Luke Fickell, flanked by two security guards but otherwise alone, walked down the tunnel to the turf about an hour before his Cincinnati Bearcats played the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday. He had made the walk hundreds of times on the other side of Ohio Stadium. This time the walk began at the visitor’s locker room.
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If Fickell felt like a stranger in his former home, he must have felt more comfortable when he saw his former coach, John Cooper, on the field. They talked before Fickell took the field to prepare with his team.
Hours later, there was no comfort at all for Fickell, who played for the Buckeyes from 1992-96 and spent 16 seasons at the school as a coach. The Bearcats lost 42-0 to the Buckeyes.
“They just ruined any type of sentimental thought you might have had,” Fickell said. “It was emotional. It was a long week.”
Cincinnati beat UCLA 24-14 at Nippert Stadium in its opener but suffered its first shutout loss of Fickell’s three seasons and their most lopsided loss in his tenure.
“Obviously a lot different feeling than last week,” Fickell said. “This is tough for every guy in that locker room, not just losing the game but how we lost.”
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The Bearcats lost momentum, Fickell said, when Ohio State’s Chase Young blocked a 32-yard field goal by Sam Crosa early in the second quarter. J.K. Dobbins rushed for two touchdowns in the next four-plus minutes to give the Buckeyes a 21-0 lead, and the rout was on.
“We took one in the mouth for four quarters,” Fickell said. “It’s not like we took it in the mouth for two quarters. It was a humbling experience for a lot of us.”
The Bearcats play the Miami RedHawks at noon Saturday at Nipper Stadium.
Freshman contribution: Garrett Wilson caught a 9-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, leaping high in the air to catch a ball thrown by Justin Fields. It was his first career catch.
“For me and Garrett, and I think everybody else on the team, they know that’s not a circus catch for Garrett,” Fields said. “That’s pretty much routine for him. He definitely has my trust. He gained all that in the spring and just this summer. So when I saw that, I already knew he was going to catch the ball.”
Lineman’s viewpoint: Ohio State center and Miamisburg graduate Josh Myers improved to 2-0 as a starter. The Buckeyes played a complete game this time as opposed to the opener when they coasted after building a 28-0 lead against Florida Atlantic.
“I think last week when we jumped ahead 28-0 right away, some people might have mentally checked out,” Myers said. “There’s no good answer for me to give. It’s just one of those things that happened. We know we have to keep our foot on the gas.”
Hall of fame: Ohio State honored 10 new members of its hall of fame at halftime, including Centerville graduates Mike Nugent and AJ Hawk and Yellow Springs graduate Andrew Pierce, a former Ohio State track star. Alter grad Nick Mangold, who played with Nugent and Hawk, was also on the field to watch the ceremony.
Also inducted this weekend were: Boyd Cherry (football), Justin Fry (baseball), Jim Foster (women’s basketball coach), Stan Lyons (men’s track and field), Thad Matta (men’s basketball coach), Natalie Spooner (women’s ice hockey) and RJ Umberger (men’s ice hockey).
Looking ahead: The Buckeyes start Big Ten play with a noon game Saturday at Indiana, which beat Ball State 34-24 in its opening game and played Eastern Illinois on Saturday. Ohio State beat Indiana 49-26 last season and has won 24 straight games in the series.