2002: No. 8 Ohio State 51, Kent State 17: Five touchdowns and three field goals were scored by first- or second-year Buckeyes in a rout of the Golden Flashes.
Leading the Ohio State offense was freshman tailback Maurice Clarett, who caught a touchdown pass and ran for another. Sophomore tailback Maurice Hall added a touchdown run, and redshirt freshman tight end Ryan Hamby caught a fourth-quarter touchdown pass. Even freshman linebacker A.J. Hawk got in on the action, intercepting a pass for another score.
Ohio State led 38-0 midway through the second quarter, and head coach Jim Tressel used the opportunity to put most of his roster in the game.
"There's no question as the game unfolded, one of our goals was to get as many guys experience as we possibly could," the second-year OSU head coach said in the Sept. 14, 2002, edition of Buckeye Sports Bulletin.
Clarett ran for 64 yards on 12 carries and scored twice. He caught a 7-yard touchdown on a swing pass from quarterback Craig Krenzel. Clarett also had a 2-yard touchdown run. Nonetheless, the freshman did not have much to say about his performance or the running game in general following the win.
"(The running game) wasn't where it should have been, but we won so that's all that counts," Clarett said.
The only thing hotter than the 90-plus-degree afternoon at Ohio Stadium was the Buckeye offense. Ohio State scored on its first four offensive possessions and never punted in the rout. Donnie Nickey partially deflected a Kent State punt, and that led to Ohio State's first score. The Buckeyes needed only five plays to get on the scoreboard, capped by Clarett's 2-yard run with 12:16 remaining in the first quarter.
Mike Doss returned a Joshua Cribbs interception 45 yards to make it 14-0, and Hall scored on a 28-yard touchdown run to make it 21-0 before the end of the first quarter.
Sophomore kicker Mike Nugent remained perfect on the season with field goals of 40, 33 and 45 yards.
Krenzel had a solid performance, completing 12 of 14 passes for 190 yards.
1996: No. 10 Ohio State 70, Rice 7: New starters shone as the Buckeyes opened the season with a drubbing of the overmatched Owls.
A pair of juniors made their first collegiate starts on offense and had big games. Tailback Pepe Pearson, replacing Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George, rushed for 119 yards on 17 carries. Quarterback Stanley Jackson completed 7 of 9 passes for 151 and two touchdowns in OSU's first game since the graduation of Bobby Hoying.
"It was a good start for us," Pearson said in the Sept. 21, 1996, edition of Buckeye Sports Bulletin. "I'm just happy to have the first one out of the way. I had a lot of pressure on me, filling in for Eddie George, but I just want to have a good year from here on out."
Ohio State had no trouble with Rice's triple-option offense, either. Freshman Andy Katzenmoyer made his debut as the starting middle linebacker and made eight tackles and two sacks. The Owls finished with 218 yards of total offense and scored their lone touchdown in the second quarter after falling behind 28-0.
"What impressed me most was how these guys came in and filled the shoes of some guys who departed to the (NFL)," said Rice defensive end Ndukwe Kalu said, a future NFL player. "Coming into the game, I really thought we had a good chance because of those players like Eddie George who were gone. But their young guys stepped up and that was impressive.
"They gave us the worst beating of my life."
The Buckeyes dominated from the start, scoring a trio of touchdowns in the first, second and third quarters. Pearson scored on runs of 8 and 22 yards in the first quarter, while Jackson opened the scoring with a 2-yard TD pass to John Lumpkin and later added a 58-yard scoring strike to David Boston in the second quarter.
Freshman wide receiver Michael Wiley scored three touchdowns – a 49-yard run in the second quarter and TD receptions of 51 and 60 yards from quarterback Joe Germaine in the third quarter. Germaine completed five of 10 passes for 164 yards with three TD passes – the first going 15 yards to Dimitrious Stanley in the second quarter.
Junior Jermon Jackson scored Ohio State's final touchdown – the only score of the fourth quarter – on a 3-yard run with 9:14 remaining.
"Obviously, we are happy to win this ball game as impressively as we did and also to have the chance to play a lot of football players," said OSU head coach John Cooper, who was entering his ninth season leading the Buckeyes.
1991: No. 22 Ohio State 38, Arizona 14: The Butler did it. Butler By'not'e specifically.
The sophomore tailback rushed for 129 first-half yards and finished with 189 – the best single-game effort by an OSU rusher since Keith Byars set the school record with 274 yards against Illinois in 1984. The performance was impressive and gratifying for the sophomore, especially because one year earlier he was recovering from a freak injury suffered while lifting weights.
Three days before the start of the 1990 season, By'not'e had air get into the vacuum cavity through which the esophagus, trachea and aorta pass – causing shortness of breath. He was hospitalized for two days because of the disorder but eventually was cleared to play in the second game of the season. Still, he fell behind fellow incoming freshman Robert Smith and was limited to mop-up duty at tailback.
Butler stood out but he was not alone in finding rushing success. The Buckeyes finished with 325 yards against the visiting Wildcats – all without Smith, who quit the team in August. Ohio State's rushing total was better than any figure it compiled in 1990 and the best by the team since piling up 456 vs. Northwestern in 1989.
"We're going to be a rushing team and we're going to be aggressive," first-year OSU offensive coordinator Elliot Uzelac said the Sept. 14, 1991, edition of BSB. "I expect us to rush the ball and I expect us to rush it effectively. I thought our backs did a tremendous job today."
The victory allowed Cooper to end one streak and continue another. Cooper had failed to beat the Wildcats in three meetings as head coach at Arizona State, but as the head man for the Buckeyes he earned his first win against Arizona. Cooper also improved to 4-0 in season openers with the Buckeyes.
"Those two streaks were on my mind, believe me," Cooper said. "I've been reminded of them several times this week."
The Ohio State defense limited the Wildcats to 253 yards, marking the fourth straight game that the Buckeyes held an opponent to less than 300 yards of total offense. Junior cornerback Bryan Cook led the defense with 11 tackles and an interception.
The Buckeyes never trailed. By'not'e opened the scoring with an 18-yard touchdown run, and after Arizona tied the game with a score of its own, Ohio State took the lead for good late in the first quarter when Tim Williams made a 26-yard field goal to give his team a 10-7 advantage.
A Kent Graham 2-yard TD run in the second quarter allowed the Buckeyes to take a 17-7 lead into halftime. Quarterback George Malauulu narrowed Arizona's deficit to 17-14 with a 3-yard TD run in the third quarter, but Ohio State closed the scoring with three touchdowns – a 2-yard scoring run by William Houston in the third quarter and a 39-yard TD run by Jeff Cothran and a 1-yard scoring rush by Houston in the fourth quarter.
"I guess the understatement of the day is that I'm very, very happy to come out of there with a victory," Cooper said. "I promise you, I was taking a one-point victory going into the ball game."