With much of an electric stadium-record crowd of 7,255 behind them in Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, the Buckeyes earned a 2-2 tie with previously unscored-upon No. 1 Akron thanks to David Tiemstra's goal with only two seconds left on the regulation clock.
"The whole team just put such great effort into it and we were just working so hard together, and it's an unbelievable feeling to come out with a tie," Tiemstra said.
That Tiemstra was the hero was no surprise, as the junior defender hit the goal of the year last year for the Buckeyes by tallying the goals that won OSU both the Big Ten regular-season and tournament champions.
This time, he was in the right place at the right time, charging in from the back toward the left post as the clock ticked down. With a scrum of players fighting for the ball in front of goal, OSU midfielder Matt Gold played it out of the mess to the onrushing Tiemstra with the net at his mercy, and the diving Akron players could only deflect the shot into the open cage.
The goal set off a raucous celebration in the stadium, with the Buckeye players racing into the corner for a wild melee while the fans – some of whom came racing back in after having headed for the exits – went wild.
"There's no other feeling like it I can describe or I've ever felt in my life besides that," Tiemstra said. "It was just unbelievable."
Ohio State (5-2-2) and Akron each had chances in the resulting overtime period, but Austin McAnena – who scored OSU's opening goal – fired high from 20 yards out early in extra time and Buckeye goalkeeper Matt Lampson made a point-blank save in the second 10-minute OT period.
"I was so proud of our team tonight for never giving up, going a man down, continuing to battle, and to be rewarded with a goal that late is a great sign for us," head coach John Bluem said. "It justifies the work. It justifies the effort."
The Buckeyes got the draw despite seeing team captain and leading goal scorer Konrad Warzycha sent off in the 52nd minute for drilling a ball in frustration after committing a foul. Unfortunately for him, the ball careened straight into the prone Zips player he had fouled, setting off a near donnybrook before referee Benjamin Trevino pulled the red card from his pocket.
From there, a goal from the top-ranked Zips (6-0-1) – who averaged 2.5 goals per game coming in and had beaten teams ranked second, third and fourth in the nation – seemed inevitable. That came true in the 68th minute when Darren Mattocks took his rebound after having a shot cleared off the line and buried it to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.
In the final 10 minutes, Bluem took the defensive reins off his team, putting on a second attacker despite being down a man and playing with three defenders in the lead-up to Tiemstra's goal.
"I don't know if that surprised them, but we got some pressure on them and starting making things happen, and then an incredibly timely goal with two seconds remaining to knot it up," Bluem said. "I think that gave us momentum and a real strong belief that we could get through overtime."
McAnena gave the Buckeyes the first lead, scoring in the 30th minute to deny Akron in its bid for a 12th straight shutout, which would have tied an NCAA record. Fellow sophomore Chris Hegngi showed good work to get the ball in the box and then laid it off to McAnena, whose 12-yard drive to the neat post beat David Meves for the first time all year.
"It doesn't happen too often against Akron, so I was really happy for us to go one-up on this team," McAnena said. "We've been struggling scoring all year and I think it was huge for us to get off on a good foot and come out strong like that."
Akron tied the score, 1-all, in the 38th minute on a penalty kick by Michael Nanchoff.