Sunday, October 12, 2003

Buckeyes fans watch winning streak end

By Rusty Miller
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - There were still empty popcorn boxes and refreshment cups littering the aisles at Nationwide Arena late Saturday night.

The NHL Columbus Blue Jackets had opened their home schedule with a 5-0 victory over the New York Rangers and had received a standing ovation for the final minute.

But now - three hours later - there were only a handful of people sitting in the stands. They had all stuck around to watch No. 3 Ohio State play at No. 23 Wisconsin on the massive monitors on the main scoreboard above center ice.

They came to watch the Buckeyes extend the nation's longest winning streak, 19 games and counting. They left disappointed.

The Buckeyes were beaten by Wisconsin 17-10 Saturday night for their first loss since the Outback Bowl ending the 2001 season.

"This terribly upsets me. The Blue Jackets game tonight was awesome, but this is disappointing. It's just upsetting. 19-0. They win for a year-and-a-half, and it's over in one night, said David Gregory, 15, a freshman at Upper Arlington High School.

"I'm worried about one of my dad's friends," Gregory said. "He goes crazy when Ohio State plays. He freaks out during the games. I wonder what he's doing now."

Bob Elliott took the loss in stride.

"I felt it was a matter of time before they got tripped up with an offense that is so inadequate," he said.

The Buckeyes went 14-0 a year ago, frequently pulling close games out in the final seconds. Fittingly, they beat top-ranked Miami 31-24 in double-overtime in the BCS national championship game at the Fiesta Bowl.

This season, Ohio State was up to its old tricks, edging 32-point underdog San Diego State 16-13 before holding off North Carolina State in triple overtime 44-38 and then intercepting a pass on the final play to thwart Bowling Green.

Craig Krenzel drove the Buckeyes to a tying touchdown in the fourth quarter Saturday night, but the Badgers responded with the go-ahead score and hung on.

"They've had a good run. This won't ruin my night," said Sue Alexander of Columbus. "They've got a great team with a lot of spirit and I hate to see them lose, but I won't let it get me down."

Arena ushers, cleaning people and kids wearing Blue Jackets jerseys cheered when the Buckeyes forced turnovers and were disappointed when they threw an interception - just like all those Ohio State fans watching at home on ESPN.

Elliott said he had brought his two sons to Nationwide Arena after originally declining tickets because he didn't want to miss the football game. When he found out the Buckeyes were going to be shown on the monitors, he decided to come to the hockey game.

By the end of the football game, there were roughly 100 people in the arena.

"This is very surprising. I thought there'd be a much larger Buckeye crowd here. I thought there'd be a lot of yelling and screaming and it would be all hyped up. This is not what I expected," he said.

When Wisconsin's Lee Evans scored on a long touchdown pass to put the Badgers ahead to stay, Jim Rennick wasn't surprised.

The Blue Jackets' season-ticket holder from Somerset said the Buckeyes had lived on the edge for quite a while.

"This happens to any team. They've won a lot of close ones. As far as I'm concerned, if you win, it doesn't matter how close it was," he said.

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