).”

What makes the whole thing ironic about the 1978 incident are the boxing gloves received by Hayes during a Gator Bowl luncheon the day before the game. “The Official Ohio State Football Encyclopedia” by Jack Park reports that retired Clemson coach Frank Howard, one of Hayes’ good friends, had sent Hayes a pair of boxing gloves as a gag gift.

Also, other books report that ABC announcer Keith Jackson, who also handled fight coverage in those days, gave Hayes a pair of souvenir boxing gloves at a Gator Bowl pregame news conference.

No one, least of all Hayes, however, expected the punching situation at the game, which led to the firing of the coach. It meant the end of coaching for a man whose 33-year lifetime coaching record was 238-72-10. His teams also had 13 Big Ten titles, and 56 of his OSU players were named first-time All-Americans, according to Park’s book.

One of Hayes’ familiar quotations is: “Paralyze resistance with persistence.”

After his firing, Hayes lived up to that quotation when earning back acclaim, and his persistence helped him to become a legend at OSU. Not only was he a goodwill ambassador for the university, but he received an honorary doctorate in later years. Park’s book shows a picture of Hayes as he delivered the 1986 commencement address, “an honor he considered the greatest day of his life,” according to the author.

Go to OSU today, and you’ll see such places as Woody Hayes Drive and the Woody Hayes Athletic Center as well as the sign to honor Hayes in the ‘Shoe.


THE UPCOMING game will be the Buckeyes’ first bowl game in Florida since the Outback Bowl in 2002 when South Carolina defeated OSU, 28-3. South Carolina was coached by Ohio Valley native Lou Holtz, whose head coaching stops included Notre Dame. Holtz,who earned degrees at Kent State University and Iowa, was an assistant at OSU when the Buckeyes defeated the USC Trojans in the 1969 Rose Bowl. Hayes was coach at that time, and the quarterback was Rex Kern, an outstanding player…

OHIO State’s record in bowl games is 19-22, dating back to the 1921 Rose Bowl…

SWITCHING to another bowl game and another year, The Times Leader carried a story last Sunday about the only time that Washington & Jefferson College played in the Rose Bowl. Jim Aiken of Tiltonsville and Ralph Vince of Connorville (both graduates of Martins Ferry High School) were on that W&J team in 1922. They, however, were not only East Ohioans who went to the famous bowl.

The late James Futhey, who had resided in Shadyside, was a freshman on the W&J team that year. A fullback, Futhey didn’t play in the game, but he did accompany the team to California.

His daughter, Nancy Duggan of Shadyside, said her father had told how the W&J coach Earle “Greasy” Neale, later named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, took water from W&J for the team’s use, because the 1921 team from the East in the Rose Bowl had suffered dysentery, and it was blamed on the water.

Vince and Aiken later were outstanding coaches, and Futhey became an engineer. The engineer’s son is John Futhey of Santa Rosa, Calif…

THE GATOR Bowl, which will be Jan. 2 at 1 p.m., will be televised by ESPN2…

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