Tressel – as he had throughout his coaching career – gathered his seniors the day before their final home game and had each player share their college memories. The 2005 version of that meeting left little doubt with those in attendance that the Buckeyes (8-2, 6-1 Big Ten) would best the Wildcats.
"After last night, I was like, ‘There's no way we're going to lose this game because everybody cares too much about each other,' " linebacker Bobby Carpenter said in the Nov. 19, 2005, edition of Buckeye Sports Bulletin.
Added Carpenter's good friend Anthony Schlegel: "We were just sharing stories and things that we remembered. It was funny and sad but just a great experience and one that I'll remember forever.
"It just showed the bond that you form with these guys in everything that you go through. How tight you are as linebackers or offensive linemen – (it's) not only that, but we all do things with each other regardless of your color or what you are. We just have a good time, and that's what makes Ohio State special."
The win against Northwestern was a total team effort. The Buckeye offense gained 422 yards, most coming on the ground, and the defense silenced the Wildcats after allowing an early touchdown.
Junior quarterback Troy Smith, who was a part of the same recruiting class as several of the departing seniors but had redshirted, rushed for two touchdowns and piled up 152 yards of total offense. He said it was the least he could do for his outgoing teammates.
"From the first snap to the time when I left the field, I felt something today that I had never felt on the field," Smith said. "Today, I wasn't a senior, but these are the guys that I came in with. I felt it to the heart.
"As soon as they announced Rob Sims, I lost it. And then they announced Nate (Salley), and I just lost it. Those are the guys that I came in with, and that really touched me today."
The Wildcats struck first after the Senior Day ceremonies finished and the game began. Ohio native Tyrell Sutton caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Brett Basanez at the 12:34 mark of the first quarter to help NU jump out to a 7-0 lead.
After that, however, Ohio State (8-2, 6-1 Big Ten) took command. Smith's two touchdown runs, which came on bursts of 4 and 2 yards, gave OSU a 14-7 lead by the end of the first quarter. Senior linebacker A.J. Hawk then added to that advantage when he returned a blocked punt 8 yards for a score early in the second quarter. The Buckeyes took a 28-7 lead into halftime thanks to a 13-yard touchdown run by Maurice Wells with 3:46 left before the break.
The story remained the same in the second half, as Ohio State scored 10 points in both the third and fourth quarters. Josh Huston made a 33-yard field goal in the third quarter and a 37-yard boot in the fourth. Sophomore tailback Antonio Pittman added a 4-yard TD run in the third quarter, and Erik Haw capped the scoring with a 3-yard touchdown run with 4:53 remaining.
"I think the biggest thing was that you could feel our team and our coaching staff wanted to make sure that this group of seniors had a great day in their last day in Ohio Stadium," Tressel said. "We're real proud of the kids today."
Smith completed 7 of 12 passes for 77 yards with an interception and added 75 rushing yards on 11 carries. Pittman finished with 132 yards on 18 carries, while Santonio Holmes and Ted Ginn Jr. both caught three passes for 49 and 27 yards, respectively.
1994: Ohio State 32, Indiana 17: The win against the host Hoosiers had barely ended before thoughts in the Ohio State postgame interview area turned to Michigan. Penn State had already clinched a Rose Bowl bid and the Big Ten championship, but the winner of the OSU-Michigan game in Columbus would decide who would finish second in the conference.
Ohio State had been left for dead by college football pundits following the Buckeyes' seven-touchdown defeat at Penn State. Since then, however, OSU (8-3, 5-2 Big Ten) had won two straight after closing ranks.
"Have we got something to prove?," junior linebacker Lorenzo Styles asked in the Nov. 19, 1994, edition of BSB. "Yeah, I guess you could say that. But you can say just about anything about that game. It's just talk, and talk doesn't get it done. We have to take care of business this time. Then we can talk."
The Buckeyes had not beaten Michigan since 1987 and head coach John Cooper had not led OSU to a victory against the heated rival Wolverines in his otherwise successful six-year term. When asked how frustrating the futility against Michigan had been, Cooper simply replied, "About as frustrating as is humanly possible."
Before Ohio State could completely turn its attention to Michigan, it had to deal with Indiana. The Buckeyes perhaps overlooked the Hoosiers at first, spotting Indiana a 7-0 lead before cruising to victory. OSU's defense led the way in the victory, recovering from a slow start and holding IU's rushing attack – led by impressive freshman Alex Smith – to 77 yards.
The game remained close at halftime, with Ohio State holding a narrow 19-17 lead, before the Buckeyes pulled away. The offense scored a pair of second-half touchdowns, and the defense limited Indiana to 61 yards after the break.
"I don't know if you could ask any more of (the defense) than what they've done the last two weeks," OSU quarterback Bobby Hoying said. "We always knew what happened to us over at Penn State was the exception, not the rule. But these guys have made it their personal mission to prove that."
Ohio State took its halftime lead thanks in large part to the efforts of junior tailback Eddie George, who rushed for two touchdowns. Joey Galloway erased IU's 7-0 lead with a 93-yard kickoff return for a score, and then George scored on runs of 1 and 3 yards to give OSU the lead. A missed extra point after Galloway's score and a failed two-point attempt after George's first TD left Ohio State with 19 points instead of 21.
The Buckeyes iced the win with two fourth-quarter touchdowns, although a missed extra point again cost OSU again. Rickey Dudley caught a 2-yard TD pass from Hoying, and Chris Sanders added a 20-yard connection with Hoying to close the scoring.
Hoying completed 13 of 23 passes for 166 yards with an interception to go with his two TD passes. Galloway caught four passes for 69 yards, and George carried the ball 26 times for 118 yards.
Shawn Springs and Lorenzo Styles each made eight tackles for the Buckeye defense. Springs also added an interception, and Mike Vrabel recorded two sacks.
1988: Ohio State 24, Iowa 24: Cooper's Buckeyes outplayed Iowa on a cold, wet day but could not leave Kinnick Stadium with a victory.
A 40-yard field goal by Iowa placekicker Jeff Skillett – who had earlier missed two closer attempts – tied the game with 16 seconds left on the clock. It gave the Hawkeyes their school-record third tie of the season and OSU's first since a 13-13 tie against LSU in 1987 and its first Big Ten deadlock since a 10-10 tie in 1973 against Michigan.
Cooper was second-guessed after the game and was unable to maintain his composure when questioned by the media. Reporters asked Cooper why the Buckeyes punted on a fourth-and-inches play from the OSU 39-yard line with 90 seconds left on the clock. Instead of going for it on fourth down and possibly getting it and icing the victory, Ohio State punted.
"I never dreamed they would go for a tie," Cooper said in the Nov. 19, 1988, edition of BSB. "They already had two ties so far this year. A tie doesn't do us any good, doesn't do them any good."
Responded Iowa head coach Hayden Fry: "Nobody is happy with that, but it beats losing."
The Buckeyes (4-5-1, 2-4-1 Big Ten) overcame a 21-7 deficit before taking a 24-21 lead in the fourth quarter. Senior middle guard Mike Sullivan got Ohio State going with a 13-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter. A 2-yard TD pass from Greg Frey to tight end Jeff Ellis helped the Buckeyes narrow the Iowa lead to 21-14 at halftime.
Ohio State tied the game in the third quarter on a Scotty Graham 7-yard TD run at the 9:56 mark of the third quarter. The Buckeyes took the lead in the fourth quarter on a 39-yard Pat O'Morrow field goal with 8:21 remaining.
Iowa then forced the tie, and that result cost OSU a chance at clinching a winning season. With the deadlock, the Buckeyes needed a win against Michigan to avoid their first losing season since 1966.
Frey threw for 142 yards on 12-of-23 passing with a touchdown and an interception. Tailback Carlos Snow led the OSU rushing game with 92 yards on 21 carries. Ellis was Frey's top target, hauling in eight passes for 97 yards.
Jim Peel had 10 tackles, all solo stops.
1983: No. 10 Ohio State 55, Northwestern 7: Tight end John Frank couldn't keep it in after the Buckeyes easily dispatched the visiting Wildcats on Senior Day.
"Looking for Blue!," Frank shouted, referencing the upcoming showdown with rival Michigan, in the Nov. 19, 1983, edition of BSB.
Before the game against the Wolverines, 21 seniors said goodbye in an easy victory against the Wildcats. Among them was fullback Vaughn Broadnax, who rushed for two touchdowns and finished with 54 yards on eight carries.
"There was a little incentive," Broadnax said. "I wanted to make my last game in the Horseshoe my best game. It's kind of a feeling that you always wish you could have played better here, but you knew you had to play your best today."
Broadnax's touchdowns were the first of the game. His TD runs of 2 and 11 yards gave the Buckeyes a 14-0 lead and set the tone early. Ohio State (8-2, 6-2 Big Ten) built a commanding 41-0 lead by halftime. Keith Byars ran for two short-yardage touchdowns, and quarterback Mike Tomczak added an 8-yard rushing score. Tomczak also threw a TD pass before the break, a 14-yard connection with Frank.
Kelvin Lindsey rushed for a 7-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and Roman Bates added a 1-yard TD burst to close the scoring in the fourth quarter.
Bates was the game's leading rusher with 82 yards on eight carries. Tomczak completed 8 of 12 passes for 118 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Frank caught three passes for 56 yards.
Defensively, Rowland Tatum had 10 tackles. Four different Buckeyes recovered fumbles.
1977: Ohio State 35, Indiana 7: Lee Corso's Hoosiers scored the first points before the Buckeyes cruised to victory. After Indiana took an early lead, Corso immediately had a portion of his squad photographed with the scoreboard in the background.
"I wanted our players to seize this rare opportunity," Corso later explained. "since we may never again be leading Ohio State."
Corso was right – at least for that afternoon. The game was tied 7-7 at halftime before Ohio State (9-1, 7-0 Big Ten) took command with four second-half touchdowns. Three of those TDs came in the third quarter. Jeff Logan rushed for a game-high 148 yards on 20 carries. Ron Springs added 72 yards to move his season total to 1,003, becoming just the sixth Ohio State back to ever rush for more than 1,000 yards in a single year.
1966: Ohio State 14, Iowa 10: Two defensive stands helped the visiting Buckeyes (4-4, 3-3 Big Ten) earn a victory. The Hawkeyes helped the cause by dropping two passes that would have resulted in a go-ahead touchdown. Sophomore linebacker Mark Stier intercepted a fourth-down pass at the OSU 2 to seal the victory with 1:01 left on the fourth quarter.
1960: No. 5 Iowa 35, No. 3 Ohio State 12: A national-television audience watched the Hawkeyes best the visiting Buckeyes at Kinnick Stadium. The game was emotional from the start, as it was the final home contest for retiring Iowa head coach Forest Evashevski after nine seasons. The Hawkeyes scored on several big plays, including a 91-yard touchdown run by Larry Ferguson, which was the longest ever by an OSU opponent.
Ohio State (6-2, 4-2 Big Ten) went into the game shorthanded when approximately 30 Buckeyes were stricken with dysentery the day before the game. Iowa took advantage, piling up 487 yards of total offense.
1955: No. 10 Ohio State 20, No. 20 Iowa 10: Hopalong Cassady and 12 other seniors earned a win in their final Ohio Stadium game. Cassady rushed for a season-best 169 yards and scored all three of Ohio State's touchdowns. His first score came on a 45-yard run off right tackle on his first carry of the game. That TD boosted his career scoring total to 204 points, three better than the previous school record that was held by Chic Harley. Cassady was carried off the field by his teammates when the game was over.
1949: No. 11 Ohio State 30, Illinois 17: The Buckeyes trailed 10-0 at halftime before Ohio State rallied for a home victory. Quarterback Pandel Savic tossed a 17-yard touchdown pass to Ralph Armstrong to start OSU's comeback. Vic Janowicz then gave the Buckeyes the lead with a 4-yard TD run. Illinois answered with a touchdown, but Ohio State (6-1-1, 4-1 Big Ten) then took command with two more scores. The first came on a 34-yard toss from Savic to Ray Hamilton. The other came on a 36-yard touchdown run by Curly Morrison. Ohio State closed the scoring with a safety recorded when middle guard Shag Thomas sacked Don Engles in the end zone.
1938: Ohio State 32, Illinois 14: Fullback Jim Langhurst scored three touchdowns as the visiting Buckeyes dominated the Fighting Illini. Ohio State (4-2-1, 3-1-1 Big Ten) took momentum into its finale at Ohio Stadium against Michigan.
1932: Ohio State 19, Penn 0: A homecoming crowd watched the Buckeyes beat Penn. Ohio State outgained the Quakers 236-68 and improved to 3-1-3 before its season finale at Illinois.
1927: Ohio State 61, Denison 6: Ohio State played its best game of the season in crushing visiting Denison. The Buckeyes improved to 4-3 with the win. The game was also the last between the Buckeyes and the Big Red.
1921: Ohio State 28, Purdue 0: The visiting Boilermakers were no match for the Buckeyes (5-1, 4-0), who won their fourth straight. The final game at Ohio Field was scheduled for a week later vs. Illinois.
1910: Ohio State 6, Ohio Wesleyan 0: At Ohio Field, the Buckeyes won for the first time since Oct. 15. Ohio State improved to 5-1-2.
1904: Oberlin 4, Ohio State 2: The Buckeyes fell to 5-4 after dropping their third straight with a road loss.
1898: Case 23, Ohio State 5: Ohio State lost its third straight and fell to 2-4.
1892: Ohio State 42, Dayton YMCA 4: The Buckeyes bounced back from a loss to Oberlin five days earlier with a win in Columbus. Ohio State improved to 4-2.