Pigskin Pursuit

An eight year odyssey across the backroads of America during the ultimate College Football roadtrip.

Tag: Ohio State

Ohio State vs Michigan – The Game

Known simply as “The Game”. Ohio State versus Michigan stands as the most notorious rivalry in College Football. Fortunately, so well renowned it requires no irritating, corporate sponsored rivalry game branding. Even outside of the football world, “The Game” is one of the most heated rivalries in all of sports. Two of the most storied programs in the history of college football, Michigan and Ohio State are juggernauts of the sport, each sharing an exclusive legacy and claiming an exhaustive list of accolades.

 

Team Ohio State Michigan
National titles 7 11
Heisman Trophies 7 3
Bowl appearances 41 39
BCS bowl appearances 8 4
Rose Bowl appearances 14 20
All-Americans 130 126
Big Ten titles 35 42
All-time program record 830–309–53 884–307–36
All-time win percentage .719 .735

The rivalry truly became a household name during a period referred to as the “Ten Years War” from 1969 to 1978, when former Ohio State assistant coach Bo Schembechler assumed the reigns of the University of Michigan program. During these ten years, the teams faced off in epic battles annually, four of which featured both the Michigan and Ohio State programs ranked in the AP top 5. The intense hatred between the teams went so far that famed Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes would only refer to Michigan as “that team from up north” lest he suffer the indignity of uttering the word Michigan. Hayes would further cement his fiery legend (he was eventually fired for punching an opposing player during the Gator Bowl), and epitomize the fierceness of the rivalry, when he refused to pull over and buy gas in the state of Michigan when running on an empty tank.

 

On his refusal, he was purported to have said “”No, god damn it! We do NOT pull in and fill up. And I’ll tell you exactly why we don’t. It’s because I don’t buy one goddamn drop of gas in the state of Michigan! We’ll coast and PUSH this goddamn car to the Ohio line before I give this state a nickel of my money!”

 

Perhaps the word rivalry is insufficient.

 

Somewhere, Ol’ Woody is smiling, as Ohio State has dominated the series of late, carrying a six game win streak over their foes from the North, the longest streak in the history of this matchup for the Buckeyes. While all of these losses in the past six years have stung for Michigan fans, perhaps the most crushing was the 2006 game. Heading into one of the biggest regular season games ever played, Ohio State and Michigan were ranked #1 and #2 respectively. In a contest for the ages, Ohio State eeked out a 42-39 victory on that day which vaulted them into the National Championship Game. The Michigan program hasn’t quite been the same since.

 

The past few years especially, have witnessed a considerable decline in the Michigan program under the watch of head coach Rich Rodriguez, and rumors are swirling in Ann Arbor. The Ohio State program on the other hand, has been dominant during the Jim Tressel sweater vest era, reeling off six straight Big Ten titles, three national championship appearances (one title), and a handful of BCS Bowl Games. Regardless of their current records, this is a game circled on both team calendars every year, and the outcome defines your success as a Buckeye or Wolverine football player.

 

In fact, Ohio State players find themselves even further incentivized to beat Michigan with a shining gold reward. Only upon a victory over the Wolverines, each member of the Ohio State squad is awarded a Golden Charm. This gold charm, a miniature pair of football pants, is a time honored tradition that dates back to 1934 and widely treasured among Buckeye Football players. Evidently, however, the pants are not so revered among all football players as Terrell Pryor was recently sanctioned by the NCAA for hawking his 2008 gold pants, and you can find your own pair on Ebay occasionally.

The in stadium atmosphere for the Michigan game in Columbus is commensurate with the level of pageantry surrounding the contest: simply enormous.Ohio Stadium, known colloquially as The Horseshoe, is a cavernous facility boasting the third largest capacity in College Football.Built in 1922, the stadium features an impressive classical Roman rotunda at the North Entrance, and the imposing “Shoe” would house 105,491 rabid fans on this particular day.

Naturally, I entered the game nearly an hour before kickoff to absorb all of the extra hoopla that surrounds the contest. The Ohio State band, also referred to by fans as The Best Damn Band in the Land or TBDBITL, is considered one of the preeminent bands in College Football, though I have always chuckled immaturely at their uniforms which look like a cross between the French Resistance and the Knights of Columbus. Their capstone pre-game tradition is the infamous dotting of the “i” in the script Ohio performed prior to all home games (unfortunately my endzone seats did not offer a good vantage point to capture the script Ohio). The signature “i” dotting is dapperly performed by a select senior sousaphone player each year, and is one of the most revered traditions in College Football band performance.

 

 

For the contest, I had the pleasure of being seated in the student section, which was jammed packed full of boisterous and well inebriated undergrads.I have long maintained that student sections are the best seats in the house and the lifeblood of true stadium spirit.Many of these scholars were seniors enjoying their final game as students in Ohio Stadium and they pre-gamed accordingly.Rowdy would be an understatement for this section, and stadium police visited the area on more than a handful of highly entertaining occasions. Despite the cold, the entire contest was filled with a thunderous chorus of continuous singing, cheering and the expected Big 10 bouts of vulgarity.

My personal favorite student song tradition was a nearly game long unrelenting refrain of the famous Ohio song “We Don’t Give a Damn for the Whole State of Michigan”. The lyrics below are elegantly succinct.

“We don’t give a damn for the whole state of Michigan
The whole state of Michigan
The whole state of Michigan
We don’t give a damn for the whole state of Michigan
‘Cause we’re from Ohio!

We’re from Ohio – O! H!
We’re from Ohio – I! O!

Ohhh we don’t give a damn for the whole state of Michigan
The whole state of Michigan
The whole state of Michigan
We don’t give a damn for the whole state of Michigan
‘Cause we’re from Ohio!”

 

To get a feel for the tune you can listen to it here:

 

 

On this particular day, Ohio State fans had plenty to sing about.Despite taking the field in agitating solid drab Nike “Pro Combat” uniforms, an outfit which shunned the infamous Buckeye sticker laden helmets of their normal garb, the plain clad Buckeyes saw little struggle from “that team from the North”.It’s hideous game attire hijinks like this that make me wish Nike would limit their uniform buffoonery to the Oregon Ducks and NBA.

After a slow first quarter without any scoring, shortly after the opening whistle of the second frame the Buckeyes began their domination of the contest, in what ultimately proved a rather lopsided affair. Terrell Pryor naturally led the charge for the Buckeyes, throwing for a pair of touchdowns on the day, though still leaving him well short of the Heisman chase. Pryor was offset on the ground with running back Dan Herron, who exploded for 175 yards, including one spectacular 89 yard run that would have been a touchdown were it not for a holding penalty. Penalties were quite popular with the Buckeyes, as they repeatedly flashed an “O” symbol with their hands that drew the ire of overzealous referees. The mere handful of Michigan fans scattered throughout the stadium had little to cheer about, as fleet footed quarterback Denard Robinson spent half the game injured on the bench, and struggled when he did play. In the end, Ohio State cruised to a yawning 37-7 victory, and had already shut themselves down by the fourth quarter.

In the end, the Ohio State vs Michigan game was the perfect capstone to my three day, three team, rivalry weekend odyssey. A trip to this game can be found on every college football fans checklist, and I was pleased to have crossed it off my burgeoning scroll. You simply won’t find a bigger atmosphere anywhere in the sport, nor a more intense rivalry, It’s a contest that truly lives up to its legendary billing.

Thanks to my friend and colleague Janelle for helping me find a ticket to this game. It was truly a remarkable experience, and I hope your Wolverines fare better in the future (though not against the Irish of course).

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Jack & Benny’s – Breakfast Buster

Few treats in the world are more satisfying than a quick, affordable, greasy diner breakfast on a Sunday morning.There is a welcome simplicity in stooled laminate counters flanking a sizzling open griddle, the rattle of a deft short order cook slapping away on a cook top dotted with glistening yellow eggs.Expanses of stainless steel flash the piercing morning sun while you squint hungrily amidst a handful of selections from a yellowed backlit plastic menu board.

Sadly, the idyllic street corner breakfast diner is quickly going the way of the dodo and the complete game starting pitcher.Displaced by an irritating trend of delicate “brunchy” style cafés featuring goat cheese frittatas, $17 exotic mushroom omelets, parfaits, and assorted other bourgeois French crap daintily arranged with sliced cantaloupe.Many of these places even have the nerve to serve my meal on actual tablecloths.

 

They probably even offer turkey bacon.

 

Real breakfast, I surmised, would lie close to the students with their ample appetites and slender billfolds, so I narrowed my search in Columbus near the heart of campus. With the combination of Michigan weekend and the 40,000+ dedicated students attending The Ohio State University, you can bet a sizeable portion of those scholars had themselves quite a session the day before.If it’s one thing that takes the head splitting edge off an all night bender, it’s a platter piled with various combinations of eggs, potatoes and pork products.Fortunately, breakfast (the way god intended it) is still alive and well in Columbus, and I had a smattering of greasy spoons to choose from on a sharp Sunday morning.

 

Some of the choices included highly touted places like Eggfast, Skillet, and the aptly named Hangover Easy.

 

http://www.hangovereasy.com/

 

In the end, I settled on a legendary OSU staple named Jack and Benny’s largely due to their showcase breakfast item called a “Gut Buster”. In addition to the Gut Buster, Jack and Benny’s also features the Buckeye Pancake (chocolate and peanut butter chips) as well as a full page array of omelets. Despite its landmark status in Columbus, the diner has only been around since the mid 1990’s, although the scarred wood floors and dark wood paneling give it a classic feel.

Shortly after plunking into an open chair at the counter, I confidently ordered the revered Gut Buster, which consisted of a formidable layered pile of hash browns, a potato pancake, bacon, ham, eggs, sausage and cheese topped with country gravy.Naturally, I opted for the gravy on the side, because if you follow my barbecue posts, you are all too familiar with my general aversion towards obfuscating sauces.

The individual ingredients in the Gut Buster are fairly straightforward and unremarkable, but layered together in a pile it made for a daunting, albeit satisfyingly greasy way to start the morning.My true breakfast fix satisfied and topped for the morning, I flipped the waiter a ten dollar bill and beamingly left with change.

 

The way breakfast ought to be.

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Jeni’s Ice Cream – Something for the sweet tooth…

As if the mountainous Big Thurman Burger at Thurman’s wasn’t enough of my daily intake of saturated fat, I saved room for a little ice cream nightcap. Now I grant you that standing out in 28 degree temperatures all afternoon doesn’t exactly inspire an appetite for ice cream, but I was told that Jeni’s was place not to be missed. Nervously checking my watch, I had just enough time to fit in a few scoops and race to the hotel before the Irish took the field against USC.

While a relative newcomer to the ice cream game, Jeni’s has garnered quite the fanfare since opening their doors in 2002 and has already staked out seven locations across the greater Columbus area. Made exclusively from locally sourced cream from the Snowville Creamery in nearby Pomeroy, Jeni’s features dozens of interesting and eclectic artisan flavors. They have everything ranging from traditional favorites like Dark Chocolate and Vanilla Bean, to off the wall seasonal flavors like Sweet Potato with Torched Marshmallows, and Olive Oil with Sea Salted Pepitas. Luckily, they are no stranger to gawking patrons peering through the enticing glass cases, and I sampled my way through about two dozen of their finest. Some personal favorites were the Brown Butter Almond Brittle, Bourbon Buttered Pecan, and of course the ubiquitous “Buckeye State” (a blend of peanut butter and dark chocolate ice cream).


After extensive tastings, and some deliberation with the friendly counter staff, I settled on one of their signature sundaes aptly called “The Buckeye State”. For the body of the bowl I chose a scoop of the Buckeye State ice cream paired with a scoop of the Brown Butter Almond Brittle. The sundae was topped off with hot fudge, Spanish peanuts and a dollop of home made whipped cream. Consistent with Jeni’s unwavering dedication to their craft, the whipped cream is actual whipped cream. I broke a sweat merely observing the counter girl tenaciously hand whisking a stainless steel bowl full of fresh cream. It’s small details like this that separate the homemade fare at Jenny’s from the rest of the pack.

The sundae proved to be the indulgently decadent affair that the description alluded to. There is richness to the ice cream at Jeni’s that you won’t find in your typical grocery store freezer, and a palpable intensity to their flavors that left me licking the bowl at the end. My sweet tooth satisfied for the night, I retreated to the hotel to watch the Irish and contemplated ordering up a few of Jeni’s pints in the mail for delivery back in Dallas…

 

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Thurman’s Cafe – Buckeye Burger Bliss

While there was no shortage of interesting eateries to choose from in Columbus, I was told if you had only one meal there it would have to be a Thurman Burger from Thurman’s Café. Though not located near the OSU Campus, Thurman’s sits in the heart of the historical German Village section of Columbus and has been dishing out epic burgers since 1942. Glance at any list of best burgers in America and Thurman’s is sure to be on there, in addition to having recently been featured on an episode of Man vs. Food.

 

I pulled up to the modest Thurman’s storefront shortly after “The Game” and slid quickly into an open barstool, bypassing hordes of rotund, red clad Buckeye fans waiting for tables. If you’re going to Thurman’s after an Ohio State game, be prepared to wait, but enjoy a few Great Lakes brews assured the wait is worth it. Taking only an obligatory glance at the menu, I started with a few of Thurman’s disturbingly large Buffalo Wings and naturally ordered up the signature Thurman Burger. Stacked between two buns, the Thurman Burger consists of a twelve ounce slab of beef overloaded with ham, sautéed mushrooms and onions, mozzarella and American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, banana peppers, and mayo.

Halfway through my sauce faced wing session, a leviathan lurched forth, ominously parting the swinging steel kitchen doors. Upon arrival, the Jurassic sized burger drew an audible gasp from the patrons seated next to me, and I started to sweat wondering if I had finally bit off a bit more than I could chew.

True to form, the Thurman Burger is an absolute monster, a twelve ounce trembling pile of beef and cheese held together by a few straining toothpicks to keep it from toppling over.Easily the biggest burger I have encountered on my travels thus far, it’s such an imposing mountain of meat that, unless you’re equipped with a bass faced maw like Steven Tyler, simply cannot fit into your mouth. Quickly realizing there is absolutely no way to tackle this thing gracefully, I rolled up my sleeves and determinedly sequestered a pile of napkins from the bar.In addition to its colossal size, the Thurman Burger is actually extremely tasty.The burger itself is well seasoned and bursting with beefy chuck flavor in addition to the tangy caramelized onions and cheese oozing from every corner.Ham adds a salty touch to it, and the lettuce, tomato and pickles get in the way like they always do.Predictably, by the end of the meal, the sandwich had all but exploded into an unidentifiable mess, but I managed to finish the entire offering.

Perhaps the most disturbing part is that this isn’t even the largest burger offering at Thurman’s. Their prolific menu proudly boasts a titan known as “The Thurmanator”, which is effectively a double pattied Thurman Burger. That’s twenty four belt busting ounces of beef nightmare on a bun for those of you wondering. I can’t begin to imagine the sheer horror of ordering the Thurmanator after having just downed its formidable little brother.

 

I hoisted myself off the stool and waddled out of Thurman’s with distended belly, thankful for the elastic waist on my cargo pants. Though I have certainly found other “famous” places quite disappointing and made note of it on this blog, Thurman’s is not one of them. The burgers here are legendary, in both size and flavor, and Thurman’s Café is completely deserving of their lofty reputation. If you ever find yourself in Columbus, the only question you should be asking yourself is where to eat for your third meal, because the first two will be The Thurman Burger.Just don’t forget the napkins….

 

http://www.thethurmancafe.com/
http://www.thethurmancafe.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/tc-menu-2010.pdf

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