The headline of the Oct. 9, 2004, edition of Buckeye Sports Bulletin said it all: "Evanstunned."
A lack of a consistent rushing attack sent the Buckeyes to their third loss in their last five games away from Ohio Stadium. Ohio State was held to less than 100 yards on the ground for the third straight game, ending with 97 rushing yards.
"Frustrating? Yeah, it's frustrating because I know we have guys who can run the bal and we have guys who can block," junior offensive tackle Rob Sims said. "We just didn't execute like we're capable of doing tonight and it bit us. We had some opportunities to get things done and didn't. That's why it's so frustrating. It's not the loss so much as the opportunities we didn't take advantage of. This game was right there for us and we didn't take it."
The Buckeyes were sluggish from the opening kickoff, struggling to make offensive headway against the Wildcats. Northwestern took a 13-10 lead into halftime and maintained their narrow lead heading into the fourth quarter with a 20-17 lead. Things looked dim for the Buckeyes early in the final 15 minutes, when Wildcat tailback Noah Herron rushed for a 1-yard touchdown only 15 seconds in the quarter to give his team a 27-17 lead.
Ohio State was able to force overtime, however, thanks to a pair of late scores. First, Mike Nugent made a 29-yard field goal with 8:46 remaining to cut the deficit to seven points. Then quarterback Justin Zwick connected with Santonio Holmes on a 21-yard touchdown pass with 1:54 remaining to tie the game.
The Buckeyes nearly won the game in regulation, even after scoring a touchdown with less than two minutes remaining. Northwestern failed to record a first down after taking the ensuing kickoff, and Ohio State nearly completed a 50-yard bomb from Zwick to Holmes inside the final minute. Only an athletic play by Northwestern cornerback Marvin Ward to alter the flight of the ball prevented what would have been a crucial reception.
Overtime was not the right time for the Buckeyes. Ohio State started on offense and gained only 3 yards before having Nugent come on for a 40-yard field goal attempt. His kick failed, only his second miss of the season, and opened the door for the Wildcats. Herron, who finished the game with 113 yards on 33 carries, then ended the game on a 3-yard touchdown run and sending the purple-clad fans at Ryan Field into a frenzy.
"Tonight reminded me of two great heavyweights going 15 rounds," the late Randy Walker said after the game. "I'm glad we got in the last punch."
1999: Wisconsin 42, No. 12 Ohio State 17 – The Buckeyes had no answer for eventual Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne, and the Badgers blitzed host Ohio State.
Wisconsin, coming off losses to Cincinnati and Michigan, spotted the Buckeyes a 17-0 lead before taking command thanks to its powerful rushing attack. Dayne led the way as usual, rushing for 161 yards and four touchdowns.
The loss dropped Ohio State to 3-2 (0-1 Big Ten) and put its season on the brink of disaster.
"I told our players in the locker room that now we'll find out what kind of football team we have in practice this week," Ohio State had coach John Cooper said in the Oct. 9, 1999, edition of BSB. "We've got Purdue coming in here, and we know they're going to be mad. Plus, they have a different style of offense.
"But obviously, we've got to play better."
Things started well enough for the Buckeyes. They started the scoring with a 1-yard touchdown dive by tailback Michael Wiley that ended an eight-play, 72-yard march. The lead increased to 10-0 with 14:15 left in the second quarter on a 35-yard field goal by Dan Stultz. After a Wisconsin punt, the Buckeyes reached the end zone again on a 40-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Steve Bellisari to Reggie Germany with 10:23 left before halftime.
Things went downhill after that for OSU. A 42-yard field goal by Vitaly Pisetsky cut the lead to 17-3, and first-time starting quarterback Brooks Bollinger later led another scoring drive before the break. A 25-yard field goal by Pisetsky cut the deficit to 17-6 at halftime.
Wisconsin took command in the second half. A pair of Dayne touchdown runs gave the Badgers an 18-17 lead despite two missed two-point conversion passes. Pisetsky added another 27-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, and three more short touchdown runs – two by Dayne – capped the second-half onslaught.
The loss was the worst suffered by an Ohio State squad at home since a 41-6 loss to Purdue in 1967.
1993: No. 7 Ohio State 51, Northwestern 3 – The Wildcats stayed with the Buckeyes in the early going of both teams' Big Ten opener, keeping the game knotted at 3-3 at the end of the first quarter.
That was about the extent of the highlights for Northwestern. Ohio State scored 48 unanswered points to cruise to a victory. As the Buckeye offense got on track, the defense harassed Wildcat quarterback Len Williams. The NU signalcaller completed almost half as many passes to Buckeye defenders (four) as he did to teammates (10). The Buckeyes also sacked Williams five times.
"I thought the key to the game was the fact that we were able to get some pressure on their quarterback," Ohio State defensive coordinator Bill Young said on the Oct. 9, 1993, edition of BSB. "We had talked about that over the past two weeks because, as you know, we were not pleased with our pass rush against Pitt. We were much better today."
While the OSU defense made sure the Wildcats could not get going on offense, the Buckeyes found their rhythm in the second quarter. Ohio State took a 20-3 lead into halftime thanks to a 20-yard field goal by Tim Williams and touchdown runs by Butler By'not'e and Raymont Harris of 7 and 9 yards, respectively.
The Buckeyes reached the end zone four more times in the second half mixed in with a 32-yard field goal by Josh Jackson in the fourth quarter. Joey Galloway started the third-quarter scoring with a 9-yard TD run, and Jeff Cothran added a pair of touchdowns on a 2-yard run and 36-yard pass from Bret Powers. Travis McGuire capped the scoring with 2:14 left in the fourth quarter on a 2-yard rushing touchdown.
"I was extremely happy with the way our defense play," Cooper said. "I thought we came right out and took the game to Northwestern. We were a little slow getting started on offense, but when you score 51 points, I don't think you'll hear me complaining to much."
1982: Florida State 34, Ohio State 17 – The Buckeyes dropped back-to-back home games for the first time since 1971 thanks to a loss to the Seminoles.
Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden said he thought Ohio State might have been looking ahead to its Big Ten opener against Wisconsin a week later.
"How could you be fired up about Florida State?" Bowden asked. "I read in the paper an Ohio State player's quote that they were concerned about the Big Ten race. That was good for us."
Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce admitted his team needed to work on their mental outlook heading into conference play.
"Now is the time you work on the mental side of football," he said. "It is probably the biggest thing in football. We've got to play better than we have been. That is the job of the head coach."
The Buckeyes scored first against Florida State, reaching the end zone on a 6-yard touchdown run by Tim Spencer on OSU's second offensive possession. However, the Seminoles quickly answered with a touchdown on a trick play. Running back Cedric Jones took a pitch from quarterback Kelly Lowery and faked that he was going to go upfield before passing the ball back to a wide-open Lowrey for an easy touchdown with 4:11 left in the first quarter.
Ohio State looked primed to take the momentum back when Kelvin Lindsey excited the crowd of 89,941 with a 75-yard runback of the ensuing kickoff. The Buckeyes did retake the lead on a 4-yard field goal by Rich Spangler, but it represented a missed opportunity. The Seminoles marched down the field on their next possession and took the lead for good on a 6-yard TD pass from Lowery to Zeke Mowatt.
Greg Allen extended the FSU lead to 21-10 on a 7-yard touchdown run, but the Buckeyes cut the lead to 21-17 at halftime thanks to a 31-yard touchdown reception by Spencer from quarterback Brent Offenbecher, who relieved ineffective starter Mike Tomczak, with 2:11 left before the break.
After a scoreless third quarter, Florida State iced the victory with two more trips to the end zone. Jessie Hester caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Blair Williams and Ricky Williams added a 10-yard TD run to cap the scoring.
1976: No. 8 Ohio State 10, No. 4 UCLA 10 – Defenses dominated in a showdown of top-10 teams at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes took a 7-0 lead into halftime on a 4-yard touchdown run by Pete Johnson. UCLA cut into the lead on a 47-yard field goal by Frank Corral, and the Bruins later took a lead on a touchdown drive that started after recovering an OSU fumble deep in UCLA territory.
The Buckeyes answered the touchdown with a 25-yard field goal by Tom Skladany, and that proved to be the final score. Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes had some fans confused when he elected to punt in the final minute of the game on a fourth-and-short at the UCLA 48-yard-line.
1971: No. 14 Ohio State 35, Cal 3 – Nine different ball carriers combined to rush for 317 yards on a sweltering afternoon at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes built a 14-0 lead and never looked back. Quarterback Don Lamka was forced to leave the game in the first half with a strained right shoulder, but sophomore Greg Hare fared well in his place. Hare led the Buckeyes on three scoring drive, including one in which he scored on a 40-yard QB keeper.
1965: Ohio State 23, Washington 21 – A 27-yard field goal by Bob Funk with 59 seconds left in regulation gave the Buckeyes a road win in front of a national television audience.
Washington had take a 21-20 lead on a touchdown and two-point conversion pass from quarterback Tod Hullin to end Bruce Kramer in the third quarter, but Funk's late kick proved to be the difference. No one was happier than Funk after the game, either, as he had early missed an extra point and that looked like that would be the difference before his final kick.
1959: No. 11 USC 17, No. 14 Ohio State 0 – A rare Friday night game did not go well for Ohio State in a loss to the Trojans at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Led by twns Mike and Marlin McKeever, USC's defense held the Buckeyes to 84 rushing yards and 59 through the air. It was not only a lopsided loss, but one that took a physical toll. Seventeen Buckeyes were injured during the game.
In addition, Los Angeles sportswriters Al Bine and Dick Shafer acussed Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes of hitting them in the OSU dressing room after the game. Hayes denied the accusation but admitted he might have shoved one of them when they were slow to leave the dressing room so Hayes could meet in private with his team.
1954: No. 14 Ohio State 21, No. 18 Cal 13 – Hopalong Cassady scored two touchdowns to lead the Buckeyes past the visiting Bears. Cassady also set up OSU's third and final score by intercepting a pass midway through the fourth quarter with the Buckeyes holding onto a 14-13 lead.
1948: Ohio State 20, USC 0 – A crowd of more than 75,000 watched as the Buckeyes thoroughly outclassed the Trojans at Ohio Stadium. The game was sweet revenge for Ohio State after a 32-0 loss at USC in 1947.
Joe Whisler scored two 1-yard touchdowns, and Jerry Krall caught a 6-yard TD pass from Pandel Savic. The game was televised nationally on ABC and NBC.
1943: Ohio State 27, Missouri 6 – The Buckeyes used the T-formation on offense for the first time and it helped Ohio State bounce back from a lopsided loss to Iowa Preflight a week earlier.
Halfback Ernie Parks led the Buckeyes with 186 rushing yards and three touchdowns on runs of 10, 26 and 60 yards. Dean Sensenbaugher added 152 yards on the ground.
1937: Ohio State 13, Purdue 0 – In the first meeting between the Buckeyes and Boilermakers in 13 seasons, Ohio State used six interceptions to help earn a home victory. Both of Ohio State's touchdowns came off turnovers. Halfback Dick Nardi turned one interception he hauled in into a touchdown he scored himself on a 1-yard run. Later, halfback Mike Kabealo threw a touchdown pass to end Fred Crow for the other score after Frank Zadworney had early intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter.
1926: Ohio State 40, Wittenberg 0 – The Buckeyes crushed the visiting Tigers in the first of two home games before becoming the first Big Ten team to play in New York City. Ohio State was to play at Columbia at the Polo Grounds on Oct. 16.
1920: Ohio State 55, Ohio Wesleyan 0 – Under first-time starting quarterback "Hoge" Workman, the Buckeyes outclassed the overmatched Battling Bishops in the season opener.
1915: Ohio State 19, Ohio Wesleyan 6 – John Wilce's Buckeyes opened the season with a blanking of the Battling Bishops. Ohio State would have one more tune-up game against Case before hosting defending national and Big Ten champion Illinois.
1909: Ohio State 39, Wittenberg 0 – The Buckeyes improved to 2-0 with a shutout victory in the second of three straight home games to start the season.