COLUMBUS - Things could have gone massively wrong on Saturday for the Ohio State Buckeyes when it was announced that Cardinal Mooney graduate and senior defensive end John Simon would not play against Michigan due to a right knee injury.
Even with Simon on the sideline, he was still the most valuable player to the defense against the Wolverines in the Buckeyes 26-21 victory.
Simon's injury was announced in pregame as a right knee injury suffered against Wisconsin. Later, it was said that a bursa sac in Simon's knee burst, which caused swelling that would not go down in time for kickoff.
"I had a bad feeling early in the week when I saw his knee," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. "It was a bursa - it's not a structural issue, it's just the swelling we couldn't get out. And my man was in the training room early in the morning until late at night doing everything they could."
Simon's injury was evident to all 105,899 fans in attendance for "The Game." As he walked out of the tunnel for his introduction as a part of senior day, Simon was obviously favoring it, almost dragging it as it seemed hard to bend. Because Simon wasn't moving as fast, Meyer met him halfway and gave the senior defensive end an extended hug.
"When they DQed him, it was like a possessed group on defense," Meyer said. "I know why. Because our brother was down and we presented him the game ball, which was deserving."
Simon didn't want to speak after the game, as it was told to media that he didn't want to take away from the guys who did play and defeated Michigan. But teammate Ryan Shazier still credits Simon for what the defense was able to do against the Wolverines - especially in the second half.
"It was rough not knowing if he was going to play," Shazier said. "I thought the whole week that he was going to play. When he told us he wasn't going to play, we had to bring it in together as a team, like when (Etienne) Sabino got hurt. We had to win it for him."
The Michigan offense was having its way with the Buckeyes in the first half - especially hybrid quarterback/running back Denard Robinson. At the half, Michigan had 21 points and 219 yards 124 yards of those belonging to Robinson.
In the second half, the Buckeyes held the Wolverines to 60 total yards and zero points. But more importantly, OSU figured out how to stop Robinson, who finished the game with 122 yards rushing.
"I think we really settled in (in the second half)," co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said. "We didn't make a ton of adjustments, the guys just responded. And we challenged them at halftime. That's the kind of game it was going to be."
It was a bittersweet day for the defense, as numerous starters played their last game in a Buckeye uniform. The day had to be especially bittersweet for Simon, who had to end his career on the sideline.
"John Simon, our heart and soul of who we are as the 2012 football team, it's John Simon," Meyer said.