Winning in November and winning the big games are what makes the difference between a good season and a great season, especially at Ohio State.
Given that the last game left on the Buckeye schedule is against our toughest opponent (regardless of records), year in and year out, I felt it very appropriate in this edition of Time and Change, to spend time with one of the Buckeyes best "Big Game Players", former All-Big Ten running back, Tim Spencer.
Spencer, now in his ninth year as the running backs coach of the Chicago Bears was a four year letterman at Ohio State, a two year starter and still ranks third in all-time rushing yards with 3,553 yards.
I will personally never forget the 1979 Michigan game in Ann Arbor (Mich.) in a season that very closely parallels this 2012 season. We were striving to finish the year with an undefeated record, just like the 2012 Buckeyes are attempting to do.
That day in Michigan Stadium, in front of 105,000 fans, we were clinging to an 18-15 lead with 3:50 to play. I'll never forget Spencer rumbling for first down after first down as a true freshman, helping ice the victory, an undefeated season, a Big Ten Championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl for our team and Buckeye Nation.
Spencer has spent most of his live devoted to football having played and coached for the Buckeyes followed up a playing career with the San Diego Chargers and now has been the running backs coach for the Chicago Bears for the last 9 years. He is no stranger to tremendous football experiences.
"Coaching in the Super Bowl with the Bears and coaching in the 2002 National Championship game were two of my greatest experiences, but playing in the 1979 Michigan game and the Rose Bowl for Ohio State was the greatest experience ever," Spencer said.
The Buckeyes went on to that Rose Bowl and lost the chance at the National Championship, losing to the Southern California Trojans 17-16. We were a young team, playing under new Head Coach, Earle Bruce. That day, in my own personal opinion, we played what was the best team ever, talent-wise in college football.
The USC offense had two Heisman Trophy winners on the same team with tailback Charles White and fullback Marcus Allen. It also had the following players on offense: quarterback Paul McDonald - Cleveland Browns, offensive tackle Bruce Matthews - Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans, offensive tackle Keith Van Horn - Chicago Bears, offensive tackle Anthony Munoz - Cincinnati Bengals and NFL Hall of Fame, offensive tackle Don Mosebar - LA Raiders, offensive guard Brad Budde - Kansas City Chiefs, offensive guard Roy Foster - Miami Dolphins and center Chris Foote - Minnesota Vikings.
The USC defense was led by outside linebacker Chip Banks - Cleveland Browns, defensive tackle Myron Lapka - New York Giants, inside linebacker Riki Ellison - LA Raiders/SF 49ers, safety Jeff Fisher - Chicago Bears and longtime head coach of the Tennessee Titans, safety Dennis Smith - Denver Broncos, safety Joey Browner - Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Minnesota Vikings and rover Ronnie Lott (yes That Ronnie Lott) - San Francisco 49ers and NFL Hall of Fame.
After that Rose Bowl Tim went on to play in the Fiesta Bowl, Liberty Bowl and finally the Holiday Bowl. In that game he led the Buckeyes with 167 yards rushing on our way to defeating the BYU Cougars 47-17.
Since then Tim has stayed active since his playing and coaching days with Ohio State and has never stopped following the Buckeyes.
"I've continued to follow them ever since I played," Spencer said. "We have practice every Saturday morning with the Bears, so I tape the game and usually get home to start watching right after the first quarter. I wouldn't miss it for the world.
"Now, I have a vested interest with my son Evan playing for the Bucks, so it's even more exciting for me to watch."
Watching his son grow and develop as a Buckeye under new coach Urban Meyer has been gratifying for Tim.
"Things are certainly different now", Spencer said. "When I played, we ran with more power with the fullback lead. Today, they spread guys out, trying to create mismatches both in talent and in numbers.
"I think the players are still learning the system and will only get better as time goes on. I think a lot of guys, including Evan will get the opportunity to contribute in a big way. I think the sky is the limit for the program and I know that Evan will have the same incredible experiences that I had as a Buckeye."
As the years have passed since Tim Spencer played for the Buckeyes in a run oriented attack, his son now plays in a new era, where the style of play has changed, but the wins and the successes will continue. Like Father, Like son... some things should never change.