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2014 Ohio State Buckeyes come together to send seniors out with a championship
By James Vogel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Nearly all season long, the Ohio State football seniors have had to swallow their pride and answer questions about their credentials as a class.

A lot of them watched from the sidelines as the Buckeyes dragged their way through a 2011 season to a 6-6 record and a loss to Florida in the Gator Bowl. Then they ripped off 24 consecutive victories with their teammates amid a bowl ban only to fall short last season against Michigan State and Clemson in the Big Ten Championship Game and Orange Bowl.

Questions began at Big Ten Media Days in July to Jeff Heuerman, Michael Bennett and Braxton Miller, as pens circled the Nov. 8 rematch with the Spartans as the one true test that stood in the way of Ohio State and another shot at a title.

Then it was about if they could survive a frigid trip north to face a ranked Minnesota team. Then, could they keep stud tailback Tevin Coleman in check long enough to beat lowly Indiana? What about the annual game against Michigan, almost always a dogfight regardless of the team’s records? Finally, could they do it against a top-15 Wisconsin team with a Heisman Trophy finalist?

All of these things stood in the way of the seniors at Ohio State in 2014. They emphatically rose above and beyond them, though, capped off with a 59-0 evisceration of the Badgers and Melvin Gordon to firmly put a grasp on the championship that had eluded them for so long.

I've been waiting for this for four years,” Bennett said. “That means so much to me being able to do this with these senior guys, all these young guys contributing and taking it seriously.”

The 2014 version of the Buckeyes had to overcome injuries to Miller, speedster Dontre Wilson and later Miller’s replacement in J.T. Barrett. It had to fight through the emotional and physical strain of losing a teammate in Kosta Karageorge, coming together and fighting as a whole to keep winning games and get a chance to hoist the Big Ten Championship trophy.

“There was a lot of talk about that,” junior linebacker Joshua Perry said. “They’ve been here, they’ve done a lot of great things, they’ve won a lot of games but really didn’t have much to show for it so we wanted to send them out right.”

The team did that and more Saturday night, getting the final spot in the first-ever College Football Playoff after winning the Big Ten Championship in the fashion it did. Through all the adversity, Ohio State captured one championship and now has the opportunity to win another.

“It's tough, it's kind of one of those things that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. We went through a lot this week and especially this season,” Heuerman said in the locker room after the win. “How many teams can say they just won their conference and lost two Heisman Trophy quarterbacks along the way? We can say we did that and it just shows how truly special this group is and how we can come together. Coaching staff, support staff, players, everyone. We just all came together and it's really special.”

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