Big Ten: Quan Cosby

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Anderson Russell reacted like anyone would, burying his helmet in the grass at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Several feet away, Texas offensive lineman Cedric Dockery knelt and raised his arms in triumph.

The image provided all you needed to know about the deciding play of the 2009 Fiesta Bowl between Ohio State and Texas. But it didn't tell the entire story.

 
  Chris Williams/Icon SMI
  Anderson Russell is looking to go out on top in his senior season.

"You've got to move on," Russell said. "If you play DB, that's going to happen to you over the course of your career. You're going to get beat. You win some, lose some."

If ever a player were equipped to handle failure on the football field, Russell would be it.

Most defensive backs hear the you-need-a-short-memory line from a coach or two along the way. Russell heard it from his dad, Kevin, a former defensive back with the Philadelphia Eagles.

From the moment he started playing football, Anderson knew there would be times an opposing receiver would get the best of him. And he knows Texas' Quan Cosby, who scored the game-winning 26-yard touchdown in the Fiesta Bowl with 16 seconds left, won't be the last one.

"What's done is done," he said. "Me and Cosby, we were battling the whole game, going back and forth, because he was on the boundary with me. I almost picked a pass off that last drive."

The fact that Russell can find positives in his Fiesta Bowl experience bodes well for Ohio State. Because there were positives. Lots of them.

Until the final 30 seconds, Russell had been arguably the team's defensive MVP. He recorded nine tackles in the game with an interception, a forced fumble and a pass breakup.

"We should talk about the last play of the first half," defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said. "It's the same defense, it's the same player, and he gets an interception and he's the hero. But not too many people talk about that."

The focus remains on Cosby's touchdown, which was, in many ways, a cruel irony for Russell and the Buckeyes. For most of the game, Ohio State defenders put on a tackling clinic, repeatedly keeping Texas' receivers in front of them to prevent big plays.

The Buckeyes made Colt McCoy and the high-powered Texas offense have to work on every drive. Perhaps for that reason they stayed in man-to-man coverage on the decisive play, confident the tackle would be made.

But Russell tried to jump Cosby's quick post route, missed the ball and missed Cosby, who raced untouched to the end zone.

"You come back and it's like, 'Man, we were right there. We could have shocked the world,'" Russell said. "Because nobody really gave us a chance going into that game. I was just happy for our team that we put ourselves in a position to be able to win.

"We had done a pretty good job of containing their offense during the course of the game. And then, that last play."

It took a few days for Russell to get over the loss, but he soon moved forward, thanks in part to his teammates.

"Anderson's handled it very, very well," Heacock said. "I don't think there's a guy in this complex or any place around our football program that for one second would say one word or think one thought about it being a one-man game. It's a team game. We had numerous chances that we could have gotten it done, and we didn't."

For that reason, Russell might be the most motivated player in the country heading into 2009.

He seemed to get stronger as the season progressed last fall, recording his best games in Big Ten play against Minnesota (7 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery), Penn State (9 tackles) and Northwestern (9 tackles, 1 fumble recovery).

The Atlanta native enters his third season as a starter alongside Kurt Coleman, a second-team All-Big Ten safety in 2008.

"I love playing with that guy," Russell said. "We can combine to make the best safety tandem in the nation."

Coleman said Russell dealt with "a lot of people trying to give him some grief" after the Fiesta Bowl. But after the initial shock, Russell has been unfazed.

"I really want to go out on top and make it the best year I've ever had," Russell said. "Things started clicking for me toward the end of last year, just understanding the whole entire game. That's probably the most comfortable I've felt playing football. That's going to transfer over."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

If Ohio State had finished off the final 30 seconds of the Fiesta Bowl and knocked off Texas, Kurt Coleman might be preparing for the NFL draft right now.

 
  Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
  Kurt Coleman expects to take on a larger leadership role this season.

The Buckeyes safety "tossed and turned" over his stay-or-go decision before opting to remain in Columbus for his senior season. Earning his degree this fall played an important role, but Coleman also didn't want to go out a loser.

"I really wanted to leave as a winner," he said. "Last season kind of left it a little open-ended. I haven't won a bowl game yet, and I feel like this team can really make a big impact in the national football scene. This year can be our year to win it all."

College football enthusiasts have heard that line before and might be hesitant to board the Buckeye Bandwagon in 2009. Not only has Ohio State dropped three consecutive BCS bowl games, but it loses a sizable senior class filled with All-Big Ten performers.

The Buckeyes will be much younger this fall, particularly on offense, but they might be more explosive and hungrier. Only the fifth-year seniors have experienced a postseason win, and not many of them occupy top spots on the spring depth chart.

"It's so much motivation," Coleman said. "I see it in the weight room, I see it in everybody's daily routine. I can see it in their eyes that they really want to get out there and get better every day. That burns in our mind."

Coleman admits it feels odd not to see mainstays like James Laurinaitis, Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Freeman lining up with the first-team defense in spring ball. But he's excited about some of the new players in the mix for starting jobs, including safety Jermale Hines and linebackers Etienne Sabino and Austin Spitler.

The leadership load shifts this fall from linebacker to safety, and Coleman, a second-team All-Big Ten selection is 2008, is ready for it. Coleman and fellow returning starter Anderson Russell combined for 145 tackles, six interceptions, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries last season.

"It's really fun out there because him and I are always on the same page and we communicate so well," Coleman said of Russell. "It's going to be the secondary leading this team. We operate as one."

If there's a player as motivated as Coleman this spring, it's Russell. The safety had a brilliant Fiesta Bowl, recording nine tackles with a forced fumble and an interception, but people only remember his role on the game's deciding play.

Left alone in the defensive backfield as Ohio State blitzed and stayed in man coverage, Russell tried to swipe at a Colt McCoy pass intended for Quan Cosby. The ball made it through, and Cosby wriggled free of Russell and dashed to the end zone for the game-winning touchdown with 16 seconds left. The irony is that Ohio State's defense had tackled extremely well in the game, keeping Texas' short passing attack in check.

"It was tough that night and the next day, with a lot of people trying to give him some grief," Coleman said. "But I told him, 'Hey, it could have been me, it could have been anybody. Plays like that happen.' He's a tough player, he's out here in spring practice getting after it. I don't think it's really fazed him at all."

Coleman is spending the spring polishing his game, focusing mainly on his pursuit to the ball. Though he led the team with four interceptions last season, he wants to see the total increase.

"As a senior class, it's our team to lead," he said. "It's really our team and our time, and I'm willing to step up to the challenge."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Before putting a sleepy Big Ten bowl season to bed, it's time to recognize some of the memorable moments from the last few weeks. Contrary to the 1-6 record, the Big Ten produced its share of highlights. And lowlights.

Here they are.

Best closing performance -- Iowa running back Shonn Greene capped a tremendous 2008 season in fitting fashion with his 13th consecutive 100-yard rushing performance. Greene punished South Carolina for 121 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the Outback Bowl. The junior then confirmed what many had believed for months and declared for the NFL draft.

 
  Scott A. Miller/US Presswire
  Shonn Greene punctuated his college career with a victory over South Carolina.

Best catch -- Ross Lane's leaping grab in the back of the end zone secured a 23-yard touchdown and gave Northwestern a 23-20 lead over Missouri entering the fourth quarter of the Alamo Bowl. Lane used his entire 6-foot-3 frame to make the reception and managed to get a foot down before tumbling beyond the end line. His catch would have been the signature image had Northwestern held on for the win.

Best catch by a quarterback -- OK, Terrelle Pryor is the only Big Ten signal caller who qualified, but he showed impressive athleticism to haul in a 5-yard fade pass from Todd Boeckman for a touchdown. Ohio State's use of Pryor and Boeckman together gave the offense a boost at times, and Pryor's leaping ability had some wondering whether he would be better used as a wide receiver.

Best preview of the future -- Michigan State backup quarterback Kirk Cousins continued to boost his stock for the 2009 season with a solid effort in limited action at the Capital One Bowl. Cousins spelled Brian Hoyer for a series and completed 4 of 5 pass attempts, leading Michigan State into Georgia territory and setting up a long field-goal attempt. Though he'll have to beat out Keith Nichol for the starting job in the offseason, Cousins looked game-ready this fall.

Best performance by a secondary -- Iowa's back four continued to cause problems in the Outback Bowl, as they did throughout the second half of the season. Safety Tyler Sash recorded two interceptions and cornerback Bradley Fletcher had an interception and a forced fumble. Cornerback Amari Spievey added a pass breakup as the Hawkeyes flustered South Carolina's Stephen Garcia.

Best comeback: Had Ohio State held on to beat Texas, Boeckman would have been the top story. After sitting on the bench for the final nine regular-season games, Boeckman returned to meaningful action and gave the Buckeyes' offense a much needed boost against Texas. He sparked the offense with a 48-yard pass to Brian Robiskie and hit Pryor for the team's first touchdown.

Worst quarter -- The Big Ten's second-quarter blues continued in BCS games as Penn State was outscored 24-0 in the second quarter of the Rose Bowl. Penn State had taken USC's first punch and mounted an impressive scoring drive, but the Nittany Lions committed out-of-character mistakes in the second quarter and couldn't stop Mark Sanchez and the Trojans, who took a 31-7 halftime lead.

Worst turnover -- It seems hard to fathom given the final score, but Wisconsin outplayed Florida State for the first quarter of the Champs Sports Bowl and had the ball inside the Noles' red zone early in the second quarter. Quarterback Dustin Sherer attempted a lateral that fell incomplete, and Florida State's Derek Nicholson wisely picked up the ball and raced 75 yards to the end zone. Wisconsin players thought Sherer had thrown an incomplete forward pass and didn't bother to chase Nicholson. They would never catch Florida State.

Worst tackle -- Safety Anderson Russell had been one of Ohio State's defensive standouts in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, recording an interception, a forced fumble and a pass breakup to go along with nine tackles. But unfortunately, Russell's lasting image will be a missed tackle on wide receiver Quan Cosby that allowed Texas to score the game-winning touchdown with 26 seconds left. Ohio State had tackled extremely well until the final minute, limiting big plays, but Cosby scooted by Russell and into the end zone.

Worst special teams play -- Northwestern's Stefan Demos was supposed to punt the ball out of bounds late in the first half, but his kick instead went high and short, right into the hands of dangerous return man Jeremy Maclin. The Missouri star raced 75 yards to the end zone with a minute left in the half, and Northwestern went to the locker room tied at 10-10 after dominating the first 30 minutes. A missed extra point in the third quarter also stung the Wildcats in their overtime loss.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten probably wants to forget this postseason after going 1-6 in bowls. But several players stood out, even in defeat, and they deserve recognition. Let's hand out helmet stickers for the final time this season, beginning with the one Big Ten team (Iowa) that actually won its bowl.

Iowa running back Shonn Greene -- Playing in what would be his final collegiate game, the Hawkeyes' junior went out with a flourish, racking up 121 rushing yards and three touchdowns against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. Greene eclipsed 100 rushing yards in all 13 games and set a single-season school rushing record with 1,850 yards.

Iowa strong safety Tyler Sash -- South Carolina was in a giving mood (five turnovers), and Sash capitalized with two interceptions, raising his season total to five. Sash, a redshirt freshman who became one of the team's top playmakers, picked off Stephen Garcia's first pass of the game and had interception returns of 45 and 29 yards.

Iowa cornerback Bradley Fletcher -- The senior recorded an interception and a forced fumble in his final game in a Hawkeyes uniform. With Iowa up 14-0, Fletcher squashed any chance of a South Carolina rally by intercepting a Garcia pass in the end zone for a touchback. He also forced a fumble on South Carolina's first play of the second half.

Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman -- He hadn't taken significant snaps since September but gave Ohio State a big lift in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl against Texas. The offense was sputtering until Boeckman found Brian Robiskie for a 48-yard completion on the first play of the fourth quarter. Boeckman later threw a touchdown to fellow quarterback Terrelle Pryor and nearly helped Ohio State to a big upset.

Ohio State's defense -- Colt McCoy and Quan Cosby had the final word in Glendale, but Ohio State held the high-powered Texas offense well below its season scoring average. The Buckeyes racked up three sacks and nine tackles for loss and limited big plays until Cosby's 26-yard touchdown with 16 seconds left.

Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bacher -- Bacher ended an up-and-down senior season with arguably his best performance in the Valero Alamo Bowl. He threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns against Missouri in a 30-23 overtime loss. Bacher threw only one interception and spread the ball well to his veteran targets.

Northwestern's senior wide receivers -- Rasheed Ward, Ross Lane and Eric Peterman combined for 19 receptions, 261 yards and three touchdowns in the Alamo Bowl. All three had scoring receptions of 20 yards or longer, highlighted by Lane's circus catch in the back of the end zone late in the third quarter.

Penn State linebacker Navorro Bowman -- The Rose Bowl was a rough one for Penn State's defense, but Bowman certainly did his part with five tackles for loss and a sack. Bowman finished the season with 106 tackles and 16.5 tackles for loss. Next season he'll form the Big Ten's top linebacker tandem with Sean Lee.

Michigan State safety Otis Wiley -- Wiley and his fellow defenders held Georgia to three first-half points in the Capital One Bowl and gave the Spartans offense a chance to create some distance on the scoreboard. Michigan State eventually caved against Matthew Stafford, but Wiley had a forced fumble and seven tackles to go along with 87 return yards in his final collegiate game.

Minnesota wide receiver Eric Decker -- Decker returned from knee surgery and an ankle injury to boost the Gophers in the Insight Bowl with eight receptions for 149 yards and a touchdown. The junior set Minnesota bowl records for receptions and receiving yards and will return in 2009 as one of the Big Ten's top targets.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Ohio State's impressive effort Monday night came up short, and a forgettable 2008 Big Ten season is over. Today's links have a Scarlet and Gray tinge to them. 

"The Buckeyes badly needed to play well in this one. Their national reputation was in tatters. Against a Texas team that many think belonged in the national championship game, few considered the possibility of an Ohio State win.

It didn't happen, but it at least restores some lost respect. The Buckeyes' high-profile failures no longer seem so conclusive; instead, they blend back into a wider range of big games under [Jim] Tressel that show the Buckeyes both winning and losing their share."

"On the final touchdown, linebacker James Laurinaitis blitzed, linebacker Marcus Freeman stepped to the line like he was blitzing then dropped into coverage, but not far enough to help on [Quan] Cosby, and then [safety Anderson] Russell was alone. Cosby caught the ball only 6 yards past the line of scrimmage, but that was enough."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 Kirby Lee/US Presswire
 Quan Cosby pulled in the winning 26-yard touchdown pass with 16 seconds to play.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- They made it back to the team hotel Sunday minutes before curfew and headed straight for the water.

As Texas quarterback Colt McCoy and wide receivers Quan Cosby, Jordan Shipley and Brandon Collins hopped back and forth between the hot and cold tubs, they began talking about the next day's game.

"The night before a game, that's all that's on your mind really," Shipley said. "We feel like it could always come down to a play like that."

Added Cosby: "People say, 'I dreamed about it,' and all that stuff. Everybody dreams about it. We talked about it [Sunday] night as we were sitting in ice, which wasn't very fun."

Cosby had plenty of fun Monday night as he lit up Ohio State's defense for 171 receiving yards on 14 receptions, none more important than the last, a 26-yard touchdown with 16 seconds remaining. The score lifted Texas to a dramatic 24-21 win against Ohio State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and capped a stellar senior season for Cosby, who notched career highs in both receptions and yards in his final collegiate game.

The 5-11, 200-pound senior had three receptions on Texas' game-winning drive, and he found a way to slip behind Ohio State defenders who employed an aggressive scheme but did an excellent job of keeping plays in front of them all night. The Buckeyes had prevented big plays with textbook tackling, but Cosby got free of safety Anderson Russell and leaped into the end zone.

 
 Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire
 Cosby torched Ohio State's defense for 171 yards and 14 receptions.

"Quan is as good a football player as I've ever been around," Shipley said. "He always seems to make plays. He just kind of slipped through. He caught a slant and just slipped off the tackle and then it was nothing but green grass from there."

As he trotted off the field following Texas' trophy presentation, Cosby was asked what he saw on the game's decisive play.

"A touchdown," he replied, smiling.

McCoy was named the Offensive Player of the Game, but the award easily could have gone to Cosby, who nearly broke free several times and set a Texas bowl record for receptions. Cosby became the first Texas receiver to eclipse 100 yards in a bowl game since Roy Williams in the 2003 Cotton Bowl against LSU.

"He is the MVP in my mind," McCoy said. "On that last play when [Ohio State] brought everybody, he kind of said over and over, 'If I catch the same look give me a slant behind the linebacker. If he comes, you just make that miss, we will score.'

"We had confidence in each other. We have done that all year long."

Final: Texas 24, Ohio State 21

January, 5, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Texas needed one final push against a staunch Ohio State defense that had kept Longhorns receivers in front of it all game.

The Longhorns got it from wideout Quan Cosby, who wriggled free of Ohio State safety Anderson Russell and sprinted to the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown pass with 16 seconds left. Quarterback Colt McCoy led a masterful drive as Texas marched 78 yards in 11 plays without using a timeout. Cosby had a huge performance in his final game in a Longhorns uniform.

Though Texas failed to make the statement it needed for a split national title, the favored Longhorns survived to notch their fifth straight bowl victory and third in a BCS game.

Ohio State mounted an impressive fourth-quarter comeback behind quarterbacks Todd Boeckman and Terrelle Pryor, who hooked up for a touchdown with 7:26 left. The Buckeyes' ground attack secured the lead despite a concussion suffered by Chris Wells, but a defense that had stepped up all game couldn't get the final stop.

The Buckeyes weren't embarrassed like the last two seasons and had control for most of the game, but they ended up dropping their third consecutive postseason contest. The Big Ten did absolutely nothing to improve its national reputation with a 1-6 bowl record, arguably the worst postseason performance in league history. The league has lost six consecutive BCS bowls.

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