Barkley directed his Trojans on a 14-play, 86-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter, topped by a 2-yard run by tailback Stefon Johnson at the 1:05 mark. That overturned Ohio State's precarious 15-10 lead, and when backup tailback Joe McKnight scored the two-point conversion on a pass from Barkley, the Buckeyes were faced with trying to make a miraculous comeback.
Unfortunately, it was not to be. OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor was flagged with a questionable intentional grounding call on the first play of the ensuing drive, pushing the Buckeyes back to their own 18 with a second-and-28. Pryor scrambled 14 yards on the next play and completed a short 4-yard pass to receiver DeVier Posey. But that only made it fourth-and-10, and when Pryor couldn't hook up with freshman Duron Carter on a deep ball into USC's prevent coverage, the game was over.
"That was a tough ball game," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "Our kids prepared extremely hard and played extremely hard. We just didn't come up with enough of the things you need to do to win a ball game like that."
The Buckeyes were the ones making the comeback early. Pryor threw an ill-advised pass on the third play on the game's opening possession and USC linebacker Brian Galippo made him pay. Galippo picked off Pryor and returned the interception 50 yards to the OSU 3. The Ohio State defense stuffed the Trojans on the first three plays but Johnson finally bolted into the end zone from 1 yard out on fourth-and-goal.
USC kicker Jordan Congdon added the PAT to give his team a 7-0 lead at the 11:37 mark of the first quarter.
Ohio State immediately responded with a quick-strike 72-yard drive. Pryor found receiver Dan Sanzenbacher on a simple slant pattern to the middle of the field and the two connected for a 56-yard gain to the USC 3. Two plays later, tailback Dan "Boom" Herron sliced into the end zone for a 2-yard run. OSU kicker Aaron Pettrey added the extra point to knot the score at 7 with 8:06 remaining.
The teams traded field goals in the second quarter. Pettrey booted an 18-yard chip shot on the first play of the period and Congdon added a 21-yarder on the final play of the half. That score was particularly tough on the Buckeyes after they punted the ball away with only 48 seconds left until the break. Barkley moved his team 77 yards in that short amount of time to give his team a chance to tie the score at halftime.
Ohio State seized the second-half advantage with some help from the Trojans. USC punter Billy O'Malley allowed a high snap to go through his hands and out of the end zone for a safety. That gave the Buckeyes a 12-10 lead at the 9:03 mark of the third period, and they got a 22-yard field goal from Pettrey on the ensuing possession for a 15-10 advantage at the 4:43 mark.
That was the way it stayed for much of the rest of the game as OSU kept USC pinned deep in its own territory before Barkley engineered the game-winning drive.
The Buckeyes had their second-half chances. In the fourth quarter, they moved to the USC 32 but Pryor was sacked on third-and-7, pushing Ohio State back to the 36. That would have meant a field-goal attempt of about 53 yards from Pettrey – who has five career field goals of 50 yards or more – but Tressel elected to stay with the field-position game. Punter Jon Thoma pinned the Trojans back at their own 14, but they were up to the task.
USC immediately got pushed back to its 5 when Barkley was sacked for a 4-yard loss on first down and the Trojans were whistled for a false start. But McKnight ran over right tackle for 11 yards on second down and then hooked up with Barkley for 21 yards on third-and-8 to keep the drive going. It was one of two third downs USC converted during that final drive and it also made good on a fourth-and-1 at the OSU 28.
Barkley finished the night with 15 completions in 31 attempts for 195 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. He was also sacked twice. His top receiver was flanker Damian Williams, who had five catches for 51 yards.
McKnight wound up the game's leading rusher for 60 yards on 16 carries. Johnson added 50 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries.
For Ohio State, Pryor completed 11 for 25 passes for 177 yards, no touchdowns and one pick. He was sacked once. Sophomore DeVier Posey set career highs with six catches for 81 yards. Sanzenbacher had two receptions for 58 yards while tailback Brandon Saine had two catches for 33 yards.
Herron was OSU's leader rusher with 44 yards on 18 carries. Pryor carried 10 times for 36 yards. Ohio State started quickly and held a lopsided 148-5 edge in total yards after one quarter. By the time the game was over, however, the Trojans had outgained the Buckeyes, 313-265.
"They came up with plays when they needed to, so they go home with the spoils," Tressel said. "Our kids were in a dogfight and flailed right along with them to the end. What we need to do is stick together and get better. That's what life is about and that's what our kids will do."
1998: No. 1 Ohio State 49, Toledo 0 – A week following a complete dismantling of No. 11 West Virginia, the Buckeyes continued their impressive start to the season with a whitewash of the Rockets in OSU's home opener.
Toledo was the defending Mid-American Conference West Division champion, but the Rockets were completely overmatched in the first meeting between the two schools. Ohio State gave the crowd of 93,149 plenty to cheer about in building a 42-0 lead by halftime.
"If I was going to script the ballgame the way I wanted it to go, I would have scripted it like that," Cooper said. "We wanted to jump on them early. The offense came out and made some big plays. It was important for us to score early and take them out of the game. You let a team like that get a little confidence early and you've got a dogfight on your hands."
Ohio State used 11 different ball carriers and nine different receivers in the rout. Meanwhile, the OSU defense did a number on the Rockets. Toledo had only one first down in the first half and only 32 yards of offense. Five defenders nabbed interceptions against an overmatched Toledo offense. OSU finished with a 538-197 advantage in total yards.
"We think we have a good, quick defensive team," said Cooper. "Anytime your corners can take their wide receivers out of the ballgame, the other nine guys can go out and play football."
Michael Wiley scored on touchdown runs of 76 and 4 yards, while Joe Germaine added three scoring passes.
Wiley finished with a then-career high 151 yards on 13 carries. Germaine completed 13 of 21 passes for 150 yards.
The Ohio State defense dominated despite only two tackles from linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer and none from cornerback Antoine Winfield.
Most of Ohio State's roster played in the game, including backup quarterbacks Mark Garcia, Austin Moherman and Steve Bellisari. Garcia also threw a touchdown pass shortly before halftime, and Moherman and Bellisari made their collegiate debuts.
1992: No. 22 Ohio State 17, Bowling Green 6 – The Buckeye defense rebounded from a sluggish performance a week earlier against Louisville in leading Ohio State to a win over an in-state foe.
The Buckeyes surrendered 392 yards of offense to the Cardinals, including 162 on the ground against the team that finished last in the country in rushing in 1991, but the defense responded against the Falcons. Ohio State created six Bowling Green turnovers and limited the defending Mid-American Conference champs to only 227 yards.
"We knew we were better than we showed last week," senior nose guard Greg Smith said. "We wanted to come out today and prove a point. I think we did, and now we can forget what happened last week and build on this performance."
The defense harassed BG quarterback Erik White throughout the game, sacking him twice, intercepting him four times and breaking up seven other pass attempts.
"I think the difference was our pass rush," OSU defensive coordinator Bill Young said. "Our pass rush last week was atrocious. This week, we wanted more pressure on their quarterback and we worked hard on that this week and stressed it in practice."
Following a scoreless first quarter, Bowling Green took the lead with a 9-yard Eric White quarterback rush for a touchdown. The point after failed, however, making it 6-0 in favor of the Falcons.
The Buckeyes responded and took the lead for good thanks to the first collegiate touchdown from freshman Eddie George. His scored on a 1-yard vault, and after a converted extra point from Tim Williams, Ohio State led 7-6.
"It was unbelievable," George said of his TD, which came on only his second ever carry. "Scoring in front of 95,000 people is unbelievable because that's what I've always dreamed about. It's an unbelievable experience."
Ohio State built on its 1-point halftime lead with 10 points in the third quarter to close the scoring. Williams first netted a 47-yard field goal, and Raymont Harris later added a 7-yard touchdown scamper a little more than seven minutes later.
Kirk Herbstreit completed 7 of 15 passes for 57 yards and was sidelined for two first-quarter offensive series with a left ankle injury. Backup Bobby Hoying threw three passes in limited action, completing one with an interception.
Harris led the OSU rushing attack with 18 carries for 94 yards. George finished with 37 yards on seven carries.
Cedric Saunders and Chris Sanders both caught three passes for 29 and 22 yards, respectively. They picked up the slack of flanker Joey Galloway, who left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury.
1987: No. 5 Ohio State 24, West Virginia 3 – Cornerback William White nabbed three interceptions in Ohio State's season-opening victory at Ohio Stadium.
White tied a school record for most interceptions in a game, and even scored a touchdown on one of his picks. He ran 29 yards for a score with 3:02 left to ice an OSU victory. It was only the second time White reached the end zone since his time as a tailback with Lima (Ohio) Senior. He had also returned an interception for a score in 1984 at Indiana as a freshman.
"I had some déjà vu from my Lima Senior days," said White, who scored 14 times as a high school senior. "I put on some of the old moves. It felt good to score a touchdown again."
"I love reading the quarterbacks and timing the passes," White added. "Sometimes early on in a game you can get a feel for what the opposing quarterback likes to do. Today they seemed rather predictable. But to be honest we put a lot of pressure on their quarterbacks, which made life a lot easier for me. I can't take all the credit."
White attempted to deflect credit, but teammate Chris Spielman would not allow it.
"I expect that from William every game," the linebacker said. "William is, in my eyes, one of the best defensive backs in the country. William has five plays to make a football game playing that open side corner. And he plays that open side better than anyone I know. They tried to go deep on us, and they're not going to do that against William."
It did not take long for Ohio State to build a lead against the Mountaineers. All it took was a kickoff, fumble, field goal, interception, run, pass, run and a touchdown to quickly make it 10-0 in favor of the Buckeyes. In fact, it only took Ohio State 38 seconds to score all the points it would need.
"I looked up at the scoreboard and there was still over 14 minutes left in the quarter and we had a nice lead," OSU head coach Earle Bruce said. "It's tough for a visiting team to overcome a start like that, especially in Ohio Stadium. I thought it was great."
The problems started for West Virginia when returner John Talley was hit by Buckeye linebacker Fred Ridder at the WVU 37 following the opening kickoff. Talley fumbled, and Ridder recovered the ball. After three OSU plays netted only eight yards, placekicker Matt Frantz nailed a 47-yard boot to start the scoring.
West Virginia started its next drive at the 20 following a touchback, but the Mountaineers' offense wasn't out there for long. Tailback A.B. Brown took a handoff on first down and fumbled following a hit from Spielman. Safety David Brown recovered, setting up an eventual 7-yard scoring run by Jim Bryant.
That was all Ohio State needed.
Tom Tupa added a 23-yard touchdown pass to Everett Ross before the end of the quarter to give OSU a commanding 17-0 lead. West Virginia got on the board with a field goal in the third quarter, but White capped the scoring with his defensive touchdown.
"Let me just say this," Bruce said. "We needed everything we got out of our defense to win this game today. I hope we get the same kind of effort on defense again next week, though I hope we don't need it. Most teams improve the most between the first and second games of the season. I hope that means something to us."
Tupa completed 12 of 25 passes for 150 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Vince Workman ran for 51 yards on 21 carries, and Ross led the receivers with five receptions for 69 yards.
Prior to kickoff, Ohio Stadium observed a moment of silence in memory of Woody Hayes. The legendary football coach died March 12, 1987.
1981: No. 11 Ohio State 34, Duke 13 – A second half explosion helped the Buckeyes roll past visiting Duke in both teams' season opener.
Ohio State overcame a sluggish start and piled up 21 second half points while holding the Blue Devils at bay.
"I think you saw a young ballclub do better in the second half than they did in the first half," Bruce said in only the second-ever edition of Buckeye Sports Bulletin. "The first half we made a couple costly errors that led to their last touchdown that made the game very close. It thought the significant part was that we came back in the second half and both the defensive line and secondary did a better job defending the forward pass and stopping the rush and I thought we moved the ball rather effectively in the second half – at times."
The Buckeyes held a slim 14-13 lead at halftime, but a big play by quarterback Art Schlichter helped Ohio State get some breathing room. In the third quarter, facing a second-and-22 at the OSU 48, Schlichter broke a tackle and found junior receiver Gary Williams streaking down the left side deep in Duke territory. Williams leapt over a Blue Devil defender's back to haul in the pass and give Ohio State a first-and-goal at the 3.
"I thought that was the real great catch of the day," Bruce said. "That was simply a tremendous catch. He went up and you could just see the complete concentration Gary had on the football and took it away from the defender."
Two plays later, Ohio State scored a touchdown on a 2-yard run by Tim Spencer. Schlichter added a 16-yard touchdown scamper following a Garcia Lane interception to extend the lead to 28-13.
Thad Jemison added a 16-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter to close the scoring. The extra point failed.
"I'm glad this one's behind us," Bruce said. "I hope we can go from here. I think, I hope, we'll get better as we go. We are a young football team. I think we did some very fine things today."
Schlichter completed 12 of 21 passes for 194 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also led the rushing attack with 33 yards on nine carries. Victor Langley caught three passes for 48 yards.