The Silver Bullets scored two touchdowns, held the Badgers' powerful offense to one score and was on the field for more than 42 of the game's 60 minutes. All of that equated to a very unusual afternoon at Ohio Stadium.
"I don't think I've ever participated in a game like this before," OSU offensive tackle Bryant Browning said.
Both defenses ruled the day. Of the five touchdowns scored in the game, only two was scored by an offense. The scoring began in the first quarter when the Buckeyes snuffed out a Wisconsin drive that went into OSU territory. Senior safety Kurt Coleman intercepted a Scott Tolzien pass and returned it 89 yards for a touchdown.
Wisconsin answered with the next two scoring drives to take a 10-7 lead in the second quarter on a 9-yard touchdown run by Chris Maragos on a fake field goal and a 50-yard field goal by Philip Welch. Ohio State then answered to take a 14-10 lead with less than a minute before halftime thanks to a 32-yard pass from quarterback Terrelle Pryor to fellow sophomore DeVier Posey that capped the best offensive drive of the afternoon for the Buckeyes. Pryor led a seven-play drive that went 88 yards and took only 1:12 off the clock.
"We knew we needed to get a touchdown when the score was 10-7," Posey said. "(Head coach Jim) Tressel told us that we were going to get a touchdown, so we pulled together as an offense and got it down."
The halftime stats were not pretty for the Buckeyes. Take away the touchdown drive, and Ohio State had 36 yards on 18 plays. Wisconsin held the ball for 21 minutes, and the Buckeyes were on offense for only nine.
It was more of the same after the break. Wisconsin was on offense for all but 1:40 in the third quarter. Even so, the four-point lead grew to 15 thanks to some big plays by the defense and special teams. OSU defensive back Jermale Hines started the scoring when he leaped up to tip a Tolzien pass and hauled it in before returning the interception 32 yards for a touchdown. An extra point by Aaron Pettrey made the lead 21-10 with 12:08 left in the quarter.
The Badgers answered the touchdown with a 46-yard field goal by Welch, but the momentum did not last long. Ohio State senior Ray Small took the ensuing kickoff at the Buckeye 4-yard line and went straight up field. He was practically untouched and went 96 yards for a touchdown, the first kickoff return for a score since Ted Ginn Jr. went 93 yards on the opening kickoff to the national championship game against Florida.
"It was a return left, and when we watched film they usually kicked to the right. I guess the wind was blowing a little bit, and he kicked it over to my side. I was shocked and thought, ‘Oh, he's kicking it to me.' When I got it, I just followed behind my wedge. I heard all the things that Coach Taver (Johnson) says running through my head: ‘Be patient. Hit the whole when it's there.' It was really there."
Tressel said he had thoughts of Ginn when watching Small score.
"It was almost like he was shot out of a gun," Tressel said. "I saw him take that thing and he downshifted and was gone. It did look like a little bit like Teddy."
Wisconsin attempted to answer again, driving into Ohio State territory again before ending the march with no points when Welch pushed a 33-yard field goal wide to the right. The Badgers only threatened once more when Tolzien again led his team into OSU territory, only to have the drive end on downs in the red zone.
The Buckeyes won the game, but the Badgers dominated the final stats. Wisconsin outgained OSU 368-184. Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor completed only five of 13 passes for 87 yards, and the rushing attack was held to 97 yards. Brandon Saine was the team's leading rusher with 55 yards on 14 carries.
The difference was Ohio State's defense, which sacked Tolzien six times and held Wisconsin's powerful rushing attack to only 2.7 yards per carry. Standout running back John Clay had a mere 59 yards on 20 carries. OSU linebacker Ross Homan had two sacks and a team-high 15 tackles to lead the way. Coleman added 14 stops, as did linebacker Brian Rolle. Hines had 11 tackles to go with his touchdown.
1998: No. 1 Ohio State 41, Illinois 0 – A career afternoon by quarterback Joe Germaine led the Buckeyes to an easy victory.
The senior quarterback threw for 307 yards and three touchdowns. It was the third time Germaine had thrown for more than 300 yards in his career, tying him with Art Schlichter. Germaine also threw for more than 300 yards twice in 1998, which also tied a Schlichter record.
His three TD passes gave him 40 for his career and moved him to third all time behind Schlichter (50) and Bobby Hoying (57). Not bad for a quarterback who was in his first and only season as a true starter.
"I like Joe Germaine," OSU head coach John Cooper said in the Oct. 17, 1998, edition of Buckeye Sports Bulletin. "I like his poise, I like his demeanor, I like the way he runs the offense.
"Obviously, he can throw the football and he has good accuracy."
After the Buckeyes opened the season by defeating three ranked teams in the first four weeks, Ohio State turned its first Big Ten road contest into a rout. The Fighting Illini never threatened. The Buckeyes jumped out to a 24-0 halftime lead and the defense took care of the rest, allowing just 12 first downs and 199 yards of total offense against an inexperienced opponent.
"You're happy anytime you shut out a football team," Cooper said. "I don't care how young they were."
All of Germaine's touchdown passes came in the first half. After Dan Stultz opened the scoring with a 40-yard field goal, Germaine connected with John Lumpkin for a 1-yard score. Germaine added a pair of second-quarter TD strikes to David Boston and Reggie Germany to put the game out of reach.
"I think the quarterback offensively was the difference," Cooper said. "Both teams have similar philosophies defensively where they're going to try to force the other team to throw the football."
The rest of the scoring came in the fourth quarter. Stultz booted a 46-yard field goal, linebacker Na'il Diggs returned a fumble 47 yards for a touchdown and tailback Jonathan Wells capped the scoring with a 2-yard TD plunge.
Germaine completed 17 of 28 passes, and backup Mark Garcia threw for 50 yards on 2-of-4 passing. Michael Wiley led the OSU rushing attack with 68 yards on 18 carries.
1992: Illinois 18, No. 21 Ohio State 16 – After a fifth-straight loss to Illinois and seventh in the last 10 games against the Fighting Illini, many of the Buckeyes were at a loss trying to explain what happened at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State fumbled twice at the 1-yard line and missed a 44-yard field goal. The defense held Illinois to just 270 yards but still allowed a late game-winning field goal.
"It must be a jinx," fifth-year senior cornerback Bryan Cook said in the Oct. 17, 1992, BSB. "I don't know what else it is. When you have a better team, you're supposed to win and we didn't do it."
Ohio State defensive coordinator Bill Young didn't buy that explanation.
"I'm not sure this has anything to do with who is the better team," he said. "I'm not sure Northwestern had a better team last year and they beat Illinois. You just have to get up every week to play. It's how you play that day that counts.
"It's not a jinx; that's the way things go in this crazy game." Both teams made mistakes, but the Buckeyes' miscues came at more inopportune times. The first came mere minutes into the game. Ohio State was threatening to score a touchdown on the opening drive, but freshman running back Eddie George fumbled after being met at the 1 by Illini linebacker Dana Howard and defensive back Jeff Arneson. The loose ball was eventually snagged by Arneson, who returned it 96 yards for a shocking touchdown.
"I've never had that happen to me in my career," OSU head coach John Cooper said. "We're going in for a touchdown, and all of a sudden, boom. That's a 14-point swing. Instead of us scoring and being up 7-0 early in the game, all of a sudden we're down 7-0."
The Buckeyes responded with a 50-yard field goal by Tim Williams and a 4-yard touchdown run by George to go ahead 10-7. However, the lead would not last. Illinois narrowed the deficit to one point when defensive tackle Ken Blackman tackled OSU running back Robert Smith in the end zone for a safety. The ensuing free kick gave the Illini good field position, and a 3-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jeff Kinney after a 14-play, 54-yard drive put Illinois ahead 15-10. The Illini went for two following an Ohio State offsides penalty, but Kinney's rush was stopped short of the goal line.
Ohio State looked primed to score a touchdown when the Buckeyes drove deep into Illini territory on the ensuing drive, but the team had to settle for a 31-yard field goal attempt by Williams. However, the kicker missed wide left. Fortunately for Ohio State, he got another chance with just five seconds left in the half. This time he nailed a 25-yard attempt to make it 15-13 at the break.
Williams put the Buckeyes back in front, 16-15, with a 29-yard field goal midway through the third quarter. Yet the miscues continued for Ohio State. A fumble by George led to an 86-yard drive for the Illini that resulted in a 21-yard field goal by Chris Richardson. That boot proved to be the decisive score.
The loss overshadowed an impressive performance by defensive tackle Dan "Big Daddy" Wilkinson. The 6-5, 299-pound redshirt freshman hounded Kinney all game, sacking him three times. He finished with 10 tackles.
"Kinney was a good quarterback, but we had made a goal to get more penetration up front today," Wilkinson said. "I think we did that. We got to him a couple of times, and other times he got the ball away, but he paid the price."
1987: Indiana 31, No. 9 Ohio State 10 – An overcast and rainy afternoon turned into the "darkest day" in Ohio State football history.
"I don't think it's my lowest point in coaching, but it's the lowest point for Ohio State, ever," Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce said in the Oct. 17, 1987, edition of BSB.
The Hoosiers ended 36 years of frustration by outscoring the Buckeyes 21-0 in the second half. Indiana shocked 90,032 fans in a soggy Ohio Stadium by thoroughly dominating its hosts.
"You just saw an Ohio State football team in the second half get the devil knocked out of it," Bruce said in the Oct. 17, 1987 BSB. "They did what they wanted to offensively and defensively against Ohio State in the second half. That's about it.
"I've been associated (with Ohio State) since I came in as a freshman in 1949, and it's got to be the darkest day I've seen in Ohio State football."
As the rain worsened at the start of the second half, so did Ohio State's chances at continuing its dominance of the Hoosiers. Indiana took the lead for good with 2:09 remaining in the third quarter when fullback Tom Polce went untouched into the end zone on a 6-yard run. A Tom Tupa interception turned into another Hoosier touchdown in the fourth quarter, this time on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Dave Schnell to Ernie Jones.
Schnell capped the scoring with 1:05 remaining with a 2-yard scoring pass to Polce.
While the Ohio State defense struggled to handle the Indiana offense, the Buckeye offense never got traction. OSU netted just 264 yards and 13 first downs, and only four of those 13 first downs came after halftime. Tupa completed just 11 of 21 passes for 132 yards with two interceptions. Both of those picks came after halftime.
1981: Wisconsin 24, No. 18 Ohio State 21 – The visiting Buckeyes lost their second consecutive game for the first time since 1971 thanks to some major miscues.
The first of these mistakes came in the waning moments of the first half. Wisconsin, trailing 14-6 at its own 23, was forced to punt. OSU sophomore Jeff Cisco went back to receive the David Greenwood boot, but the ball bounced out of his hands as he attempted to make a fair catch. The Badgers pounced on the loose ball at the Ohio State 30 with 24 seconds left in the half. Wisconsin turned the turnover into a 25-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jess Cole to Marvin Neal. A two-point conversion run by John Williams tied the game.
Ohio State compounded the problem again before halftime. Tim Spencer fumbled an option pitch on the ensuing drive, and Wisconsin again recovered the fumble. This time the Badgers were forced to settle for a 50-yard field goal by Wendell Gladem, which gave Wisconsin a 17-14 lead at intermission.
"Obviously our own mistakes are killing us," Bruce said in the Oct. 17, 1981, BSB. "But if we're made of anything we'll get over the loss and go on from here."
Wisconsin extended its lead to 24-14 early in the fourth quarter on a Cole 10-yard touchdown toss to Thad McFadden. At the time of the touchdown, Cole had only completed two passes – both for touchdowns.
Jimmy Gayle narrowed the deficit to three with a 6-yard touchdown run, but it was too late. His score came with just 38 seconds remaining, and Wisconsin was able to run out the clock.
The Badgers victory was their first over Ohio State since a 12-3 decision in 1959.
"I thought Wisconsin played well," Bruce said. "They really did an outstanding job. They were physical."
1970: No. 1 Ohio State 29, Michigan State 0 – The Buckeye rushing attack helped OSU blank the host Spartans.
Of Ohio State's 338 yards of total offense, 287 came via the ground. Fullback John Brockington led the way with 126 yards, which included a 25-yard bolt for the Buckeyes' first touchdown.
The lead was only 9-0 at halftime before OSU's offense exploded. The defense did the rest. Stan White and Jim Stillwagon each had seven solo tackles, and Jack Tatum had five.
The game was the 700th in program history. The Buckeyes were 456-199-45 in those contests.
1964: No. 4 Ohio State 26, No. 2 Illinois 0 – The eyes of the nation were on Champaign, Ill., and the Buckeyes stunned a homecoming crowd by blasting the Illini.
Ohio State was a six-point underdog but didn't play like one against the defending Big Ten champions. The Buckeyes were in control from the very start, scoring a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. Quarterback Don Unverferth went 24-yards for a score on a bootleg option around left end. That score was set up by a John Fill interception.
Fullback Will Sander added to the lead when his 1-yard plunge capped an 84-yard march in the second quarter. Later in the frame, Bob Funk made a 29-yard field goal to make it 16-0 OSU at halftime.
Sander added a 4-yard touchdown in the third period, and Funk capped the scoring with another field goal in the fourth quarter.
While Ohio State's offense did what it pleased, the Buckeye defense harassed Illinois quarterback Fred Custardo all game. The pass rush from end Bill Spahr, tackle Ed Orazen, guard Bill Ridder and linebacker Ike Kelley kept Illinois off balance.
1959: No. 20 Illinois 9, Ohio State 0 – A 73-yard pass from Mel Meyers to halfback Johnny Counts and a 27-yard field goal by Don Yeazel gave the Illini all the points they needed in Columbus.
The Buckeyes managed just 160 yards of total offense, compared to 369 for Illinois.
The game was the 600th in OSU's program history. The Buckeyes posted a record of 383-175-42 in those contests.
1953: Illinois 41, No. 3 Ohio State 20 – Illinois halfbacks J.C. Caroline and Mickey Bates combined for 339 yards and six touchdowns as the Illini routed the host Buckeyes.
Caroline rushed for 192 yards and two schools, and Bates added four touchdowns and 147 yards. The duo ran the halfback counter play to perfect, and Ohio State simply had no answer.
What was worse than the final score for the Buckeyes was the injury suffered by quarterback John Borton. After the injury he never regained the passing prowess he showed in 1952 as a sophomore.
1942: Ohio State 28, USC 12 – A crowd of 56,436 jammed into Ohio Stadium to watch Ohio State beat the Trojans on a bright and sunny autumn afternoon.
USC scored an early touchdown, but the Buckeyes took control from there by scoring the next 28 points. Three of the touchdowns came on long gains. A 64-yard pass play from Paul Sarringhaus to Bob Shaw resulted in the go-ahead score, while Shaw caught a Tommy James pass for a 40-yard score. Finally Bob Frye rambled 37 yards for another score early in the third quarter.
OSU's final score came on an 8-yard run by George Lynn.
1936: Pittsburgh 6, Ohio State 0 – The Panthers' punishing rushing attack led Pittsburgh to victory.
Pittsburgh, which only lost three times (twice to Minnesota) in their previous 30 games, scored the game's only touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Harold Stebbins reached the end zone on a 35-yard run. It was the first time a Francis Schmidt-led OSU squad was shut out.
The game was also notable because Script Ohio was performed by the Ohio State Marching Band at halftime for the first time.
1931: Vanderbilt 26, Ohio State 21 – A furious second-half rally fell just short against the Commodores.
Vanderbilt built a 26-0 halftime lead before the Buckeyes responded. Bill Carroll accounted for two of OSU's three touchdowns, and appeared to have a game-winning fourth trip to the end zone. Unfortunately for OSU, the officials ruled that Carroll was stopped just six inches short of the goal line. Vanderbilt held on for the victory.
1925: Ohio State 3, Chicago 3 – The Maroons and Buckeyes battled to their second straight tie in front of 33,000 fans at Stagg Stadium in the Windy City.
Even though the Buckeyes were out of town, there was still college football action at Ohio Stadium. Nearby Capital University moved its home game against Western Reserve to the stadium. Capital won 9-0.
1914: Ohio State 7, Case 6 – The visiting Buckeyes won their second straight game to open the season.
Conference play was looming for Ohio State after the victory. The Buckeyes would head to Illinois for the first time in program history a week later.
1908: Ohio State 16, Denison 2 – Ohio State rebounded for an 8-0 loss to Wooster the week before by pounding Denison.
The game was the first in which Ohio State or its opponent did not get shut out. The Buckeyes blanked Otterbein 18-0 prior to the loss to Wooster.
1906: Ohio State 16, Muskingum 0 – The final score was a little closer than most expected, but the Buckeyes easily handled the overmatched Muskies.
Muskingum never advanced into OSU territory, and the Buckeye defense did not allow a first down.
1903: Ohio State 24, Denison 5 – Ohio State allowed its opponent to score for the first time in three games, but the Buckeyes remained unbeaten with a win over the Big Red.
The OSU defense only allowed these five points over the first five games of the season.
1896: Cincinnati 8, Ohio State 6 – The Bearcats defeated the Buckeyes for the first time in a game held in the Queen City.
Ohio State had defeated UC in the previous two matchups between the schools, but the Buckeyes dropped their second straight game to open the season.