Robert Landers had one regret Friday night. He recovered a fumble but didn’t return it for a touchdown. Of course, he was almost 90 yards from the end zone, so maybe he should go easy on himself.
“It doesn’t matter,” Landers said. “If it gets in my hand, I’m supposed to get six.”
The Wayne grad Landers, a redshirt sophomore defensive tackle, started the season with probably the most memorable play that didn’t count in 2017 for the Ohio State Buckeyes. His fumble return for a score at Indiana in the season opener was overturned.
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In the Cotton Bowl on Friday night against Southern California, Landers recovered a fumble forced by Jalyn Holmes with 8:04 left in the game. The play helped seal Ohio State’s 24-7 victory at AT&T Stadium. The Trojans had the ball at Ohio State’s 12-yard line and would have still had a chance to rally if they had scored at that point.
The Buckeyes blanked the Trojans in the second half in part because of the play by Landers, who also had two tackles. He finished the season with 10 tackles, including five tackles for a loss.
“The game plan, honestly, was the same as it’s been every week,” Landers said. “Play our game. Play our football. Play rushmen defense. Just go out and dominate the line of scrimmage. There was nothing out of the ordinary. We didn’t really focus on changing up too much what we do. We just stayed solid and stayed true to who we are.”
My last J.T. Barrett photo. He won't miss this crowd. We know that because he said so. pic.twitter.com/JEFbg98dGe— David Jablonski (@DavidPJablonski) December 30, 2017
Last game: Chaminade Julienne graduate Cin’Quan Haney, a senior walk-on safety, saw his Ohio State career end in the Cotton Bowl. He spent three seasons with the team and will graduate in May with a degree in physics. He already has a job lined up in Washington, D.C., as a systems engineer for a defense contractor.
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“It was just a blessing to be able to make it this far and to be a Buckeye,” Haney said. “Being on the team helped me on and off the field become a better person. It helped me get ready for the real world. Being here for my last game, it really hit me. It was bittersweet. It’s over now. It’s on to the real world. I’ll just come back and see my boys in the future.”
Position battle: J.T. Barrett’s career ended in the Cotton Bowl, and now the Buckeyes start the process of finding their next starter. Dwayne Haskins will be the favorite to win the job over Joe Burrow and Tate Martell because he was the backup quarterback this season and led the Buckeyes to a comeback victory at Michigan in the regular-season finale.
Haskins said teammates were telling him, “It’s your team now.” He plans to attack the opportunity as if he’s the starter.
“I am excited about it,” Haskins said. “I can’t wait for the opportunity and to work for it every day.”
Looking ahead: Ohio State opens the 2018 season at home against Oregon State on Sept. 1. The Beavers finished 1-11 in 2017 and have won 12 games in the last four seasons.
Ohio State plays Rutgers at home on Sept. 8 and then returns to AT&T Stadium to play Texas Christian on Sept. 15.