December 24, 2012

12-OH: Simon sacks Badgers

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

Having just wrapped up a perfect season unlike any other in program history, it's hard not to look back at the last 12 months of Ohio State football and not only marvel at the unlikeliness of what the Buckeyes accomplished in 2012, but also how far they've come since their 6-7 mark in 2011. With that in mind, I'll spend 12 days examining and reflecting on the 12 most important moments that helped create and stand out from just the sixth unbeaten and untied season in Ohio State history.

On Friday, we reflected on Ryan Shazier's stellar performance against Penn State. Today, we'll move to Madison and take a look at another stellar defensive performance for the Buckeyes.

MADISON, Wis. -- In the toughest road game of Ohio State's season, John Simon turned in the best performance of his college career.

But nobody was expecting it to be his last.

Playing in front of a hostile Wisconsin crowd in the Buckeyes' 11th game of the season, the senior defensive end tied a single game school record with four sacks against the Badgers. OSU needed each and every big play it got from Simon on that November afternoon, which saw the Buckeyes win the game by a score of 21-14 in overtime.

Always selfless in his speeches, Simon gave the credit for his record setting performance to his defensive teammates.

"Great coverage. Their quarterback was holding the ball for an awfully long time. They had max-protect most of the time," Simon explained. "One time, he just kind of ran into me. The other time, Nathan Williams, we ran a great stunt where Nathan forced him right to me. Total team effort."

Simon's stellar outing against Wisconsin took even more out of him than anybody realize.

Following the game, Simon developed a bursa sac, which caused swelling in his knee and ultimately kept him out of the Buckeyes' finale against Michigan. But while Simon would have likely done whatever he could to play against the Wolverines, his senior sendoff wasn't too shabby.

The four sacks the third-team All-American recorded against the Badgers nearly doubled his sack total on the season, and capped off a senior year that saw him earn the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year award. Also a first-team All-Big Ten selection and the conference's Defensive Lineman of the Year, Simon was the "heart and soul" of the 2012 Buckeyes according to head coach Urban Meyer, and served as an inspiration to his teammates throughout the season.

"I'm really happy for him because he's been working hard. He's probably the hardest worker on the team. He's in there day in and day out, he works out almost every day," OSU linebacker Ryan Shazier said. "He's a 100 percent team player and he deserves the accolades he got today."

Continually pestered in postgame interviews about his performance, Simon refused to speak about his effort from an individual standpoint. When he finally did, it was only because he conjured a way to make it about the other members of the OSU locker room.

"Well it helped us get the win," Simon relented. "So whatever I can do."

The win meant that the Buckeyes just had one more to go to finish of just the sixth untied and unbeaten season in Ohio State history. Even back then, Simon refused to look ahead to the Buckeyes' potential place in history.

"The key word there is we can be that, and we're not yet," Simon said. "We got another week to go, and preparation for next week starts tomorrow."

But while Simon was eager to put his helmet on and get back to work, little did he know that he wouldn't be doing so.


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