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Senior sendoff spoiled for Boeckman, Buckeyes

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Perhaps more than any other player, Todd Boeckman has served as a symbol for Ohio State's senior class.

He celebrated Big Ten titles and struggled in big games. He earned local and national recognition and endured the pain of subpar performances. He handled both the highs and the lows with class.

Despite losing the starting quarterback job to true freshman Terrelle Pryor in Week 4, Boeckman still joined fellow captains James Laurinaitis, Malcolm Jenkins and Brian Robiskie to meet the media after every game. He remained a leader in the locker room, on the practice field and on the sideline, even if he could no longer be one on Saturdays.

For those reasons, no player on the field at University of Phoenix Stadium had more support than Boeckman as he reclaimed a critical role in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl against Texas. The senior helped Ohio State rally in the fourth quarter and was seconds away from a perfect end to his career when Texas scored the game-winning touchdown to win 24-21.

"To see him go in there, it proves the old adage that good things happen to good people," Ohio State tight end Rory Nicol said. "He stayed the course all year. Yeah, he was pissed off in his mind all year long. Who wouldn't be? He did the right thing, he did what was best for the team. He forgot himself."

But Ohio State didn't forget about Boeckman, even though Pryor made strides as the starter. The Buckeyes shook things up in bowl practice, pairing Boeckman and Pryor on the field together.

The combination worked Monday as Boeckman completed five passes for 110 yards, including a 5-yard scoring fade to Pryor, who recorded his first touchdown reception. Boeckman helped set up Ohio State's go-ahead score with 2:05 left with a 21-yard strike to tight end Jake Ballard on second-and-17.

"I had no idea how much I was going to play," Boeckman said. "They just told me to be ready at all times. I'm always looking forward to getting out there and playing with these guys. I had some fun out there today, but unfortunately, we couldn't get the job done.

"It felt pretty good to get out there and throw the ball around a little bit. I haven't done that in quite a while."

Ohio State's coaches downplayed the two-quarterback scheme leading up to the game, suggesting it would only be used sparingly. But Boeckman took the game's first snap and found Robiskie for a 14-yard gain.

He seemed to spark the offense in the first half, and after the unit went silent in the third quarter, his 48-yard completion to Robiskie on third-and-13 changed the game's complexion.

"Todd is a special guy," head coach Jim Tressel said. "Every one of us wanted to do all we could to make him a part of the plan. He stepped in and did a good job."

The game signaled the start of a major personnel transition for Ohio State, as the 28-member senior class departs following four Big Ten titles but a 1-3 record in bowl games. Running back Chris "Beanie" Wells and wideout Brian Hartline, both juniors, also could also be departing. Both said they had not reached a decision about the NFL draft.

"The seniors have 43 wins throughout their career here," Boeckman said. "That's one of the best records in Ohio State's history. The hard part about that is the last three bowl victories, we didn't get a win. That's probably what people are going to remember the most. That's tough to take."

The near miss resonated with Pryor, who performed admirably under pressure and will face an even greater burden in 2009.

"We made a statement, but losing to a team, it's not good enough," Pryor said. "You've got to win. We hung onto 'em, but it doesn't sound great. It's not right.

"We had an OK season. We needed to finish that game off."