After a loss at home to Oklahoma in 1977, the Buckeyes tripped to Norman six years later to take on the Sooners in 1983. Fullback Vaughn Broadnax was a senior on the 1983 squad and a third-year starter, and he remembers the buildup to the game against Oklahoma very well.
Specifically, Broadnax remembers how the Ohio State defense prepared and shut down Sooner running back Marcus Dupree.
“We were aware of him when we were being recruited,” Broadnax said. “I know he had over 200 yards (in the Fiesta Bowl). At the time, he was the biggest fresh name in the game. We knew that if the defense shut him down, we might have a chance.”
Not only did the Buckeyes shut him down, they sent him out of the game. Dupree carried the ball just six times for 30 yards before leaving the game with an injury.
Broadnax said the Ohio State defense made it a mission to continue to get hard hits early and often on the star running back.
“They knew that if they hit him hard enough and often enough, they felt he would succumb to the game,” Broadnax said. “In actuality, he did.”
With Dupree out, the Sooner offense started to struggle and an unlikely hero started to emerge for the Buckeyes. Tight end John Frank, a man of the Jewish faith had been fasting leading up to the game in celebration of Yom Kippur and Broadnax said Ohio State players and coaches did not initially expect Frank to play.
“John was devout (in his faith) and we understood,” Broadnax said. “We were surprised he decided to play. The gameplan was, we were going to play without him. Thank God John decided to play, because he played one hell of a game and I am not sure we beat them without him.”
Frank caught two first half touchdowns from quarterback Mike Tomczak to give Ohio State a 14-0 lead and finished the day with seven catches for 108 yards. His performance was not only impressive because of his fasting, but also because of the heat.
The temperature on the field that Sept. 17 day in Norman reached 135 degrees and the Buckeyes dominated for most of the game in the heat. Leading 14-7 in the third quarter, the Ohio State defense forced a punt and the OSU offense went back to work.
The Buckeyes hit on multiple passes to the running backs and fullbacks on the early third quarter drive, one of which was made by Broadnax for 16 yards to set up an early third quarter score.
“I remember a catch going into their side of the field. We had run that play with me and Keith Byars, trying to get them to focus (on the tight end),” Broadnax said. “When the tight end was going out, (we tried to get them) to focus on them and hit the backside pass.”
After that drive, Ohio State held a 21-7 lead and Broadnax said the Buckeyes started to believe that they were poised to pull the upset of the No. 2 ranked Sooners. While the heat affected both teams, Broadnax said he believes the Buckeyes were more prepared to handle it than the home team was that day.
“We had an abnormally hot fall camp,” Broadnax said. “We were hitting 90 and almost 100 degrees and it prepared us for that game. When we saw Oklahoma really gasping, we knew we had the game I think probably in the third quarter.”
Thirty three years after the Buckeyes finished off a 24-14 win over the Sooners, Broadnax is set to return to Norman to watch the 2016 Ohio State football team try and win in a hostile environment.
In his eyes, the Buckeyes will need to play disciplined on the defensive side of the ball in order to pull off the road win.
“The defensive line cannot come too far up field,” Broadnax said. “They need to stay level to the quarterback. The cornerbacks are going to need to continue to cover because when (Baker Mayfield) is on the run, their receivers break off the routes.”
In the end, Broadnax expects the Buckeyes to once again come away with a win against Oklahoma.
“Those first two games were practice games, you go against the big boys today,” Broadnax said. “Buckeyes win 31-17.”