Meyer believes his 9-0 Buckeyes are special

Meyer believes his 9-0 Buckeyes are special

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Nine games and as many wins into his first season at Ohio State, Urban Meyer believes his Buckeyes are onto something.

``This is a special team. They're fighting for each other. It's a refuse-to-lose type atmosphere,'' he said on Monday. ``Some of us have seen teams that play really well, and they're blowing teams out all the time. We're not that type of team and I can give you 150 reasons why. However, we are a bunch of guys that work really hard, a blue-collar approach, that show up every (week) and want to get better. You don't want anything else as a coach.''

His sixth-ranked Buckeyes have won close games and routs, relied on their defense and on quarterback Braxton Miller. When the stars didn't come out, a no-name made a big play. Through it all, despite being within a whisper of losing at least a couple of times, they've persevered.

``I wish that everybody in the world could see the kind of camaraderie that we have between all of us. It's unbelievable,'' wide receiver Evan Spencer said. ``We haven't played perfect. And we haven't really played good at times. But at the end of the day we'd give our right arm for the guy next to us and that's what making us win.''

Ohio State (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) came into this season in flux. The Buckeyes had a new coach who brought with him a new spread, hurry-up offense. The defense was basically the same as in years past, although it was thin in spots.

No one knew exactly what to expect since the Buckeyes were banned from going to a bowl game because of NCAA violations committed under 10-year coach Jim Tressel.

Without that big carrot at the end of the stick, what would they play for? With no possibility of a Bowl Championship Series berth, or even being listed in the BCS rankings, would the team lose focus and founder?

Instead, it has shown a certain resilience.

The Buckeyes trailed in the fourth quarter against California, but Miller found Devin Smith on a 72-yard scoring pass with 3:26 left to forge a narrow win. They were barely hanging on with 10 minutes left at home against lopsided underdog UAB, but the defense held and Miller scored on a short keeper for a 29-15 win. They went to No. 20 Michigan State in the Big Ten opener and made a narrow lead stand up in an 17-16 victory.

Indiana ran off 22 points in the fourth quarter and fell just short of catching Ohio State, 52-49. Then Purdue led by eight points with 47 seconds left but backup quarterback Kenny Guiton came on for an injured Miller to lead a gutty drive that forced overtime with 3 seconds left - with the Buckeyes going on to make all the big plays again for another close win.

``We find ways to win football games,'' defensive line coach Mike Vrabel said. ``We've got a bunch of guys that are believing in themselves.''

A case in point is Zach Boren, who became a regular at fullback and was midway through his senior season when several injuries led Meyer to ask him to move to fullback. He did. And the Buckeyes just kept on winning.

``We put in so much work during the offseason and became so close. Things were so hard and miserable at times that you just came together as a team,'' he said. ``Late in games when we're down, someone makes a play. We have that fighting mentality that great teams have. I don't know what it is. It's remarkable.''

Perhaps the bleakest time came early in the spring when the offense clearly didn't have a clue what it was doing. Meyer called it ``a clown show,'' with players running into each other, missed assignments and the ball frequently squirting loose.

The Buckeyes are a long way away from that.

``Where we were and how far we've come and how far we still have to go, it's a testament to just the commitment of a group of guys who just refuse to lose a game,'' wide receivers coach Zach Smith said. ``I wouldn't say we are an undefeated team that is sitting here just dominating people. It's more the chemistry and the guys involved are kind of pulling together to win because they don't want to let each other down.''

Ohio State has the inside track toward winning its division in the Big Ten, up by a game and a half with just three games remaining. After Saturday's home game against struggling Illinois, there's a bye week followed by a huge test at Wisconsin and the annual season-ending showdown at home with rival Michigan.

The Buckeyes know they can't play in the national championship game or impress voters with how they play in a bowl. They're still climbing the charts in the Associated Press Top 25, which unlike the coaches poll or BCS allows teams on NCAA probation to be ranked.

There's so little to play for - and yet so much.

``We feel that if we go 12-0, we're the best team in the country because no one beat us,'' defensive back and special-teams demon Adam Griffin said.

``Who's to say we aren't?''


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Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired


Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired

On the newest banner that hangs from the rafters at Capital One Arena, a small microphone - embroidered with a white 33 - is subtly stitched into the bottom left corner. 

You'd barely notice it was there; Phil Chenier certainly didn't.

Chenier, who had his #45 jersey retired tonight during halftime of tonight's Wizards-Nuggets game, didn't even notice the mic, added to signify his three decades as a broadcaster with the team.

"I had no idea there was even a mic on it," Chenier said, laughing. "I'll have to go back out and look at it some more."

Despite the Wizards' 108-100 loss, the night was first and foremost a celebration of Chenier - the 5th player in franchise history to have his number rasied in the rafters. He joins Earl Monroe, Elvin Hayes, Gus Johnson, and Wes Unseld as the only players to achieve the honor so far.

"To be up there with the other 4 names means a lot – people I had the fortune of playing with," he added. "I remember my first day of practice and I had just watched this team play in the finals and now I’m plopped down with Wes Unfeld and Earl Monroe and Gus Johnson. It seemed like they accepted me from the get go."

Many from that 1978 Championship team were in attendance on Friday night, watching as one of their teammates cemented his professional legacy. For Chenier, that acceptance as an All-Time Bullets great is at the core of why he played the game.

"You know, when you play this game, you play for acceptance," he said. "You want to be the best, you want to be accepted. Having players and childhood friends – and of course, your family – here, you’re surrounded by so many people that meant a lot to you both before and now. It’s a really humbling feeling.”

It was hard to find someone in DC without something good to say about Chenier on Friday night. Even in the basement of Capital One Center, after the Wizards' fifth loss in seven games, head coach Scott Brooks took a moment out of his press conference to praise Chenier. 

"[Chenier] is a great ambassador and we all love him," Brooks said. "It's well deserved. It's going to be pretty cool seeing his jersey every time we step into this building."

Fans left the arena with a commemorative Phil Chenier cut out. Phil Chenier left the arena with his number retired. The experience was, according to the man himself, everything he thought it'd be. 

"You don’t know what the emotions are going to be..." he told media members after the ceremony."...Obviously it’s something I thought about, but it really was exciting to see the 45 up there and my name."

Then Chenier cracked a smile.

"I’m glad it’s over with."

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

The Washington Wizards lost to the Denver Nuggets 108-100 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Another loss: It is becoming more and more clear that the Wizards need a shot in the arm, something to change the direction of where they are currently heading.

Whether that will come in the form of All-Star point guard John Wall returning from his months-long absence, an adjustment to their lineup or strategy, or something else entirely, the losses are piling up and at a tough time in the season.

With another loss on Friday night, their seventh in their last 11 games, the Wizards are now 40-32. They have plenty of room to still clinch a playoff berth, as their magic number stands at two, but they only have 10 games left to secure their all-important playoff seed.

Both the Pacers and Cavaliers, two teams just ahead of them in the playoff race, won on Friday.

The Wizards lost their second straight game and again offense was their problem. They scored 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers.

Big third quarter: The Denver Nuggets have emerged as a team on the rise, a young squad with burgeoning stars that could someday soon make some noise in the Western Conference. The reason is because they are very good on offense. Defense is a much different story.

That was not the case on Friday night, as the Wizards had all sorts of trouble scoring in three of their four quarters. They managed just 43 points by halftime, the fewest the Nuggets have allowed in a first half since Jan. 27.

The Wizards, though, did get cooking in the third quarter. They erupted for 33 points in the frame while shooting 63.2 percent from the field and 58.3 percent from three. Markieff Morris, who finished with 17, had 11 points in the third quarter and Bradley Beal (24 points) hit three threes.

The Wizards also found a solution for Jamal Murray, one of the Nuggets' brightest young stars. He had 20 points at halftime, but went scoreless in nine minutes in the third quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. (15 points) was among those who gave him trouble. Murry finished with 25.

The big third quarter reflected well on the Wizards' ability to make adjustments, but their 24-point fourth quarter flipped the script again.


Didn't force mistakes: The first time these teams squared off back in October, the Wizards forced the Nuggets into 23 turnovers. This game was a very different story. 

The Nuggets didn't commit their first turnover until midway through the second quarter and had only three by halftime. They had just 10 turnovers for the game.

Denver deserves some credit for limiting their mistakes, but all of it did not reflect well on the Wizards' defense. They didn't put enough pressure on the ball and failed to disrupt passing lanes like they usually do. It was uncharacteristic, as the Wizards entered the game 10th in average turnovers forced.

Not creating mistakes allowed the Nuggets to get way to many field goal attempts. Though they shot just 43.5 percent, Denver managed 108 points. And not getting turnovers offered the Wizards few opportunities for easy transition buckets.

Turnovers were one issue with the Wizards' defense. So was defending the perimeter, as the Nuggets shot 17-for-34 (50%) from long range. It is worth noting the Nuggets were without their leading scorer Gary Harris, a guy who is dangerous from long range.


Special night: Halftime offered a memorable moment in franchise history as legendary player and broadcast Phil Chenier had his No. 45 jersey retired by the team. His longtime broadcaster and friend Steve Buckhantz hosted the ceremony with about 20 friends and family members of Chenier's seated behind him. Buckhantz had opening comments, then majority owner Ted Leonsis spoke as everyone in the crowd stood and cheered.

Then, it was Chenier's time to talk. He thanked his former teammates, members of the organization and those close to him. He kept his composure until the very end when he brought up his mother, Peggy, who could not make the event. Chenier choked up and wiped away tears as he described what she has meant to him in his life.

It was a powerful moment and a great ceremony to honor a guy who has impacted the lives of many in the D.C. area. Now, his No. 45 will hang up in the rafters forever. That banner, by the way, features a picture of a microphone and the phrase '33 years,' signifying how long he was the color analyst for Bullets and Wizards games.


Up next: The Wizards do not have a game Saturday, though they are going to practice and Wall is expected to take a big step forward in his rehab. Their next game is Sunday at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington when they host the Knicks. That will also be a special game, as the Wizards are set to honor the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship.

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