History Says Ohio State’s Close Call Isn’t Shocking

Kristofer GreenSenior Writer ISeptember 9, 2008

As the clock ticked down to zero to signal the end of the third quarter in Saturday’s Ohio State-Ohio game, the scoreboard read Ohio State 12-Ohio 14. Many Buckeye fans sat in Ohio Stadium and around their televisions in stunned silence.

Were the hopes and dreams of the entire Buckeye Nation going to come crashing down inside Ohio Stadium? Were the Buckeyes really losing to Ohio?

Ohio State would rally and score 14 fourth quarter points (and 20 straight) to seal the 800th victory in Ohio State‘s football history, but for many this game was too close for comfort.

Most Buckeye fans aren’t old enough to remember the last time Ohio State lost to another team from Ohio. After all, it has been 88 years since Oberlin defeated the Buckeyes 7-6 and no other Ohio school has beaten the Buckeyes since.

In 1921, Oberlin was no slouch. The Oberlin football program was only 27 years old and had a strong foundation in place from their first head coach, John Heisman, namesake of the Heisman Memorial Trophy.

But this was 2008 and Ohio State was not only considered the Kings of the Big Ten, but they were also among the nation's top three programs. Even thinking that Ohio State could lose to an in-state rival was ridiculous. Or was it?

The Jim Tressel era at Ohio State has been filled with many unbelievable moments.

The promise Jim Tressel gave Ohio State fans on the day he was hired that “you will be proud of your young people in the classroom, in the community, and most especially in 310 days in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the football field.” He kept his promise when the underdog Buckeyes shocked the ranked Wolverines in Ann Arbor.

The 2002 National Championship victory over a defending National Champion Miami team that had won 34 straight games with a coach who had never lost.

The 2005 Fiesta Bowl blowout, with the backup quarterback, over a retiring Bill Snyder and a Kansas State team that had just beaten Oklahoma in the Big XII Championship Game. Despite the loss, the Sooners still played for the National Championship.

The 2006 Fiesta Bowl victory over Charlie Weiss and Notre Dame in which the Buckeyes racked up 617 total yards of offense. That number, 617, would haunt Charlie Weis the entire off-season much to the delight of Buckeye fans. Before the game, Weis had implied Jim Tressel’s five National Championship victories weren’t all that impressive.

The remarkable turnaround against arch rival Michigan. To date, Tressel is 6-1 against the Wolverines.

But perhaps the most unbelievable fact about the Jim Tressel era at Ohio State is that in every season under Tressel, the Buckeyes have struggled with a team from a non-BCS conference.


September 8, 2001—Akron at No. 22 Ohio State

Ohio State began the Jim Tressel era with a victory, but it was not a pretty one. 

Jonathan Wells rushed for 119 yards and two touchdowns and Steve Bellisari threw for two more as Ohio State committed three turnovers in a sloppy 28-14 triumph.

Wells propelled the Buckeyes early, scoring on a 14-yard run in the first quarter and a one-yard burst in the second as Ohio State opened a 21-0 cushion with 9:14 left in the half.

Overall, Ohio State would rack up 525 total yards, but the Buckeyes fumbled five times, losing the ball twice, and threw an interception to take the shine off their effort. The Buckeyes squandered opportunity after opportunity and let the Zips back into the game.

The Buckeye ground game took over in the fourth quarter and ran out the clock to preserve a 28-14 victory, but the sloppy performance was not one the Buckeyes needed as they looked ahead to a West Coast road trip to face Pac-10 foe UCLA.

The Next Game

The young Buckeyes could never get anything going offensively against the No. 12 Bruins. Defensively, Ohio State played a great game, causing four fumbles and holding the Bruins to 61 yards rushing on 41 attempts, but the Bruins overcame and held on to win 13-6.


September 21, 2002—No. 2 Ohio State at Cincinnati

Ohio State played Cincinnati at Paul Brown Stadium, the first time the Buckeyes played in the Queen City in 91 years, and were playing in front of the largest crowd to ever watch a football game in that city.

In 2002, the Bearcats were members of Conference USA and Ohio State was playing the game without their star tailback, Maurice Clarrett.

Cincinnati played out of their minds and led 19-17 midway through the fourth quarter. But the Buckeyes dug deep and when defensive end Darrion Scott leveled Cincinnati quarterback Gino Guidugli, who fumbled the ball, the Buckeyes would recover and take the lead a few plays later on Craig Krenzel’s twisting 6-yard scramble with 3:44 left in the game.

But the Bearcats would not go away. Guidugli led a drive from his own 20 to the Buckeyes' 15 with 1:01 left. On first down, Guidugli threw a pass to the right corner of the end zone, where Jon Olinger had beaten freshman defensive back E.J. Underwood. Olinger had a clear shot at the ball, but he dropped it.

After an incompletion, Guidugli tossed a perfect throw on the fade route into the left corner of the end zone on third down. George Murray dived and appeared to have the ball for an instant before it slipped through his hands.

On fourth down with 32 seconds remaining, Guidugli dropped and threw into the middle of the end zone, but his pass was tipped away by Ohio State linebacker Matt Wilhelm and intercepted by Will Allen with 26 seconds left.

Ohio State would hold on for a 23-19 victory.

The Next Game

Maurice Clarrett returned to the line-up and Ohio State rolled past Big Ten foe Indiana. Clarrett had 104-yards rushing and three first half touchdowns which gave Ohio State a 21-10 lead at the half. The Buckeyes pulled away with 17 third quarter points and Ohio State finished with a 45-17 victory.


September 6, 2003—San Diego State at No. 6 Ohio State

San Diego State quarterback Wesley Williams would connect with Matt Dlugolecki for a 11-yard touchdown on the Aztecs opening possession. The Buckeye defense did keep the Aztecs out of the end zone for the rest of the game, but the Aztecs would get six points off of two long field goals.

The Aztecs held the Buckeyes to 196 total yards and 1-for-14 in third down conversions, but it was just enough for a 16-13 victory. The Buckeye offense never got anything going and if not for a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown by Will Allen the Buckeyes would have lost this game.

The Next Game

The Buckeyes controlled the game for three quarters, but NC State quarterback Philip Rivers would connect with Jerricho Cotchery and T.J. Williams for touchdown passes and Adam Kiker would kick a field goal to tie the game with 21 seconds remaining. The Buckeyes would eventually hold on for a 44-38 victory in three overtimes.


September 11, 2004—Marshall at No. 9 Ohio State

The Thundering Herd held the Buckeyes to 2-of-10 on third down conversions and 79 yards rushing.

The Buckeyes would get a big day out of quarterback Justin Zwick who would pass for 324 yards, but the offense was unable to translate 403 total yards into points because of four turnovers, including a fumble return for a touchdown by Marshall’s Jonathan Goddard.

This game almost went into overtime, but a 55-yard field goal (the longest in school history) by Mike Nugent with no time left on the clock sealed a 24-21 victory for Ohio State.

The Next Game

The Buckeye defense would force five turnovers and the offense, though only totaling 137 yards of total offense, would hold the ball for close to 40 minutes. Mike Nugent was the hero again and kicked five field goals. The Buckeyes would eek out a hard fought 22-14 victory against NC State in Raleigh.


September 17, 2005—San Diego State at No. 9 Ohio State

Coming off a 25-22 heartbreaking loss to No. 2 Texas the week before the Buckeyes came out flat against San Diego State. On the Aztecs first play from scrimmage, Brett Swain connected with Kevin O’Connell for an 80-yard touchdown.

The Buckeyes wouldn’t get their first points until there were 26 seconds left in the first quarter. Ohio State then took control of the game and won 27-6, but a deeper look reveals some problems.

The Ohio State defense held the Aztecs to only three first downs, the lowest total in Aztec history, but the Buckeye offense should have been able to score more points. On the surface, 375 total yards doesn’t seem so bad, but those yards didn’t translate into points.

The Buckeyes had two drive ending turnovers and were forced to punt nine times against a team that would finish 5-7.

The Next Game

The Buckeyes responded with 530 total yards, 314 of which came on the ground. Ohio State only punted three times and the defense held the Iowa Hawkeyes to negative yards rushing and 137 total yards to secure a 31-6 victory. The Buckeyes controlled the clock by running the ball and held possession for nearly 40 minutes.


September 2, 2006—Northern Illinois at No. 1 Ohio State

Although a score of 35-14 isn’t that shocking and the game was never in doubt, a deeper look reveals some very disturbing trends.

The Buckeyes struggled defensively against Northern Illinois. Even though they allowed only 12 points, the Buckeyes gave up a disturbing 343 total yards to a team that was one dimensional. The Huskies had one playmaker and Ohio State allowed him to make plays all day.

Tailback Garrett Wolfe rushed for 171 yards and had 114 yards receiving for the Huskies and the Ohio State defense couldn’t stop him.

The Next Game

The next week the Buckeyes would beat the defending National Champions and No. 2 ranked Texas Longhorns in Austin. The defense stepped up and held the Longhorns to a single touchdown in the first half and shut them out in the second half.

September 8, 2007—Akron at No. 12 Ohio State

Ohio State was ranked 12th in the country and coming off a 32-point victory over Youngstown State in the opening game of the 2007 season, but it was the Akron Zips who lead 2-0 at the end of the first quarter.

The Buckeyes struggled offensively in the first half and could only muster a measly three points. A stunned Ohio Stadium crowd couldn’t believe Ohio State only lead by the baseball score of 3-2 at halftime.

When the second half started the Buckeyes came to life and after 17 unanswered points the Buckeyes left the field humbled by their 20-2 victory over an Akron team that would finish the season with a 4-8 record.

Perhaps the Buckeyes were overconfident or perhaps they were looking ahead to a West Coast trip to face Pac-10 foe Washington the following week.

The Next Game

Ohio State would rebound on their West Coast road trip and leave Husky Stadium with a 33-14 victory. The win also gave Jim Tressel his 200th career victory.

The 2008 Buckeyes

Of all of Jim Tressel’s teams, the 2008 Buckeyes look most like the 2002 team. Both squads possess a game changing tailback, a game manager quarterback, a veteran offensive line, talented wide receivers, a ball hawking defense, veteran linebackers, and a secondary that catches more interceptions than allow touchdowns.

The 2008 Buckeyes have another thing in common with their 2002 counterparts. Both teams have/had something to prove.

The 2002 team became known as the “Luckeyes” after winning seven games by seven points or less and no one thought they could ever keep up with the Miami Hurricanes. They did, and in double overtime the Buckeyes won their eighth game of the season by seven points or less.

The 2008 Buckeyes are out to prove they are no fluke after two consecutive losses in the National Championship game.

The 2008 Buckeyes will face a stiffer test following their close call than the 2002 team, but as history has shown, chances are the Buckeyes will respond.


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