COLUMBUS, Ohio — Turns out, the Bobcat had it in for the Buckeye all along.
"It was actually my whole plan to tackle Brutus when I tried out to be mascot," said Brandon Hanning, formerly known as Ohio University's Rufus Bobcat. "I tried out about a year ago, and the whole reason I tried out was so I could come up here to Ohio State and tackle Brutus."
And that's what he did Saturday, wrestling unsuspecting Brutus to the ground before 105,075 screaming college football fans at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State got even in the end, trampling the visiting team, 43-7.
The tussle led to an apology from Ohio University on Monday, and the 19-year-old Hanning is banned from further affiliation with the school's athletics department. Actually, he's not even a student there anymore; he now attends nearby Hocking College.
Hanning, of Meigs County in southeast Ohio, not far from Ohio University's campus in Athens, suited up about 15 minutes before the Bobcats faced Ohio State, went on the field near the OU cheerleaders and waited for his chance.
It came as Brutus and an Ohio State cheerleader hoisted an OSU flag and prepared to lead the Buckeyes players onto the field. With his Bobcat head in place, Hanning ran along the sideline and got in position.
"As soon as they started running onto the field, that's when I went," he said.
The Bobcat sideswiped the Buckeye, who got back to his feet and continued his sprint toward the end zone.
But Rufus, um, Hanning, wasn't done.
He then chased Brutus into the end zone, climbed on his back and rode him to the ground. The two then tussled, with Rufus punching the Buckeye in his oversized head while fans booed.
The Post of Athens was the first to report Hanning's intentions.
Bobcats athletics spokesman Jason Corriher released a statement calling the actions "extremely poor judgment and sportsmanship" and saying that the university regrets the negative effect they may have on the relationship between the two schools.
Bobcats coach Frank Solich summed up it nicely, "Obviously we needed to tackle the guy with the ball, not the mascot."
Hanning said he thinks the reaction to the tackle has been "a little blown out of proportion."
"Either everybody loved it, or everybody hated it," he said. "It's never been anything in the middle."
"I think I planned it pretty well...and I definitely would have done it again."