COLUMBUS - Bowling Green's football team did not walk into Ohio Stadium yesterday thinking about coming close. That's for losers. That's for inferior teams that take the big bucks from the Big Bucks and run. That's for players who like the ride but forget about the pride.
So when the clock hit 0:00 and BG walked off a 24-17 loser to Ohio State, the Falcons turned into their biggest critics.
Moral victory? Perish the thought. Don't even suggest it.
“It stinks,” said coach Gregg Brandon.
“Disgusting,” said quarterback Josh Harris.
Those were the words. Then there were the eyes.
They belonged to Craig Jarrett, a fifth-year senior tight end from Bellevue who missed all of last year with a knee injury. Lost time, missed opportunities. He was a walk-on once; now he's a team captain, an incredible measure of respect.
Jarrett is a 4.0 student majoring in biology and chemistry. Someday, he'll oversee the first brain transplant or find the cure for the common cold or be the first to walk on Saturn. He is destined for greatness. His blond hair is cut short, his features seem chiseled from a flawless block of granite.
Yesterday, though, his eyes were red. Like when you slice through a beet. Red and wet and angry.
Ohio State quarterback Scott McMullen spotted Bam Childress on a hitch-and-go route just seconds into the third quarter. BG's Janssen Patton made what had to be the prettiest of his 12 career interceptions, making a full extension to steal the pass, landing and righting himself, and then returning the ball 38 yards to the Ohio State 23-yard line.
On the next play, BG quarterback Josh Harris threw behind the line of scrimmage to receiver Cole Magner. He, in turn, passed the ball to a wide-open Jarrett crossing at the goal line. Jarrett had it, bobbled it, grabbed at it again, bobbled it again, got hit by a defender and watched helplessly as the ball skittered away. If you prefer the short version, he dropped it. A touchdown pass. On the next play, a Harris pass was tipped and intercepted, and BG's threat disappeared into the ozone.
BGSU defensive back Janssen Patton steps in front of Ohio State receiver Bam Childress for an interception. But the Falcons couldn't score after the turnover.
“I should have had it,” Jarrett said, looking his interviewer in the eye. “No excuses. I just didn't make the play. It's crushing to not come away with the win. We had our chances, more than once.”
Of course, he's right. There were plenty of dropped passes and poor throws, blocking breakdowns and blown coverages. During the middle two quarters, the Falcons had but 59 yards of total offense.
They scored early. They scored late. They recovered a textbook-perfect on-side kick. They turned the din from 104,000 fans into a hush. They made it interesting.
If you think that was good enough, you're wrong.
“We always believe very strongly that we're going to be victorious and you saw that we're a team that never gives up,” said Harris, who threw for 326 yards and a pair of touchdowns. “But we let this one slip away. It's tough dealing with that when you watch the defense play the best game it could have played, putting you in a position to do things you always talk about doing. And we [offense] didn't do our part.
“We didn't play a very good football game today offensively. I'll come out and say that. It was disgusting. You're not going to win games if you don't make plays.”
The defending national champions did, now and again, and maybe it's time to quit harping on style points and just marvel at the way the Buckeyes keep winning and winning and winning. They're 4-0 this season with their star running back suspended, and they beat BG without injured starting quarterback Craig Krenzel.
“Ohio State is a great football team that knows how to win,” Harris said. “They have 18 wins in a row and you can see why.”
Yesterday, the why came dressed in a running attack that had been sorely missing. Maurice Hall and Lydell Ross provided a 1-2 punch that produced 205 rushing yards.
Conversely, BG had hardly any running game. Brandon didn't expect to be able to line up and win in the trenches against a big and tough OSU defense. So the Falcons played their spread offense, used a pitch-and-catch attack for a possession game and, bluntly, didn't do it nearly well enough in the middle quarters when it might have made a huge difference.
It left the Falcons, in their own words, disgusted and crushed.
But words are just words. It is the eyes through which you explore the soul.
And in Craig Jarrett's red eyes were hurt and anger and a hunger for retribution.
Through those eyes stared a team that has no tolerance for losing, regardless of the opponent.
And no plan to let it happen again anytime soon.