RB lives dream at ‘The Shoe’

by Jeff Sherry

As the final seconds ticked off the Ohio Stadium clock on Saturday and ended Ohio State’s 45-0 trouncing of Minnesota, most of the Gophers ran straight to their locker room.
Starting running back Thomas Hamner, however, was in no hurry. He wanted to cherish every moment.
Hamner, a redshirt freshman from Hamilton, Ohio, fulfilled a lifelong goal Saturday by playing in the stadium known as “The Horseshoe.” The scenario was a little different from what he envisioned as a child, but it was a day he’ll remember regardless.
“I’ve never had a chance to play here,” Hamner said. “This was my first chance that I’ve always dreamed of. It finally happened.
“It was real special for me. Even though we didn’t come out on top, it was real special for me to come in and play inside ‘The Shoe.'”
Hamner, who has started all eight of Minnesota’s games this season, was an all-state selection at Hamilton High School his senior year. He said he was recruited by one Buckeyes assistant coach, but the coach left Ohio State. There was then some miscommunication, Hamner said, and his contact with the program ended.
Evidently, Hamner’s hometown coaches, friends and family didn’t mind him not being a Buckeye. Several of them stood outside the locker room as he walked off the field.
They’d been waiting for this day nearly as long as Hamner.
“It really didn’t dawn on me until before we were about to go out for the kickoff,” Hamner said. “That’s when it really hit me, that my opportunity and chance was really about to happen. It’s just amazing how quickly the years went by.”
Wacker convinced
As the end of the season approaches, the argument over which is the country’s best team — Ohio State or Florida — will continue to heat up. Wacker has already made up his mind.
“You never ever crown a king until the end of the season,” Wacker said. “But if they can keep going and keep building the way they are right now, they have a chance to be one of the best teams ever.”
When asked what kind of team would be capable of beating OSU, Wacker replied, “A team that’s real, real good on a lucky day.” The Buckeyes’ remaining opponents are Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. Wacker said only Michigan would have a shot at winning.
“Michigan could give them a go if they get the breaks,” he said. “If they don’t get the breaks Ohio State will win.”
Day of firsts
Several Gophers achieved career firsts Saturday against OSU. Freshman receiver Luke Leverson had his first catch, and linebacker Rufus Smith and safety Tyrone Carter made their first interceptions.
Not all of the milestones were positive, however. Quarterback Spergon Wynn III threw the first pass of his Gophers career in the fourth quarter, but it resulted in his first interception.
Another yawner
Saturday’s game was the Gophers’ worst shutout defeat since losing 56-0 to Nebraska in 1990, but it wasn’t anything special to the Buckeyes.
Ohio State shut out Pittsburgh 72-0 earlier this season, so its players weren’t overly impressed with Saturday’s result.
“Our goal is to go to the Rose Bowl,” Buckeyes cornerback Ty Howard said. “We expect to dominate and win every ballgame. So it’s no big deal to us at all.”

Two-minute Drill
ù Minnesota’s Big Ten losing streak hit 12 games Saturday. The Gophers lost 19 straight conference games during a stretch from 1982 to 1984.
ù University students can purchase a ticket and bus package to attend the Gophers’ game at Wisconsin on Saturday for $40. Further information is available at the Coffman Memorial Union information desk.