COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Judging from the postgame mood in the Ohio State locker room, it would be easy to think that No. 4 Ohio State had just had its dreams of an unbeaten season smashed.
Instead, the Buckeyes won an entertaining and competitive game 31-24 before a rowdy partisan crowd of 105,826.
But there were several reasons for the somber and sober feelings wafting in the air.
Just before he stepped before reporters, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer found out that co-captain and starting safety Christian Bryant had broken an ankle on one of the final plays.
”Our leader is in an ambulance right now going to the hospital to have surgery on his leg,” Meyer said, fighting his emotions. ”There’s no doubt about if he is one of our leaders. And he’s just devastated.”
So were the Buckeyes. Bryant is their fourth-leading tackler and a spirited, demonstrative beacon in the secondary. Now the senior will be out for several weeks – possibly the rest of the season – pending further analysis by team doctors.
”That’s my partner, man,” said his running mate at safety, C.J. Barnett. ”We don’t expect a drop off (in talent with the replacement) but it’s huge on the leadership part. He’s like a pit bull out there.”
Meyer also wondered who would pick up the emotional slack for Bryant.
Wide receiver Devin Smith was like many Ohio State players who were still in a state of shock after Barnett was helped off the field after the 60th of Wisconsin’s 61 offensive plays. Bryant was hurt when he made contact with another player while pursuing a Badgers receiver.
”Everyone’s hurt about it,” Smith said of Barnett’s injury. ”Especially me because he’s my cousin. I’m very tight with him. He’s worked his tail off and just wanted to have a great season.”
Bryant’s most likely replacement is sophomore Ron Tanner or senior Corey ”Pittsburgh” Brown.
As if that weren’t enough, there were other reasons why the celebration was muted.
The game, a draining slugfest between two evenly matched teams, ended not long before midnight. No one could blame them if the Buckeyes were worn out after a long, emotional day.
Then there was the looming awareness for the Buckeyes that even though they had just proved themselves, now they have to do it all over again a week later.
They get another stiff test on Saturday when they travel to play No. 16 Northwestern in yet another primetime showdown.
Continue Reading: No time to celebrate: Buckeyes to be tested again