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September 16, 2010

Loss to Appalachian State stayed with Boren

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio State starting left guard Justin Boren doesn't get caught up in rankings, records, or the history of the opposing team the Buckeyes will face in any given week.

He learned his lesson the hardest way possible when it comes to never overlooking an opponent. And it was before his time with Ohio State.

Dating back to his playing days at Michigan in 2007 when the Wolverines were ranked No. 5 in the country to kick off the season, Boren was a part of a team that suffered perhaps the biggest upset loss in the history of college football.

Coming into the season highly-touted under head coach Lloyd Carr, the Wolverines were stunned by championship-subdivision Appalachian State, 34-32, in Ann Arbor after Michigan had a field goal attempt blocked on the final play of regulation.

While on the surface it may seem different, Boren doesn't feel there is that vast of a difference between some of the top teams in the nation and some smaller schools. Boren doesn't look at the Appalachian State loss as a huge upset because, well, the Mountaineers were "a good team."

"You think the talent is going to be so much better on a No. 1 or a No. 2-ranked team and there are better players, but everyone that's playing college football is a good player," Boren said.

"Appalachian State was a good team. People think that these (smaller) teams are so much different, but they're really not," Boren continued. "They're all very capable teams. Appalachian State was a very good team. People look at it and are like, 'Dang, Michigan must be terrible,' but it's really not like that."

While upsets seem to happen every year - a few have already happened this year with Virginia Tech being upset by James Madison and Ole Miss falling to Jacksonville State - one would think that Michigan's loss to Appalachian State would just be another example of what is now becoming a norm in college football.

But that isn't the case. While Boren is a Buckeye now, he will forever carry the loss to Appalachian State with him. It was a big enough occurrence, in fact, that even his younger brother - starting fullback Zach Boren - remembers as well.

"You kind of sit there in shock. It is like, 'Wow, did that really happen,''" said Zach Boren. "I remember going up to visit my grandparents, it was their 50th wedding anniversary, and (Justin) was going to drive to Cleveland with my dad. I remember Coach Carr wouldn't let him leave.

"Michigan came back and beat Florida in the Capital One Bowl later in the year," he recalled. "Obviously that Michigan team was pretty good. App State had to be a really good opponent."

To this day, the Appalachian State victory remains synonymous with one of the biggest upsets ever. The reaction shortly after by the media and fans made Justin Boren realize the magnitude of the slip up.

"I remember after we lost that game it really didn't sink in," Justin Boren said. "Then we walk in the practice facility and there are 100 reporters. I remember driving past the stadium and ESPN was filming in front of our stadium. I kind of looked down like and that's when it really sunk in. It was like, we lost to a Division I-AA team."

The Buckeyes invite a pesky Ohio team into the Horseshoe this Saturday, a team that is four-touchdown underdogs. Ohio State, meanwhile, is ranked No. 2 in the country and is atop many experts' lists for national title contenders.

The last time Ohio came into the Horseshoe they nearly escaped with the upset. Ohio had a 14-12 lead in the fourth quarter and were sparked by quarterback Boo Williams, who used his feet and arm to keep the Bobcats in the game. Ohio State would score the final 20 points in the 26-14 win, but there was definitely worry.

"At the end of the game there was some panic," defensive lineman Dexter Larimore recalled.

Ohio State is now coming off perhaps its biggest non-conference win in four years with a 36-24 triumph over then-No. 12 Miami last Saturday. In the next month the team faces Ohio, Eastern Michigan, Illinois and Indiana, all of which will be heavy underdogs to the Buckeyes.

But with upsets becoming more of a common occurrence, the Boren brothers know exactly what it feels like to endure a loss of the magnitude of the Michigan-Appalachian State game. Even Ohio State's loss to Purdue last season doesn't quite hold the same weight.

And with Ohio coming into the 'Shoe on Saturday, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel knows what his team has at stake.

"The first thing that will make it difficult is OU will be tough and they'll be good," he said. "The second thing is reality, that when you play in an emotional game, is there that human tendency to take a deep breath? We kind of take the approach of showing the film, showing where we need to get better."

Larimore knows there is still a risk the Buckeyes could come into the game looking ahead, but the senior is confident the team will be prepared to continue their trek toward the ultimate goal - a national title.

"Obviously, there's always that risk of that, coming after a big win against Miami and coming into a game against a team that, quote unquote, isn't supposed to be able to contend with you," Larimore said. "Normally this would be chance to overlook a team. But this year, with the guys and the leaders and the seniors we have, we'll get our young guys ready to play on Saturday."

Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.



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