COLUMBUS - It was Halloween and Aaron Pettrey got the trick. Two weeks later, it was left to Devin Barclay to give his Ohio State teammates and their fans the treat.
Barclay, a virtual unknown until Pettrey, the Buckeyes' kicker with the long, live leg had his knee busted up, and all but untested in a big moment, faced the biggest moment imaginable last night and sent Ohio State to the Rose Bowl with a field goal in overtime that beat Iowa, 27-24.
In a manner true to his breeding, Barclay celebrated the moment by ripping off his helmet and running around like an absolute madman. All that was missing was the announcer screaming, "Goooooooooooaaaaal."
He was a soccer player, you see. The son of an All-American college soccer player, Barclay took his first step one day and sent his first header the next. He was born to it and raised with it and became the best high school soccer player in the nation, then a star on several age-division U.S. national teams, and then a fine professional player for five years with his last stop coming with the Columbus
About the same time that injuries, the most serious involving his shoulder, had him sensing his soccer career was about to end, a friend dragged him to Ohio Stadium for a game. He caught the fever. There were too many things that hurt running up and down the field in soccer, but he still had a powerful leg swing. He could be a kicker, he thought.
He enrolled in the fall of 2008, tried out for the football team, and stuck around as a walk-on. Two weeks ago Pettrey got hurt in a game against New Mexico State and Barclay ceased being the mystery man. He made a 29-yarder later in that same game and a 37-yard try to break a first-half tie at Penn State a week ago.
But yesterday was totally different. He made one from 30, he missed one from 47. And then Iowa tied it in the late going and both teams played it close to the vest as the clock ticked down to 0:00. Then it was overtime and 105,455 fans were swaying on a rollercoaster of emotions brought about by an incredible defensive stand by OSU --Iowa started at the 25-yard line, of course, and snapped its fourth-down play from the 41, which is the wrong direction - and a very, very conservative offensive series by the Buckeyes.
"We had so much confidence in Devin we were going backwards," OSU coach Jim Tressel quipped a little later.
As it all developed, Barclay stood on the sidelines and grew more nervous than at anytime in his life, probably not helped by Pettrey limping over to his side and saying, "Man, you're going to have the chance to be the hero."
And then he did.
It was a 39-yarder, tucked right there in the middle between the make from 30 and the miss from 47, a coin-flip it would seem, and the energy in the old joint slowed to a near hush as the ball was snapped and placed.
It was good, no question, the instant it left his foot and all you-know-what broke loose. Fans dropped out of the stands and rushed the field and pretty soon the field couldn't be seen for the bodies. The OSU band broke into "California Here We Come." Barclay found himself riding on a bunch of shoulders.
And in the corner near the OSU locker room tunnel, a lone figure moving on crutches hurried as best he could out of harms way. It could have been his moment. Fate said otherwise. But Aaron Pettrey was smiling.
Devin Barclay left everybody, aside from the slice of Iowa fans breaking through the scarlet in one corner of the stadium, smiling. As his kick sailed through the uprights it meant the Buckeyes had clinched no worse than a tie for a fifth straight Big Ten championship and were guaranteed a fifth straight BCS bowl game.
"I knew it was good right away and it was an incredible, unbelievable feeling," Barclay said. "I was thrust into this a couple weeks ago and I guess I knew this moment could come. And then as we got to the end of the game I could see it coming down to me. I had an opportunity to redeem myself [for the earlier miss] and I got the last one right.
"I don't think I've ever celebrated anything like that. There are some things I'll always cherish from my soccer days, but nothing like this on this big of a scale, winning a championship game in overtime with 110,000 fans watching. But I wasn't expecting so many of them on the field. Somebody ripped my name off the back of my jersey."
No problem, Devin. Everyone knows it now.
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It was Halloween and Aaron Pettrey got the trick. Two weeks later, it was left to Devin Barclay to give his Ohio State teammates and their fans the treat.