2010: #8 Ohio State beats #7 Oregon 26-17 in Rose Bowl
Despite of, or maybe due to, all off his success at Ohio State, Jim Tressel took the Buckeyes to just one Rose Bowl, as the 8th ranked Scarlet and Gray upset #7 Oregon 26-17. Most of the build-up leading to the Buckeye’s 1st appearance in Pasadena since 1997 (the longest drought since OSU’s 1st and 2nd Rose Bowl games in 1921 and 1950) centered on how the Big Ten champs could possibly slow down the Ducks high powered offense. Oregon came into the Rose Bowl averaging over 37 points a game and had scored 40 or more in 5 of their final 6 games. Surely, the Buckeyes would rely on their ground game to keep the ball away from Jeremiah Masoli and company. That would be a false assumption.
Buckeyes got the ball to start the game, and Terrelle Pryor came out firing. Eight of Ohio State’s 1st ten plays were passes, and the first of those rushes, a 24 yard Pryor gain on 3rd and 6, came off a scramble. After gaining 11 yards on the ground, Jr. RB Brandon Saine got the Buckeyes on the board with a 13 yard TD catch. The Piqua native made the catch out of the back field, sprinted down the sideline before running over a Duck defender at the goal line for a 7-0 Buckeye lead. Late in the opening quarter, Pryor and Saine hooked up again. Pryor perfectly leading the former state champion sprinter as he came out of the backfield to make an over the shoulder catch, tip-toeing down the sideline, Saine was finally tackled at the Oregon 4 yard line, a 46 yard pick-up. Unfortunately, the Buckeyes could only manage a 19 yard Devin Barclay FG and a 10-0 lead. Oregon got good field position off a 28 yard Kenjon Barner kick return, and early in the 2nd quarter, got on the board with a 24 yard Morgan Flint FG. Barner gave the Ducks good field position on their next possession with a punt return to the OSU 30 yard line. Eight plays later, LeGarrette Blount tied the game at 10 with a short TD run. Oregon’s season began with a loss to Boise State, in which Blount punched a Bronco following the defeat. First-year Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly suspended Blount for the rest of the season, but reinstated him for the season ending “Civil War” against Oregon State, as well as the Rose Bowl. Ohio State answered with a 19 play, 67 yard drive that took 8:00 off the clock. Three times the Buckeyes converted on 3rd down, and also had a 4th down conversion, but had to settle for a 30 yard Barclay FG and a 13-10 lead. Ducks got the ball back with just over 1:05 left in the half and quickly moved across midfield, but on 3rd and 7 from the OSU 42, Coldwater’s Ross Homan intercepted Masoli and returned it 20 yards to the Ducks 46. Pryor’s 18yard pass to Dane Sanzenbacher moved the Buckeyes into FG range. Aaron Pettrey, who missed most of November with a torn MCL in his right knee, rehabbed and came on to kick a 45 yard FG to end the half with the Buckeyes leading 16-10.
3rd quarter was more of the same, as Barner returned the opening kick 39 yards to the Oregon 47. Didn’t take the Ducks long to take their first lead of the game, as Masoli scored from 1 yard out for the 17-16 lead. Buckeyes went on another long drive, 11 plays, 59 yards, but again had to settle for a FG, as Barclay connected from 38 yards out for the 19-17 lead. Barner struck again, with a 36 yard return. On the game he finished with 227 all purpose yards, 150 of those coming on returns. LaMichael James gained 30 yards to the OSU 26, and it appeared the Ducks would reclaim the lead. On 2nd and 2 from the 18, ball was supposed to be handed off to Blount, but he never got a hold of it, inadvertently kicking it towards the goal line, neither Chimdi Chekwa nor Nathan Williams could recover it in bounds for the Buckeyes, but the ball did squirt out of the end zone, a touchback, giving the ball to OSU at their own 20 yard line. Buckeyes held on to the slim lead through the 3rd quarter, and on their 1st drive of the 4th, got some valuable breathing room. On 3rd and 13 from their own 45, Pryor put up a jump ball, that TE Jake Ballard, a former standout HS basketball player at Springboro High School, came down with at the Duck 31 yard line. Five plays later, Pryor threw a 17 yard TD pass to DeVier Posey and a 26-17 lead. Oregon got the ball back with 7:02 remaining, surely enough time for that high powered offense to score twice. Cliff Harris’s kick return gave the Ducks the ball at the OSU 36, but on 4th and 1 from the 27, Kelly elected to take the points, attempting a 45 yard FG. Flint missed and the Ducks didn’t get the ball back, as Ohio State ran off the final 5:10 to win 26-17.
Pryor earned Rose Bowl MVP honors, ironically, the previous 3 OSU Rose Bowl MVPs were also Sophomore QBs, Rex Kern in 1969, Cornelius Greene in 1974 and Joe Germaine in 1997. Pryor led the Buckeyes with 72 yards rushing on 20 carries, but also excelled in the air, completing 23 of 37 for 266 yards and 2 TDs. DeVier Posey caught 8 of those for 101 yards, as the Buckeyes racked up 419 total yards of offense. The Silver Bullets did their part, holding James, a 1,400 yard rusher, to just 70 yards, and only giving up 260 total yards. LB Homan had a team high 12 tackles, plus OSU’s only interception. The D-line should get a lot of credit as well, Thaddeus Gibson, Cameron Heyward and Doug Worthington were all disruptive forces in the win. With the victory, OSU ended a 3 game losing skid in BCS Bowls, as well as a 6 game losing streak against teams in the top 10. They finished the season 11-2 and had beaten 5 teams (Navy, Wisconsin, Penn St., Iowa and Oregon) with 10 wins or more.
The victory also meant Ellen Tressel had to fulfill a long held promise to her husband, Jim. During the 2002 season the couple agreed to buy a sports car if the Buckeyes reached the Rose Bowl. After winning the National Title in the Fiesta Bowl, Ellen gently reminded Jim that the deal was for the Rose Bowl. Five months after winning the Grandaddy of ‘Em All, Ellen asked Tressel to come to the Shoe to meet with a booster and watch the band perform. After Tressel led the band in “Carmen Ohio” a red Mustang convertible was driven onto the field. Ellen’s present after the Buckeyes Rose Bowl win.
2002: Ohio State loses to South Carolina 31-28 in Outback Bowl
For the 2nd straight season, Ohio State and South Carolina squared off in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, and while former Buckeye Assistant Lou Holtz was on the Gamecock sideline for the 2nd straight season, OSU had a new head coach, as Jim Tressel, coming off the upset win in Ann Arbor went to a New Year’s Day Bowl for his 1st Buckeye Bowl game. Holtz got revenge for his 2 losses to the Buckeyes while at Notre Dame, with a 31-28 win, but his Gamecocks did blow a 28 point lead in the process.
Sophomore Craig Krenzel did start for the Buckeyes at QB, but Sr. Co-Captain Steve Bellisari saw most of the playing time, his 1st action since his arrest and subsequent suspension for DUI charges. After a scoreless 1st quarter, the Gamecocks took a 14-0 lead at the half. The 2nd half started the same way, with South Carolina building a 28-0 lead with 5:38 to go in the 3rd quarter. QB Phil Petty, the game’s MVP threw two TD passes and RB Andrew Pinnock rushed for 2 scores. But late in the 3rd, Bellisari took over, leading the Buckeyes on their 1st scoring drive, capped off by a 2 yard QB keeper as time expired in the 3rd. Early in the 4th, the Buckeyes struck again, as Bellisari hit TE Darnell Sanders for a 16 yard TD, cutting the lead to 28-14. The Silver Bullets were stopping South Carolina and Bellisari engineered another drive, reaching the SC 23 yard line. With 6:00 remaining, the Gamecocks appeared to seal the victory when they recovered a Bellisari fumble, but on the very next play, they coughed it right back over to the Buckeyes, with Jr. All-American Safety Mike Doss recovering. After a 22 yard Michael Jenkins reception, Jonathan Wells scored from a yard out, and the Buckeyes were just down 7, 28-21, with 5:02 left. Gamecocks went three and out and the Scarlet and Gray drove down the field once again, with Bellisari completing all 5 passes, capped off by Sanders’ 2nd TD grab, this one a 9 yarder to tie the game at 28 with 1:54 remaining. The Outback Bowl was quickly building a reputation as the Comeback Bowl. In 2000, Georgia had rallied from a 25 point deficit to beat Purdue 28-25, the largest comeback in any New Year’s Day bowl game. South Carolina made the next mistake, as Cie Grant intercepted Petty with 1:12 remaining, but an excessive celebration penalty moved the ball back to the OSU 15 yard line. Up to this point, Bellisari had played one of his best games, completing 21 of 35 passes for 320 yards, a career-high and still 13th best all-time for the Buckeyes. But Bellisari had one last interception left in him, Sheldon Brown made the pick, returning it 34 yards to the Buckeye 29 yard line. Daniel Weaver then played the hero, as the South Carolina kicker made the game winning FG as time expired, just barely clearing the uprights for the 31-28 victory.
Even though they lost the Bowl Game, the 7-5 Buckeyes had some positive momentum going into the 2002 season, with the win over Michigan and with 2-time All-American Mike Doss announcing he would return for his senior season. South Carolina, just two years removed from an 0-11 campaign, finished the season 9-3, the first time the Gamecocks had won 10 games since 1984′s 10-2 campaign, in Lima native Joe Morrison’s 2nd season in Columbia as Head Coach.
2001: #18 Ohio State loses to South Carolina 24-7 in Outback Bowl
A year after neither team made a bowl game, 18th ranked Ohio State and South Carolina squared off in the Outback Bowl in Tampa. The Gamecocks were one of the surprise stories of college football, as Lou Holtz, after going 0-11 in his 1st year in Columbia, started off 7-1, before losing their last 3 games. A year removed from a 6-6 campaign, John Cooper’s team went 8-2 before losing to Michigan in the regular season finale. South Carolina was playing in their first bowl game since 1994 and the Steve Tanneyhill “Glory Years.” Gamecock fans eager for their first 8 win season since Joe Morrison’s last year on the sidelines, 1988, quickly snapped up their allotment of 30,000 tickets and the Outback Bowl was a sellout. Most of those fans would go home happy, as the Gamecocks had an easy 24-7 win in John Cooper’s final game as Ohio State’s head coach.
The Defenses dominated in the 1st half, as South Carolina kicked a FG in the 2nd quarter. Ohio State had a chance to tie it before half, but Dan Stultz missed a 47 yarder as time expired. In the 2nd half, the Gamecocks took over, started on OSU’s 1st possession when Jr. QB Steve Bellisari was sacked and fumbled at the Buckeye 28 yard line. South Carolina was playing without leading rusher Derek Watson, who had been suspended for violating team rules. Troy native Ryan Brewer started in his place. Ohio’s Mr. Football 1998, Brewer felt like the Buckeyes were never that interested in him coming out of high school, and relished the opportunity to prove them wrong. He did just that, rushing for 109 yards and 2 TDs on 19 carries, plus caught 3 passes for 92 yards and a third TD. Trailing 10-0 in the 3rd, Ken-Yon Rambo put the Buckeyes in prime scoring position with a 62 yard catch giving Ohio State 1st and goal from the one. Jonathan Wells then fumbled, but luckily for the Buckeyes, offensive lineman Mike Gurr recovered in the end zone for the TD, cutting the lead to 10-7. In the 4th quarter, South Carolina used OSU turnovers to score 2 more TDs and win 24-7.
The victory was sweet for Brewer, as well as for Holtz. An assistant under Woody Hayes on the 1968 National Championship team, many thought Holtz would be the next Buckeye head coach after Hayes, instead of Earle Bruce. OSU had beaten Holtz 4 time previously, twice at Minnesota and twice at Notre Dame. With the loss, Cooper’s career record at Ohio State stood at 111-43-4. The day after the Outback Bowl, AD Andy Geiger announced Cooper, despite 3 years remaining on his contract, would be relieved of his duties. Geiger cited a “deterioration” in the football program. While Cooper’s 2-10-1 record against Michigan and a 3-8 Bowl record. There were also numerous off-field issues, including teammates suing each other and a starting WR with a 0.0 GPA. Cooper’s OSU teams shared 3 Big Ten Titles and finished 2nd four times and twice the Buckeyes finished 2nd in National Polls.
1999: #3 Ohio State beats #8 Texas A&M 24-14 in Sugar Bowl
In the initial BCS season, #3 Ohio State just missed out on a berth in the National Championship game, and while losing out on the Rose Bowl tiebreaker with Wisconsin, had to settle for a trip to New Orleans and a 24-14 win over 8th ranked Texas A&M in the Sugar Bowl, the Buckeyes 2nd straight trip to the Big Easy. The Aggies had upset previously unbeaten Kansas State in the Big XII Title game, costing the Wildcats a spot against Tennessee in the National Championship Fiesta Bowl.
Texas A&M got the ball first and quickly marched down the field with Dante Hall scoring from 9 yards out for the 7-0 lead. Ohio State answered immediately, as Sr. QB Joe Germaine led an 8 play, 71 yard scoring drive. Sr. WRs Dee Miller and David Boston both had key receptions, but So. Reggie Germany caught the 18 yard TD. On their next series, Ohio State methodically picked apart the vaunted “Wrecking Crew” Aggie D. After a 30 yard Joe Montgomery run, the Sr. RB put the Buckeyes ahead for good with a 10 yard TD run. Montgomery ended his OSU career with a game high 92 yards rushing on 9 carries. The Silver Bullets forced another Aggie punt, but this time, Derek Ross “blocked” the Shane Leckler punt. In reality, Ross pretty much tackled Leckler before he could get the kick off, special teams captain Kevin Griffin picked up the loose ball and returned it 16 yards for the TD. The score was the 36th for the Griffin family, with Kevin’s Uncles, Archie (29) and Ray (5) accounting for most of the tallies. In the span of six and half minutes, the Buckeyes had scored 21 points and took control of the game. After that the OSU offense was quite stagnant, Dan Stultz finished the 1st half with a FG, but missed 2 more in the 2nd half. The Defense made the 17 point halftime lead stand up. The Aggies did score in the 3rd quarter, a drive aided by 40 yards in Buckeye penalties, including an infraction that negated a Damon Moore interception. Following the score, Texas A&M threatened again, moving to the OSU 33 yard line, but Jr. LB Andy Katzenmoyer sacked Brandon Stewart to end that threat. After Stultz’s 2nd miss, Aggies drove across midfield, but Sr. LB Jerry Rudzinski broke up an option pitch, forcing a fumble that he recovered.
David Boston won MVP honors, in his last game as a Buckeye, the JR. WR, playing on a badly sprained ankle, caught 11 passes for 105 yards. With the win, the Big Ten finished the Bowl season a perfect 5-0. Tennessee went on to beat Florida State 23-16 to finish the season as the only undefeated team, claiming the undisputed National title. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes, 11-1, co-Big Ten champs, had to settle for #2 in the final polls for the 2nd time in three years. This Sugar Bowl victory also marked the 5th straight year OSU had played on New Year’s Day, plus for the 4th straight year, John Cooper’s team had won 10 or more games. The Buckeyes also joined elite company, as they had won at least one of the Major Bowl games, (Rose, Orange, Fiesta, Cotton and Sugar)
1998: #9 Ohio State loses to #4 Florida St. 31-14 in Sugar Bowl
Ohio State’s Big Ten Title hopes were dashed in Ann Arbor, but the 9th ranked Buckeyes had to settle for a trip to New Orleans and the Sugar Bowl against 4th ranked Florida St. The Seminoles were all business beating up the Buckeyes 31-14.
Buckeyes actually led 3-0 in the 1st quarter on a Dan Stultz 40 yard FG. After that Seminoles WR E.G. Green took over, catching 7 passes for 173 yards and a TD. FSU QB Thad Busby torched the Silver Bullets for 334 yards passing on 22 of 33 and also had a TD run. Trailing 7-3 in the 2nd quarter, OSU momentarily reclaimed the lead. Buckeyes called a fake field goal, with punter/holder Brent Bartholomew completing to TE John Lumpkin for a TD, however, the referees ruled Lumpkin lined up inside the numbers and had failed to report as an eligible receiver, negating the TD, compounding the error, Stultz then missed the FG attempt. Seminoles quickly scored two more TDs before the end of the half. One of the few highlights for the Buckeyes came in the 3rd quarter when they were trailing 21-6. The Silver Bullets had FSU pinned deep in their own territory, DT Winfield Garnett chased Busby out of the end zone for a safety. But it was way too little. Stanley Jackson and Joe Germaine continued to split time at quarterback, but neither one was effective, as the FSU pass rush spent just as much time in the OSU backfield as the Buckeyes. Jackson and Germaine combined to throw 3 interceptions and were sacked 6 times, including one bone jarring hit on Germaine that sent his mouthpiece flying. Germaine did throw a 50 yard TD pass to Lumpkin in the 4th quarter, cutting the lead to 24-14, but that’s as close as they got.
The Seminole victory was Bobby Bowden’s 16th Bowl win, passing Bear Bryant for 2nd all time, as the Seminoles finished 3rd in the polls. Ohio State, at 10-3, was 12th in the final balloting, but would be #1 in the pre-season polls the following summer.
1997: #4 Ohio State beats #2 Arizona St. 20-17 in Rose Bowl
Even with a loss to Michigan, #4 Ohio State still earned a trip to Pasadena and the Granddaddy of ‘Em All, facing John Cooper’s former team 2nd ranked Arizona St. The Sun Devils brought in a perfect 11-0 record, lead by Sr. QB Jake Plummer. Plummer and Arizona-native Joe Germaine, the Buckeyes sophomore 2nd QB, would provide plenty of thrills, as the lead changed hands 5 times, including twice in the final 100 seconds. In the end, OSU had the final momentum swing, ending a 23 year Rose Bowl victory drought winning a 20-17 thriller.
Stanley Jackson got the start at QB, and in the 1st quarter, led the Buckeyes to the opening score. After 2 completions to Dee Miller, Jackson hurt the Sun Devils with his feet, gaining 20 yards on a scramble. The Jr. QB then hit FB Matt Keller out of the back field for a gain to the ASU 4 yard line. The 11 play 83 yard drive ended with David Boston’s 9 yard TD and a 7-0 lead. Score stayed that way until the 2nd quarter, when Plummer threw a 25 yard pass t Ricky Boyer who made a diving catch in the end zone. At least the referees called it a diving catch, replays looked like the ball hit the ground, but this was before video replay could be used to correct blown calls on the field. In the 3rd quarter, Arizona State took the lead on a 37 yard Robert Nycz FG. But the Buckeyes quickly answered. With Germaine in the game, Dimitrious Stanley made a diving catch to keep the drive alive. On the next play, Germaine hit Stanley over the middle near midfield, the WR broke a tackle and was off to the races, a 72 yard TD score, the longest TD catch in OSU Bowl History. The Silver Bullets dominated most of the game, but the Buckeyes couldn’t capitalize on an Andy Katzenmoyer interception in ASU territory. In the 4th quarter, the OSU RBs appeared to put the game away. Pepe Pearson’s 62 yard run put the Buckeyes in Sun Devil territory. Michael Wiley nearly broke one for a TD, but OSU had to settle for a short FG attempt. Then disaster struck, Brent Burnstein blocked his 4th kick of the season, teammate Derek Smith scooped it up and started running down field, as he was being tackled, he flipped the ball to Derrick Rodgers who rumbled all the way to the end zone for the go-ahead TD. However there was a flag on the play, Smith’s flip was an illegal forward lateral, bringing the ball back to the ASU 42 yard line with 5:36 remaining. All season long Jake the Snake had been a master of the late game heroics rallying the Sun Devils to several 4th quarter comeback victories. The Silver Bullets continued to harass him and hit ASU hard, but the PAC-10 champs kept coming back. On 4th and 3, Plummer was able to keep the drive alive with a 29 yard completion to Keith Poole. With just under 2:00 remaining, Plummer faced a 3rd and goal from the 11 yard line, somehow he managed to sneak his way to the goal line, diving into the end zone for a 17-14 lead with 1:40 remaining.
I was watching the game at my Grandma’s with my parents and girlfriend, at this point, disgusted with another OSU Bowl loss, I left, walking to my parent’s house a little under a half mile away, so I missed most of the following drive. With Plummer smiling on the sidelines, and a possible National Title within reach, Germaine then took over. Ohio State started the game winning drive at their own 34 yard line with 1:33 on the clock, and just one timeout left. After two incompletions, Germaine hit Stanley for a 1st down at the Buckeye 45 yard line with 1:16 on the clock. After 2 more incompletions, Germaine found Stanley once again, a 13 yard gain to the ASU 42 yard line, with :55 left. The next play, Germaine back to Stanley, out of bounds, inside the 30 yard line, another 1st down, stopping the clock at :46. Then the referees took over, ASU’s Jason Simmons was called for pass interference, OSU ball at the 19 yard line. After an incompletion, pass interference WASN’T called, completely befuddling color analyst Dick Vermeil (who was working his final college game before returning to the NFL as the Rams head coach and leading St. Louis to the Super Bowl XXXIV title over Eddie George and the Tennessee Titans, three years later). Germaine’s 3rd down attempt fell incomplete in the end zone, intended for Boston, but Marcus Soward was called for pass interference, giving OSU the ball at the Sun Devil 5 yard line with :24 on the clock. At this point, I walked up the steps to my parent’s front porch and heard the phone ringing. It was my mom telling me to quickly turn the TV on, the Buckeyes were about to score. The next play, Germaine, with all the time in the world, found a wide open Boston who caught it at the one, stepped into the end zone and then strutted into the hearts of Buckeye Nation, OSU reclaimed the lead 20-17. But the drama wasn’t over, OSU missed the PAT, so ASU, with another miracle, could salvage a tie with a FG. They got near midfield, but time ran out before they could muster a serious threat.
There were many heroes of this Rose Bowl win. Germaine was named MVP after completing 9 of 17 for 131 yards and 2 TDs. Boston caught a pair of TDs, including the game winner, but Stanley led all receivers with 124 yards on 5 catches. Pepe Pearson was the leading rusher in the game with 114 yards on 13 carries. The Silver Bullets more than did their part, holding ASU, which was averaging 42 points and 492 yards, to just 17 and 276. Safety Damon Moore was the leading tackler, as the All-American from Fostoria recorded 9 stops, with LBs Greg Bellisari and Andy Katzenmoyer each adding 8, along with DB Ty Howard. Sr. NT Luke Fickell didn’t do much in his final game as a Buckeye, except occupy space and let the playmakers do their thing. Of course, the future OSU coach WAS playing with a torn pectoral muscle, and didn’t miss a down. Ohio State finished the season 11-1, the Big Ten co-champs and 2nd in the polls, behind Florida. The Gators had lost to Florida State, the week after the Buckeyes only loss (Michigan) but were able to rebound, beating Alabama in the SEC Championship game and then avenging the loss to the Seminoles, by beating FSU in the Sugar Bowl. Cooper became the first, and still the only, coach to win the Rose Bowl as both a Big Ten and Pac Ten head coach, and called this victory, “the greatest moment in my 35 years of coaching.”
1996: #4 Ohio State loses to #4 Tennessee 20-14 in Citrus Bowl
For the 2nd year in a row, and the third time in the last 4 years, Buckeye Nation descended on Orlando, Florida for the Citrus Bowl. Following the devastating loss to Michigan, #4 Ohio State, 11-1, faced Tennessee, 10-1, also ranked 4th in the AP, for the first time ever. The Buckeyes were busy racking up individual awards between games, as RB Eddie George won the Heisman Trophy, as well as the Walter Camp, Maxwell, Doak Walker and Jim Brown awards. WR Terry Glenn took home the Biletnikoff and Orlando Pace won his first of two Lombardi Awards. All three, as well as Mike Vrabel, were named All-Americans. The Volunteers had plenty of star power, too, lead by Sophomore QB Peyton Manning. But as often happened in the Cooper-era, the Buckeyes played flat, and lost 20-14, as the offense struggled for the 2nd straight game.
OSU got on the board first, with George’s 2 yard TD run late in the 1st quarter, but for the most part, the Heisman winner was contained, gaining only101 yards on 25 carries, and was virtually ignored in the 2nd half. George’s TD was set up by special teams, as Central McClellion blocked a punt. In the final seconds of the 2nd quarter, Tennessee grabbed the momentum. RB Jay Graham broke off a 69 yard TD run to tie the game at 7 at the break. Graham earned game MVP honors with 154 yards on 26 carries. In the 3rd quarter, Volunteers big play offense struck again, with Manning hitting Joey Kent for a 47 yard TD strike and a 14-7 lead on their opening possession. Buckeyes battled back, with St. Henry’s Bobby Hoying throwing his 57th and final Ohio State TD, still the program record, a 32 yarder to Rickey Dudley, tying the game at 14 early in the 4th quarter. But that was the last points OSU would muster, while Tennessee added a pair of FGs for the win.
Game was played in heavy rain, perhaps contributing to the low score, and afterwards Cooper accused Tennessee of wearing 3/4″ cleats, a 1/4″ longer than the NCAA allows. Buckeyes certainly didn’t help themselves, fumbling five times, losing three of them, to go along with one interception.
1993: #15 Ohio State loses to #8 Georgia 21-14 in Citrus Bowl
After tying Michigan, #15 Ohio State made their second trip to the Citrus Bowl, meeting #8 Georgia in Orlando, the first ever meeting of the prestigious programs. Both teams featured top running backs, Robert Smith for the Buckeyes, Garrison Hearst for the Bulldogs. Both would rush over 100 yards and score a pair of TDs, but Georgia was able to capitalize on an OSU turnover to win 21-14.
Midway through the 1st quarter, Hearst put the Dawgs on top, 7-0, with a one yard TD run. Late in the half, Buckeyes tied it at 7, as Smith scored from a yard out. In the 3rd quarter, the two future NFL RBs continued to match each other, Hearst scored on a 5 yard run, followed by Smith’s 5 yard TD rush. The Euclid native ended his Buckeye career with 112 yards on 25 rushes. But Hearst won MVP honors with 163 yards on 28 touches. In the 4th quarter, tied at 14, Buckeyes drove to the Georgia 16 yard line. Smith once again provided the big play, catching a pass out of the backfield and picking up 45 yards before Greg Tremble made a TD saving tackle. But on 3rd and 11, QB Kirk Herbstreit collided with FB Jeff Cothran on a trap play, causing a fumble, recovered by UGA’s Travis Jones. The 9-2 Bulldogs took advantage, driving 84 yards on 11 plays, before Frank Harvey scored from a yard out for the final score. Georgia QB Eric Zeier kept the Buckeye Defense off balance all game long, completing 21 of 31 for 242 yards.
This game had a direct impact on my career choice. Watching this game, with ABC’s #5 crew handling the play-by-play duties, my frustration mounting over OSU’s struggles, I decided if those yahoos could be on TV, why couldn’t I? Buckeyes finished the season 8-3-1, at the time, Cooper’s best season in Columbus.
1992: #25 Ohio State loses to #16 Syracuse 24-17 in Hall of Fame Bowl
For the 2nd time in 3 years, Ohio State was Tampa bound, this time, the #25 Buckeyes would face 16th ranked Syracuse in the Hall of Fame Bowl, the only time the game has featured no Southern schools. OSU started slowly, mounted a comeback but ultimately fell short, losing 24-17. The Orangemen quickly built a 14-0 lead, with QB Marvin Graves throwing a 50 yard TD pass and scoring on a 3 yard TD run in the 1st quarter. Buckeyes regrouped, and late in the 2nd quarter, Tim Williams kicked a 34 yard FG. John Cooper had been worried about Syracuse’s big play weapons, including Qadry Ismail. Ohio State held the Missile to just one catch, but it did go for 57 yards, setting up 3rd quarter FG and a 17-3 Orangemen lead. OSU offense finally got on track, Carlos Snow returned the ensuing kick 50 yards, and would later score from 2 yards out. In the 4th quarter, Buckeyes special teams came through with a big play, as All-American LB Steve Tovar blocked a punt at the Orangeman 15, Tito Paul recovered in the end zone, tying the game at 17. But Syracuse had one more big play left in them, as Graves ran a play action fake and hit Antonio Johnson for a 60 yard TD, the game winner. The Buckeyes had two chances to answers, but couldn’t put together a serious threat. Graves took home MVP honors after completing 18 of 31 passes for 309 yards. Orangemen finished the season 10-2 and on a 6 game winning streak, while the Buckeyes lost back to back games to end 8-4.
1990: #21 Ohio State loses to #9 Auburn 31-14 in Hall of Fame Bowl
After a 2 year Bowl absence, #21 Ohio State returned to the post-season, travelling to Tampa for the first time, to meet #9 Auburn in the Hall of Fame Bowl. The Tigers came into the game on a roll, winning their last 5 games, including a 30-20 win over Alabama in the Iron Bowl, and that roll would continue with a 31-14 victory over the Buckeyes. Ohio State started strongly, with Carlos Snow scoring from a yard out midway through the 1st quarter for a 7-0 lead. Auburn answered with a FG. In the 2nd quarter, Greg Frey hit Jeff Graham for a 68 yard completion setting up the Buckeyes 2nd TD, a 9 yard pass to Stablein. Graham caught 5 passes for 103 yards, but missed the entire 2nd half after pulling a groin muscle. On the ensuing possession, the highlight of the game, if not the year. Auburn QB Reggie Slack dumped off a screen pass to RB Stacy Danley. The pass was a little behind Danley, so he never saw OSU’s Zach Dumas coming up. The Safety unloaded on Danley, a hit that lives on thanks to YouTube. Danley lay motionless on the ground, but thankfully was not seriously injured. In fact, he remained in the game, and that play fired up Auburn. The Tigers cut the lead to 14-10 before the half with a Slack TD pass and then added 3 more TDs in the 2nd half to blow out the Buckeyes 31-14. After throwing a pair of interceptions in the 1st half, Slack regrouped in the 2nd half to win MVP honors, with 3 TD passes, plus a TD run, as Auburn finished the season at 10-2, 6th in the final AP Poll, while the Buckeyes wrapped up an 8-4 campaign.
1987: #11 Ohio State beats #8 Texas A&M 28-12 in Cotton Bowl
Ohio State’s 9 game winning streak came to an end against Michigan, as Jim Harbaugh came through on his guarantee, so instead of heading to Pasadena as the outright Big Ten Champs, the #11 Buckeyes were merely co-champs and in Dallas, to face 8th ranked Texas A&M, the Southwest Conference champs in the Cotton Bowl. The first time a Big Ten team had played in the traditional 4th major bowl. Earle Bruce made a fashion statement, wearing a suit, tie and fedora instead of his usual windbreaker and ballcap. The Buckeye players also made a fashion statement, wearing red shoes in the 28-12 win over the Aggies.
Texas A&M opened the scoring with a 1st quarter FG. Ohio State quickly moved down the field, on 3rd and 10, QB Jim Karsatos completed to Nate Harris for a 53 yard gain to the Aggie 7. But the 5th year Sr. signal caller underthrew Cris Carter and was picked off in the end zone. A couple possessions later, Karsatos again moved the ball through the air, on 3rd and 17 from his own 12, threw into double coverage, only to have Carter bail him out with a spectacular leaping catch near midfield. Later in the drive, Karsatos went deep again, picking up 37 yards with a completion to Jamie Holland at the A&M 2 yard line. Now in the 2nd quarter, that drive ended with Karsatos faking an option pitch to Jaymes Bryant and scoring from 3 yards out for the 7-3 lead. Aggies cut it to 7-6, after Tom Tupa shanked a punt, giving them good field position. Later in the half, Tupa playing QB, had a pass bobbled and intercepted, but A&M couldn’t convert, missing a FG.
In the 2nd half, OSU’s defense took over, All-American LB Chris Spielman intercepted a Kevin Murray pass, picked up a key block from Matthew Jackson and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown and a 14-6 lead. After the game, the Jr. claimed it was his 1st Pick 6 since playing pee-wee football. The pick party was just starting, as the Buckeyes confused Murray by rushing only 2 tackles and playing with 5 LBs. DB Sonny Gordon had the next interception and after a pair of Harris catches, RB Vince Workman took the option pitch to short side of the field, got a good block from Jeff Davidson and scored on a 8 yard TD run, putting OSU ahead 21-6. In the 4th quarter, LB Eric Kumerow had the next pick, but the Buckeyes turned it right back over to the Aggies, as Karsatos overthrew his intended target. That turnover lead to Roger Vick’s short TD run, but A&M couldn’t convert on the 2 point try, so they trailed 21-12. Vick was named offensive player of the game after rushing for 113 yards on 24 carries. Spielman recorded his 2nd pick of the game and earned defensive player of the game honors with 11 tackles. Buckeyes had one more highlight in them, as Michael Kee picked off Murray and returned it for the final TD in the 28-12 win. Kee’s 49 yard pick 6 became the longest in the Cotton Bowl Classic’s history, breaking Supreme Court Justice Byron “Whizzer” White’s record of a 47 yarder in the ’38 Classic, a game White’s Colorado Buffaloes lost to Rice.
The 5 picks were also a Cotton Bowl record. With the victory, OSU improved to 11-10 all time in Bowl Games, thanks to Bruce’s 5-3 Bowl record. Karsatos, despite 2 interceptions, played well, completing 10 of 21 for 195 yards. Harris had 6 grabs for 105, and Carter, playing in his final Buckeye game, caught 4 passes for 61 yards. With a 10-3 record, OSU ended their 6 year run of 9-3 campaigns.
1985: #6 Ohio State loses to #18 USC 20-17 in Rose Bowl
Despite a pair of Big Ten losses, the 6th ranked Buckeyes still claimed the outright league title and were Pasadena-bound, facing #18 USC, the 7th time the two squared off in the Granddaddy of ‘Em All. Earle Bruce’s team had won three in a row leading into the Rose Bowl, while the Trojans finished the regular season with back to back losses to rivals UCLA and Notre Dame. The Buckeyes had plenty of offensive firepower, and Keith Byars, Cris Carter and Mike Tomczak all had good games. But having to settle for FGs and costly turnovers were enough to give the Trojans a 20-17 victory.
Heisman Trophy runner-up Keith Byars broke off a 50 yard run on his first carry, but that was his only big play of the game, although he did finish with a game high 109 yards rushing on 23 carries, while catching 5 passes for an additional 26 yards. But even with the big play, OSU had to settle for a 21 yard Rich Spangler FG and the 3-0 lead. Trojans then scored 17 straight points. A Mike Tomczak interception, one of 3 for the Sr. QB, lead to the USC’s 2nd TD. Buckeyes got back on the board as time expired, with Spangler connecting on a 46 yard FG. In the 3rd quarter, Spangler kicked the longest FG in Rose Bowl history, a 52 yarder, cutting the lead to 17-9. USC answered with another FG, this one a 51 yarder, to go up 20-9. Midway through the 4th quarter, the Buckeye offense finally found the end zone, as Tomczak threw an 18 yard TD to Cris Carter, and then ran it in for the 2-point conversion, OSU down 20-17. Tomczak completed 24 of 37 for 290 yards, with Carter catching 9 of those for 172. But after that, The Trojan D wouldn’t allow the Buckeyes to get past the USC 38.
Ohio State outgained USC 403-261 and had three more 1st downs, but could not win the most important battle: points. With the victory, the PAC 10 took the overall lead in the Rose Bowl series against the Big 10, 20-19, after winning 13 of the last 15 Rose Bowls. Both teams finished the season with 9-3 records, and while they have met in the regular season 4 times since this contest, Ohio State and Southern California haven’t met in a Rose Bowl, or any bowl, since this game.
1980: #1 Ohio State loses to #3 USC 17-16 in Rose Bowl
Earle Bruce’s 1st season as Ohio State head coach could not have been scripted. After replacing Woody Hayes, a job many thought would go to Lou Holtz, Bruce took an unranked Buckeyes through an undefeated regular season and had them #1 in the land heading into the Rose Bowl against #3 USC. The Trojans hadn’t lost a game all season, either, but did blow a 21 point lead to Stanford, resulting in a 21-21 tie. In a game loaded with future NFL 1st round draft picks, the Trojans rallied in the 4th quarter to upset the Buckeyes, 17-16, costing OSU the National Championship.
The PAC-10 champs grabbed a 3-0 lead in the 1st quarter on an Eric Hipp 41 yard FG. In the 2nd quarter, Southern California increased the lead to 10-0 as QB Paul McDonald threw a 53 yard TD to Kevin Williams. The Scarlet and Gray answered, Vlade Janakievski’s 35 yard FG, made it a one score game, and in the final minute of the half, So. QB Art Schlichter connected with Gary Williams for a 67 yard TD tying the game at 10 at the break. Buckeyes perhaps should’ve had the lead. In the 2nd quarter, deep in USC territory, Ohio State went for it on 4th and goal, All-American safety Ronnie Lott stopped Schlichter and the Buckeyes got no points out of it. After the game, Bruce admitted is was a gamble, and in hindsight, wished he had kicked the FG, but felt his team had settled for too many FGs all season, and thought the chance for 7 was too good to pass up.
In the 3rd quarter, OSU took the lead, as Janakievski booted his 2nd FG, to put OSU ahead 13-10. In the 4th, he made it 16-10 with a 24 yarder with 9:42 remaining. Trojans offense got back in gear, moving down the field, but on 4th down, McDonald overthrew his receiver in the end zone. Buckeyes couldn’t run out the clock, and gave it back to the Men of Troy with 5:21 to play. USC turned to their Heisman Trophy winning RB Charles White, who despite battling a cold, set a Rose Bowl record with 247 yards on 39 carries. White accounted for 71 of the 83 yards on the go-ahead drive, as the Buckeyes simply could not stop White, as the Trojans offensive line dominated on the final drive. Fittingly, he tied the game with a short TD run and Hipp’s PAT put USC ahead 17-16 with 1:32 remaining. Schlichter had been very effective through the air, all game, completing 11 of 21 for 297 yards, with both Williams (3 for 131) and Doug Donley (4 for 110) enjoying good games. But on the final drive, he once again ended the Buckeye’s bowl hopes with an interception, as Lott picked him off.
Schlichter claims he cried in the locker room, knowing how close Ohio State was to a National Title, and wonders if the Buckeyes had won, if his and Bruce’s future would have been drastically different. I recently talked to Bill Myles, an assistant on that team, and he says the loss still burns Bruce, but as Myles points out, the Trojans were loaded, over 20 players went on to play in the NFL, with over half of those being 1st round draft picks. Bruce won numerous Coach of the Year honors, and the 11-1 record was good enough for 4th place in the final polls, USC was 2nd, behind Bear Bryant’s undefeated Alabama Crimson Tide. Speaking of Ohio State assistants, on Bruce’s staff, a young man who would later make his mark in the Rose Bowl for USC, Pete Carroll.
1977: #11 Ohio State beats #12 Colorado 27-10 in Orange Bowl
For the 1st time, Ohio State played in a Bowl game other than the Rose Bowl, but Woody Hayes and company didn’t go slumming, despite being shut-out by Michigan and a 8-2-1 record, the 11th ranked Buckeyes took their talents to South Beach, meeting up with Big Eight champion Colorado, coached by Bill Mallory, an assistant under Hayes from 1966-68. The match-up was also the first time OSU played a Bowl opponent who had to travel further than the Buckeyes. Even with a slow start, and 4 lost fumbles, the #11 Scarlet and Gray cruised to the 27-10 win over 12th ranked Colorado.
Buffaloes got off to a quick start, as Buckeyes starting QB Jim Pacenta fumbled in OSU territory, leading to a Colorado FG. After All-American kicker Tom Skladany missed a 56 yard FG attempt, a reverse helped the Buffaloes take a 10-0 lead. After that, all Ohio State. Hayes took Pacenta out, and brought in Rod Gerald, who had been out since injuring his back in the win over Purdue. With Gerald at QB, Ron Springs at TB and Jeff Logan at FB, the Old Man unleashed his “quick backfield set.” The three combined for 258 yards rushing on 51 carries. Logan got OSU on the board with a 36 yard sprint up the middle from the FB position. Skladany tied the game at 10 with a 2nd quarter FG. After Colorado missed a FG attempt, Ohio State chewed up most the clock with a 99 yard drive. Among the big plays, Gerald’s 15 yard completion to Jim Harrell to the CU 3 yard line. From there, Sr. FB Pete Johnson scored his 16th TD of the season, and his 58th and final TD of his OSU career, still, by far, the Buckeye record, and until Mike Nugent, the all-time scoring record. Ohio State lead 17-10 at the break. Turnovers were the name of the game in the 3rd quarter, as the Buffs recovered a bad pitch at the OSU 26 yard line, the 3rd Buckeye turnover of the game. But on the next play, All-American LB Tom Cousineau came up with an interception. Later in the 3rd, Gerald and Harrell hooked up again, this time a 44 yard gainer, again inside the Buffalo 5 yard line. But the Buckeyes had to settle for a 20 yard Skladany FG. In the 4th quarter, more of the same, after a Johnson fumble, Ed Thompson picked off Jeff Knapple leading to the game’s final score. With under a minute to play, Gerald, the Game’s MVP, kept it from 8 yards out for the 27-10 victory.
This is still the only time Ohio State has played in the Orange Bowl. Buckeyes finished the season ranked 5th in the UPI and 6th in the AP poll, with a 9-2-1 record. This would also be the 5th and final Bowl win for Woody Hayes.