Nonetheless . . .
"We're obviously disappointed," fifth-year coach Al Golden said, "because we didn't play well. I don't think we deserved to win. But we've talked about winning nine games 2 years in a row, being the first back-to-back bowl teams [for the program], a chance to win double digits, which hasn't happened in 30-some years . It's all those things.
"The seniors have a chance to finish with a winning record [after going 4-8 in 2007]. Everybody gets down [when you lose]. But I look at, we started three seniors on offense and five on defense [against Ohio]. And they used 13 redshirt seniors in that game. We have two on our team. There's an indication of where they started and where we were. So we're building a program.
"We haven't broken through yet, to get to Detroit and do those types of things, but we're going to be able to compete for championships year in and year out. I think that's critical. You see a lot of teams, especially in this conference, who have a really good year, then they disappear for 3 or 4. We were committed to be in that position in November year in and year out. I think we're equipped to do that, moving forward."
In their MAC losses (the other was Oct. 9, by 14 at Northern Illinois), Bernard Pierce has carried four times. Well, officially it was three, for 6 yards, all of it in the first. Against Ohio he ran 67 yards on the opening play, but it was nullified by a penalty. And he injured his hamstring, never to return.
"It's like a sick joke, to be honest," Golden said. "He knows dependability and durability are big factors, in being a great running back. He's fighting like heck to make that part of his resume right now."
The Owls gained 402 yards, and punted three times.
"You shouldn't lose [when you do that]," Golden insisted.
They were flagged eight times for 68 yards. Which he said cost them another 120 in gains that got wiped out.
"That's almost two football fields," Golden noted. "I don't know, in Division I football, and especially in that type of game, how you can expect to win when you do that."
It's the difference between having to play for pride instead of a ring.
"A lot of our best players didn't play their best games against Ohio," Golden said. "Ohio's did. You need that. See what I'm saying?"
Anybody who doesn't get his messages simply isn't listening.
"We want to respond," sophomore quarterback Mike Gerardi said. "It's a big game ahead of us. We understand what we did, and we're trying to learn from that. We want to win out, finish by having 10 wins. That's something we've been working for, for the past few years.
"It really would be something special to accomplish. It would mean a lot to us, to everyone, but especially the seniors, who we're all trying to play for. That's still out there for us. It's tough bouncing back from a loss. But I think everyone's swagger, demeanor, was positive. We have to move on. We can achieve a lot."
Even if one of the goals many people felt they would achieve is no longer on that list. *