2004: #24 Ohio State beats Oklahoma State 33-7 in Alamo Bowl
Over the 2nd half of the 2004 season, the Ohio State Buckeyes found their quarterback of the future, as Troy Smith went 4-1 as a starter. After losing their 1st three Big Ten games, the Buckeyes rebounded to finish the season 4-4 in league play with a win over Michigan. But a week before the Alamo Bowl, Smith was suspended for 2 games for accepting cash from a booster. Even without the future Heisman Trophy winner, Jim Tressel’s team rolled over Oklahoma State 33-7 for their 3rd straight bowl win, and Tressel’s 40th win at Ohio State in just 51 games.
Justin Zwick started in place of Smith, but the offense didn’t skip a beat racking up more than 400 yards for the 5th time that season. In the 1st quarter, after a Bobby Carpenter interception, Zwick threw his only TD pass, a 23 yarder to Anthony Gonzalez for the 7-0 lead. Zwick finished the day 17 of 27 for 189 yards and no picks, but was severely hampered by cramping issues. With Smith suspended, St. Henry’s Todd Boeckman was the only other QB available, and the Buckeyes were trying to save him for a red-shirt, a decision that would have paid off in 2008 if not for the emergence of Terrelle Pryor. So, on several occasions, Ohio State went to the shot-Ginn formation, with Fr. Ted Ginn Jr. taking a few snaps in the backfield. After a Cowboy three and out, the Buckeyes had great field position but had to settle for a 37 yard Mike Nugent FG, the first of four for the recently crowned Lou Groza Award winner. Oklahoma St. next possession ended in another turnover, as So. Joel Penton, from Van Wert, recovered a fumble, leading to another Nugent three pointer. In the 2nd quarter, Zwick’s threw a short pass to Ginn, the Fr. speedster should have been bottled up for a 6 yard gain gain, but the Cowboys couldn’t bring him down, and after breaking 3 tackles and cutting completely across the field, the Cleveland native was finally forced out of bounds at the 8 yard line for a 42 yards gain. Lydell Ross scored from one yard out and Ohio State was up 20-0. Ross had a game high 99 yards on 12 carries. On the PAT Nugent passed Pete Johnson as Ohio State’s all-time leading scorer with 349 points, the Centerville native added to that record breaking total later in the 2nd with a 41 yard FG and a 23-0 lead. That’s where the score stood at half after the Cowboys missed a FG attempt late in the 2nd quarter.
The Scarlet and Gray got the ball to start the 3rd quarter, but Brandon Joe fumbled on the first play from scriammge, giving the other OSU their best field position of the game. The Silver Bullets stiffened and on 4th and goal from the 6, Les Miles, still a few years away from the Mad Hatter nickname, attempted a fake field goal, Quinn Pitcock and Anthony Schlegel tracked down WR John Wohlgemuth, the holder, before he could turn the corner, giving the ball back to Ohio State. On 3rd and 8 from their own 8, Buckeyes handed off to Ross for a 16 yard gain. The next play, Ross picked up another 27 yards. The next play was a handoff to Ginn and 28 more yards on an end around. A couple plays later, with Zwick sidelined, direct snap to Ginn, and he scored a rushing TD from 5 yards out and a 30-0 lead for the Buckeyes. In the 4th quarter, Nugent capped his career with his 4th FG, and his 356th career points, the OSU all-time record. Cowboys did get a TD in the 4th, but the Buckeyes got the win to finish the season 8-4.
With the victory and strong end of the season, Ohio State would enter 2005 as one of the Big Ten favorites and a National Championship contender. Tressel’s 40-11 mark at Ohio State made him the 2nd fastest Buckeye head coach to reach 40 wins, only trailing the man who first hired him as a Buckeye Assistant, Earle Bruce, who only needed 50 games to reach that plateau.
1978: #20 Ohio State loses to #6 Clemson 17-15 in Gator Bowl
In a game that’s remembered for all the wrong reasons, #20 Ohio State finished a disappointing season with a 17-15 loss to #6 Clemson, in the final game Woody Hayes would ever coach. The 1978 Gator Bowl was the 1st time the Buckeyes played in a non-traditional Bowl Game. Despite its placement in the Sunshine State, Jacksonville, Florida is not Miami, Orlando or Tampa/St. Pete, in fact, Jacksonville in December and January can be downright mid-western. Rain and wind were in the forecast for much of the week leading up to the game and disrupted both team’s practice schedules.
The Tigers came into the game on a hot streak, having won 9 straight games. After that impressive run, the Florida Gators hired Clemson Head Coach Charley Pell, so Asst. Danny Ford was promoted, the 30 year-old’s 1st ever Head Coaching job. Later it was determined that Pell and his staff committed recruiting violations at Clemson, they were placed on probation, but were allowed to keep their 1978 ACC title. But THAT wasn’t captured on TV. The bizarre end of the game, with Woody slugging Clemson’s Charlie Bauman is the indelible image of this contest.
Bob Atha gave the Buckeyes a 3-0 lead with a 27 yard FG early in the 2nd quarter. But the Tigers answered with Steve Fuller, years away from his stint as the Chicago Bears backup quarterback and starring role in the “Super Bowl Shuffle” (They say Jimbo is our man/If Jimmy can’t do it, I sure can./This is Steve, and it’s no wonder/I run like lightnin’, pass like Thunder), scoring on a 4 yard TD run and a 7-3 Clemson lead. Before half, OSU’s Fr. QB Art Schlichter reclaimed the lead on a 4 yard TD run, but the PAT was blocked, and Clemson had enough time to kick a FG to go up 10-9 at the break. Twice in the 1st half, the Buckeyes were stopped on 4th and short opportunities that would have changed the game.
In the 3rd quarter, Fuller lead another scoring drive, as he would be named the game’s Most Outstanding Player, passing for 123 yards on 9 of 20, but also running for 39 yards on 17 carries. Down 17-9, Buckeyes offense got back on track in the 4th quarter, Schlichter scored his 2nd TD of the game, this time a one yard run. The Freshman had come a long way since his debut, the 5 interception debacle against Penn State. He wrapped up his 1st season at Ohio State with going 16 of 20 through the air for 205 yards, while leading the Buckeyes with 70 yards rushing on 18 carries. Down by 2, with 8:11 remaining, Hayes decided to go for the tie, but Schlichter was stopped on the option keeper on the 2 point conversion attempt. Looked like the Tigers were going to seal the victory in the 4th quarter, when they drove to the OSU 24 yard line, but Middle Guard Tim Sawicki recovered a fumble with 4:22 left in the game, giving Ohio State new life. Needing just a FG for the win, Buckeyes methodically moved down field. On 3rd and 5 from the Clemson 24, Schlichter’s pass over the middle for Ron Springs was intercepted by Tigers’ Middle Guard Charlie Bauman. He was run out of bounds in front of the Buckeye bench, when Hayes punched him.
Ohio State lost 17-15 in Hayes final game as Head Coach. On the plane ride back to Columbus, he announced to the team he had resigned, the administration announced he was fired. The semantics don’t really matter, the Buckeyes all-time winningest Head Coach was no longer in charge and after an ugly, public incident. Even before the Bauman incident, Hayes was going to leave a dual legacy. His wins on the field, the way he cared about his players and preached “paying it forward,” while stressing education, would always be tempered by his temper tantrums.