"That was just a great Big Ten college football game," OSU coach Jim Tressel said in the Nov. 23, 2002, edition of Buckeye Sports Bulletin. "I couldn't be any prouder of our group."
The Buckeyes (12-0, 7-0 Big Ten) needed to defeat Michigan in the regular season finale to clinch at least a share of the Big Ten title and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl to play for the BCS national championship.
After Illinois kicker John Gockman made a 48-yard field goal on the final play of regulation to send the game to overtime knotted at 16-16, Ohio State opened extra play on offense and scored a touchdown on an 8-yard run by backup tailback Maurice Hall.
"We never gave up and that counts for a lot," Hall said. "When it comes down to it, we just keep fighting and today we still were able to win the game."
The Ohio State defense then made that score stand, stopping the Illini on downs to end the game. It was OSU's first appearance and win in OT, which was brought to Division IA college football in the 1996 postseason.
The Buckeyes went 73 games without playing in overtime, the longest string of any Big Ten squad.
"I have been in an overtime game before," said Tressel, whose Youngstown State teams faced OT four times. "I'm not sure any of these kids have been. I know before they went out there before the coin toss in overtime, our captains, Donnie Nickey and Mike Doss, were commenting, ‘How much fun is this?'
"I said, ‘This is what it's all about.' "
The Buckeyes opened the scoring in the first quarter on a 33-yard field goal by Mike Nugent and extended their lead to 6-0 by the end of the quarter on a 47-yard Nugent field goal. Illinois cut the deficit in half by halftime on a 40-yard Gockman FG with 31 seconds left in the second quarter.
The Fighting Illini took the lead early in the third quarter. Quarterback Jon Beutjer tossed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Walter Young less than two minutes into the second half. Ohio State quickly responded, however, with a touchdown of its own. Craig Krenzel connected with Michael Jenkins on a 50-yard TD pass to give the Buckeyes a 13-10 lead with 12:00 remaining in the third quarter.
"Craig put it up and I couldn't see the ball," Jenkins said. "It was dead in the center of the lights. But it fell right into my hands and I was able to walk right in with it."
Gockman tied the game with a 47-yard field goal late in the third quarter. Ohio State answered early in the fourth quarter on a 37-yard Nugent field goal. The Illini tied the game late, sending the contest to overtime.
Krenzel hit on 10 of 21 passes for 176 yards. Jenkins caught six passes for 147 yards. Hall ended up with 69 yards on 17 carries. Lydell Ross, who started in place of Maurice Clarett (shoulder), finished with 51 yards on 15 carries.
Illinois outgained OSU 358-321 in total yardage. But the Buckeyes had a number of contributors on defense, including defensive tackle David Thompson. He replaced defensive end Darrion Scott (groin) in the starting lineup as Kenny Peterson moved outside to end. Thompson finished with a hand in four sacks.
OSU won by single digits on the road for the fourth time in five away games.
1996 – No. 2 Ohio State 27, Indiana 17: It was not easy, but the Buckeyes (10-0, 7-0 Big Ten) earned their first trip to the Rose Bowl since the 1984 season with a hard-fought win in Bloomington.
A pair of defensive touchdowns helped Ohio State survive the upset-minded Hoosiers. Senior defensive end Matt Finkes returned a fumble 45 yards for a go-ahead touchdown with just over six minutes left and Damon Moore added a 28-yard interception return for a TD with 1:26 remaining.
"This is an incredible feeling," Finkes said in the Nov. 23, 1996, edition of BSB.
The Buckeyes moved one game away from the school's first perfect regular season since 1979. No matter the outcome in that one, Ohio State was slated to face Pac-10 champion Arizona State in Pasadena.
"That's what it's all about," OSU head coach John Cooper said. "That's what we play for is to win the championship and go to the Rose Bowl."
Indiana, a 35-point underdog playing for deposed head coach Bill Mallory, kept the game close for most of the afternoon. The Hoosiers trailed 10-7 in the second half and had the game tied 10-10 midway through the fourth quarter before the Buckeyes took command.
Finkes' TD put OSU ahead for good. Linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer flushed IU quarterback Jay Rodgers and hit him, knocking the ball loose. Finkes collected the ball before it touched the ground and raced 45 yards for one of the most well-known TDs in the Cooper era.
"It was a really good play by Andy," Finkes said. "Andy came up and hit the guy and knocked the ball loose. The ball was laying there on the guy's back; I just picked it up and went as hard as I could.
"They said I got some good blocks and I just gave it everything I had to get into the end zone."
David Boston opened the scoring in the second quarter with an 8-yard TD reception from Joe Germaine. Indiana narrowed the deficit to 7-3 by halftime with a 22-yard field goal by Bill Manolopoulos.
A 2-yard touchdown run by Rodgers gave IU a 10-7 lead in the third quarter before Josh Jackson tied the game three seconds into the fourth quarter on a 19-yard field goal.
Finkes broke the tie, and Jackson extended the lead to 20-10 on a 31-yard boot. Moore's pick-six extended the lead to 17 points before the Hoosiers closed the scoring in the final minute on a 6-yard TD reception by Ajamu Stoner.
That late score could not stop a jubilant OSU sideline – and the thousands of Buckeye fans who made the trip to Memorial Stadium.
"I'm happy for our fans and a lot of them were over here today," Cooper said.
Germaine completed 15 of 27 passes for 167 yards with a TD and an interception, while fellow QB Stanley Jackson completed 3 of 5 passes for 31 yards. Pepe Pearson rushed for 130 yards on 37 carries, and Boston hauled in 13 passes for 153 yards.
Defensively, Finkes had 12 tackles to go with his key TD.
1991 – No. 19 Ohio State 20, Indiana 16: Sophomore linebacker Jason Simmons helped lead the Buckeyes to a home win over the Hoosiers.
Simmons harassed IU junior quarterback Trent Green throughout the afternoon, sacking the signal caller three times – all on third-down plays in the second half. Green had praise for the Buckeye after the game.
"He hit me blind side a few times and he gave me a little whiplash to deal with," Green said in the Nov. 23, 1991, edition of BSB. "This guy today, I don't know if he was a tackle or what, but he just beat our guy upfield."
"It just took me the first half to figure out how to pass rush against their (left tackle Shawn Harper)," Simmons said. "He was a real good athlete. I was having a hard time in the first half. Second half, I figured out what I could use against him. Fortunately, I was able to do that when we needed it most."
The Buckeyes (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) needed to rally for the win in the second half while Simmons and the OSU defense limited Green and the Hoosiers. A 13-yard touchdown run by Carlos Snow gave Ohio State the lead for good at 17-13 with 9:27 left in the third quarter.
"I thought it was a tough ball game and both teams played well," Cooper said. "Obviously, we are very happy to have won the game and I think a lot of the credit goes to our defensive football team. When we needed it in the second half, they rose to the occasion."
Indiana led 13-10 at halftime. Green opened the scoring with an 11-yard TD pass to tight end Rod Coleman. The PAT failed, and OSU halved its deficit late in the first quarter on a 35-yard field goal by Tim Williams. The teams traded touchdowns in the second quarter to allow IU to take a three-point lead into the break. Snow rushed for a 6-yard TD for OSU, while Indiana answered with a 9-yard scoring pass from Green to Thomas Lewis.
Snow's second-half TD run gave OSU the lead for good. Indiana narrowed the deficit to 17-16 with a 44-yard field goal by Scott Bonnell late in the third quarter. Ohio State closed the scoring late in the fourth quarter with a 38-yard field goal by Williams.
Snow finished with 124 yards on 32 carries, while Kent Graham completed 9 of 19 passes for 106 yards and an interception. Brian Stablein caught two passes for 47 yards. On defense, Simmons had nine tackles, as did Steve Tovar. Mark Williams intercepted a pass.
1985 – Wisconsin 12, No. 3 Ohio State 7: OSU's Rose Bowl hopes were dimmed with an upset loss to the visiting Badgers.
Iowa took command of the Big Ten with a win over Purdue as Ohio State fell. The Hawkeyes needed a home win over Minnesota in the last week of the regular season to book their trip to Pasadena. Ohio State (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) would need a win by the Golden Gophers and a Buckeye victory over Michigan.
"You just saw a devastating loss to Ohio Stadium University," OSU head coach Earle Bruce said in the Nov. 23, 1985, edition of BSB. "Wisconsin played an outstanding game of controlling the clock and running a slow offense and picking their way to a victory."
The scene in the Ohio State locker room after the loss was a somber one.
"I just sat down in the corner for awhile and thought about the game," tight end Ed Taggert said. "I just wanted some time by myself to think about what happened. I still can't believe it."
The Buckeyes lost three fumbles and held the possession for 10 fewer minutes than Wisconsin. Ohio State outgained UW 365-222 but failed to pull off the victory.
"The defense only gave up 220 yards, but we didn't play a good game because we didn't win," sophomore linebacker Chris Spielman said. "If we wouldn't have let them score 12 points, they wouldn't have won the game. But we did and they won. They deserved to win and we deserved to lose."
Ohio State led 7-6 at halftime. Wisconsin opened the scoring with a pair of Todd Gregoire field goals of 49 and 19 yards, respectively, before Cris Carter caught a 37-yard touchdown pass from Jim Karsatos with 65 seconds left before halftime.
The only score after the break came on a 1-yard touchdown run by Wisconsin's Marvin Artley in the third quarter. The PAT failed, setting the final score at 12-7.
Karsatos completed 20 of 31 passes for 263 yards and a touchdown, while John Wooldridge rushed 14 times for 79 yards. Carter caught seven passes for 131 yards. Defensively, Spielman led the Buckeyes with a game-high 18 tackles.
1974 – No. 4 Ohio State 35, Iowa 10: A week after being upset by Michigan State and losing their No. 1 ranking, the Buckeyes responded by thumping host Iowa. Ohio State (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten) led 14-10 at halftime before scoring a trio of second-half touchdowns to cruise to victory. Archie Griffin rushed for 175 yards to give him 21-straight 100-plus-yard rushing performances.
1968 – No. 2 Ohio State 33, Iowa 27: Ohio State set up another crucial showdown with Michigan by holding on in rain-soaked Iowa City. The Buckeyes (8-0, 6-0 Big Ten) led 26-6 after the third quarter but had to hold on for the victory. Fullback Jim Otis led the OSU attack with 166 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
1963 – Northwestern 17, Ohio State 8: Ara Parseghian's Wildcats ended OSU's Big Ten title hopes with a win in Columbus. The Wildcats dominated, holding a 17-0 lead until Ohio State (4-3-1, 3-1-1 Big Ten) finally scored late in the fourth quarter on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Don Unverferth to Paul Warfield. Parseghian left Evanston to take over at Notre Dame the following season.
1957 – No. 6 Ohio State 17, No. 5 Iowa 13: Despite playing without standout halfback Don Clark, out because of an injury suffered a week earlier, the host Buckeyes remained perfect in conference play with a win over the Hawkeyes. The lead changed hands five times before the Buckeyes (7-1, 6-0 Big Ten) finally took command and clinched a trip to the Rose Bowl on a 5-yard TD burst by fullback Bob White – who rushed seven times for 66 yards on the crucial eight-play, 68-yard scoring drive.
1946 – No. 9 Illinois 16, No. 13 Ohio State 7: Ohio State had its three-game winning streak snapped and its Rose Bowl hopes end with a loss at muddy Champaign. The Buckeyes (4-2-2, 2-2-1 Big Ten) had a chance to win on that rainy afternoon, driving deep into Illinois territory down 9-7 in the third quarter when on a fourth-and-3 play at the Illinois 4, Julius Rykovich intercepted an OSU pass and returned it 98 yards for a backbreaking touchdown.
1940 – Ohio State 14, Illinois 6: The Buckeyes (4-3, 3-2 Big Ten) earned their sixth straight win over the Illini, getting two Don Scott touchdowns to leave Champaign victorious. Scott also booted both extra points.
1935 – Ohio State 6, Illinois 0: Tippy Dye returned a punt for a first-quarter touchdown for the game's only points during a cold and rainy homecoming game. Ohio State (6-1, 4-0 Big Ten) remained tied for the Big Ten lead with Minnesota, a 40-0 winner against Michigan.
1929 – Ohio State 54, Kenyon 0: The Buckeyes drubbed visiting Kenyon to improve to 4-2-1. Ohio State was originally scheduled to play Navy, but the Midshipmen requested that the two-game series be delayed a year.
1918 – Illinois 13, Ohio State 0: Ohio State (3-1) traveled to Champaign and had its 22-game unbeaten streak snapped.
1912 – Penn State 37, Ohio State 0: The loss to the visiting Nittany Lions ended prematurely when OSU head coach John R. Richards pulled his team off the field, citing unsportsmanlike conduct by PSU and lax officiating. Technically, the game was forfeited with the officials awarding Penn State a 1-0 victory. Ohio State fell to 5-2.
1907 – Case 11, Ohio State 9: The Buckeyes' hopes of repeating as state champions ended with a home loss. Ohio State fell to 5-2-1.
1901 – Oberlin 6, Ohio State 0: OSU fell to 4-2-1 with a road loss at Oberlin.
1895 – Central Kentucky 18, Ohio State 0: In the second of back-to-back games in as many days in the Bluegrass State, the Buckeyes (3-3-2) fell to Central Kentucky. Ohio State beat Kentucky 8-6 the day before in Lexington.