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Luke Fickell: Ohio State, Michigan rivalry ‘about heart, will’

Thomas Bradley / Campus editor

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — After Ohio State went 2,926 days without losing to its rival, Michigan, the Buckeyes fell, 40-34, in a high-scoring, back-and-forth game at Michigan Stadium Saturday.

The loss was an emotional one for the Buckeyes, some of whom were seen crying in the locker room after the game. Still, Saturday’s matchup may have breathed new life into what is considered by many to be the greatest rivalry in sports.

Both teams featured first-year coaches and both OSU coach Luke Fickell and Michigan coach Brady Hoke placed a heavy emphasis on the rivalry between the schools.

During Fickell’s press conference after the loss, emotions ran high as he tried to keep the attention on the rivalry and away from rumors that former Florida coach Urban Meyer would take over as the Buckeyes’ coach next season.

“It’s about the Ohio State-Michigan game. That’s the emotion,” Fickell said. “If you need more emotion than that to play in this football game, you’re at the wrong place.”

Fickell said the rivalry is about the intangibles, which boded well for OSU as it went into Saturday’s game ranked 108th in the country in total offense. In a game like this, Fickell said none of it matters.

“This game’s not about talent. It’s about heart. It’s about will. Obviously we didn’t get the job done today, but we can’t walk away from the seniors and those guys and not say they gave everything they had.”

Senior wide receiver DeVier Posey was having a hard time swallowing the loss to Michigan, the first of his OSU career.

“After a loss, it’s hard. There were some tears, some people hugging,” Posey said. “It was just a weird feeling. I’m not used to it.”

Despite the emotions, however, some hope the loss serves as motivation for younger generations of Buckeye football players.

Senior running back Daniel “Boom” Herron, called the loss “tough” but hopes it can be a lesson for the younger players on the team.

“Any time you lose to Michigan, it’s a horrible feeling,” Herron said. “Hopefully the younger guys have learned something from it.”

First-year in biomedical engineering Jon Strutz said that while he was disappointed OSU lost, he thinks the loss will motivate the Buckeyes in the future.

“I think we’ll be able to get them next year,” Strutz said.

After coming away with their first win in eight years, Hoke talked about watching the Wolverines’ countdown clock of days since their last victory against the Buckeyes fall from 2,926 to zero, emphasizing the game’s importance to both teams.

“It is the most important game on the schedule,” Hoke said. “In 364 days and I don’t know how many hours, we’re gonna be teaming up again.”

Many of Hoke’s players echoed his sentiments.

Michigan senior tight end Kevin Koger, from Toledo, Ohio, felt the importance of the rivalry and said he had made it his mission to score a touchdown during the OSU versus Michigan game, a feat that he accomplished after scoring on a 4-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Denard Robinson midway through the fourth quarter.

“My dream has always been to catch a touchdown in the Ohio State-Michigan game,” Koger said. “I just wanted to find a teammate to celebrate with.”

For Fickell and the Buckeyes, however, the outcome was not what they’d hoped for.

Richard Desmond, second-year in international business, said he thinks the loss to Michigan will benefit the rivalry in the long run.

“I think it strengthens (the rivalry) in the sense that now that we’ve lost, it revamps the competition,” Desmond said.

Lonie Smith, fifth-year in industrial design, also felt the rivalry would see a new life in the future.

“I think it renewed the rivalry for upcoming seasons,” Smith said.

Junior defensive tackle John Simon said he knew the game would be a challenge, but felt the outcome was all-important.

“Every time you play this game, it’s going to be a fight for 60 minutes. We knew that was going to be the case when we came in here,” Simon said. “We traded blows back and forth. Unfortunately, we came up short,” Simon said. “We’ve been fully focused on Michigan. That was our only objective.”

Regardless of the public or media perception of the “The Game,” Fickell said it doesn’t get bigger than OSU vs. UM.

“You can’t add much more to the Ohio State-Michigan game. You can say what you want to say,” Fickell said. “It’s about the game. It will always be about the game, and that’s what we want to focus on.”

Mary Posani contributed to this story.

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