But the Buckeyes churned out their 18th consecutive win in dramatic fashion once again, defeating the Falcons 24-17 before 104,358.
For the second week in a row, Ohio State enjoyed a 24-7 lead midway through the fourth quarter. But, after watching N.C. State rally and force overtime a week ago, the Buckeyes allowed BGSU (3-1) to score a touchdown, recover an onside kick and then boot a field goal to pull within seven at 24-17 with 1:46 left.
OSU recovered the ensuing onside kick, but could not melt the rest of the clock. BGSU got the ball back with 42 seconds left and drove to the OSU 47 before Will Allen intercepted BGSU's Josh Harris on the final play to end the threat.
"I thought we did some good things in the course of the afternoon, especially coming out defensively," said OSU coach Jim Tressel. "Obviously, I thought we moved the ball along pretty well, but we have got to eliminate the turnovers that stop drives and give our opponents opportunities to have chances against our defense.
"Once again, we allowed someone at our place to have a chance in the fourth quarter and that's something we've got to straighten out."
Fifth-year senior Scott McMullen got the start at quarterback for Ohio State with Craig Krenzel sidelined with an elbow problem. McMullen completed 10 of 16 passes for 118 yards and one touchdown with one interception.
"I felt great," McMullen said. "I'm glad we ended up with the win. There are some throws I look back on that I wish I would have made and that would have put us up bigger.
"But this is why you come here, to play in games like this."
The OSU running game was also on the spot after faltering a week ago against N.C. State. OSU netted just 44 yards on 32 attempts against the Wolfpack. But OSU got 205 yards on 48 attempts against the Falcons.
Lydell Ross, finally healthy after suffering from a toe injury in recent weeks, had 94 yards on 22 carries with two scores, including a 33-yard touchdown. Maurice Hall had 107 yards on 19 attempts.
"We came along in some areas with the running game," said Tressel, who improved to 25-5 in his third year as the OSU coach. "That is something we will constantly be working on. I think the fronts we will face from here on out. I think we made some progress, but we still have a ways to go."
Bowling Green, after routs of Division I-AA Eastern Kentucky and Liberty and an upset at Purdue, came in with the nation's top-ranked offense at 575 yards and second-ranked scoring offense at 50.6 points per game. But the Buckeyes held BGSU to 366 yards total offense.
"There's no medal for trying," said BGSU coach Gregg Brandon. "It's a loss. It stinks. Ultimately, it's win or lose. This is a great game to learn from. They are the defending national champions and we had a chance to win the game."
Harris finished 33 of 54 passing for 326 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. He hit Cole Magner 13 times for 168 yards and a score.
"He's a good player, man," said OSU cornerback Dustin Fox, who had one of his team's three picks. "He definitely has a cannon. He reminds me of Troy Smith on our team. He gets the ball out there quick."
As It Happened
After forcing a BGSU punt to open the game, the Buckeyes drove down to the BGSU 23. But on second-and-8 there, McMullen hit Michael Jenkins with a pass in the left flat. But Jenkins fumbled as he tried to hurdle BGSU's Jelani Jordan for the first down. BGSU's Mitch Hewitt recovered the fumble at the BG 14-yard line with 10:18 left in the first quarter.<.p>
But the Falcons gave the ball right back as, on third-and-6 at their own 18, Harris overthrew his receiver and Fox made the easy interception. He returned it 6 yards to the BGSU 29 with 8:44 left in the first quarter.
The Buckeyes needed six plays to find the end zone and open the scoring. The key play was Ross' 11-yard run for a first down at the 7. On third-and-goal there, McMullen threw a perfect out pass to Drew Carter, who carried BGSU's Keon Newson into the end zone for the 7-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 6:04 left in the first quarter.
"That was almost like a short fade route where the quarterback throws it to the back of my head," Carter said. "I just turned around and caught it. Luckily, I was near the pylon and I got in."
For Carter, that was his first career touchdown.
"It was nice to get my first touchdown finally," Carter said. "Mike Jenkins told me when I got my first touchdown he was going to tackle me. He almost tackled me on the field. On the sideline, he got at me, so that was good."
Bowling Green answered with a 13-play, 87-yard scoring march. Harris completed 8 of 9 passes for 72 yards on the drive. The key play was P.J. Pope's 7-yard run on third-and-1 at the OSU 21. Pope lined up in the shotgun and took a direct snap on the play as Harris split wide left. Finally, on third-and-3 at the 7, Harris hit Cornelius McGrady on a 7-yard slant for the touchdown, tying the game at 7-7 with 2:14 left in the first quarter.
On the touchdown, it appeared that OSU defensive backs Allen and Fox had a mix-up on coverage, leaving McGrady wide open.
"They did a good job of scouting us because last week, N.C. State did the same thing," Allen said. "The two guys went vertical. I'm thinking I've got my guy, then, at the last second, they crossed. That was one for them."
Harris then fumbled when sacked by OSU's Bobby Carpenter. OSU's Simon Fraser recovered the ball and the Buckeyes were in business at the BGSU 21 with 12:22 left in the first half.
But a pair of McMullen sacks pushed the Buckeyes back and they had to settle for Mike Nugent's 47-yard field goal and a 10-7 lead with 10:09 left in the first half.
Ohio State extended the lead to 17-7 late in the half with a four-play, 42-yard march. Facing fourth-and-1 at the BGSU 33, the Buckeyes went for the first down. But Ross got much more as he followed tackle Shane Olivea through a huge hole in the middle and outraced a pair of BGSU defenders for the 33-yard touchdown and a 17-7 lead with 2:17 left in the half.
"It was fourth-and-1 and we wanted to get 1 yard," Ross said. "The coaches were saying we don't need a big play. But the opportunity was there for a big play and I took it. I saw nothing but green."
The teams traded interceptions to open the second half, but neither side could capitalize. McMullen under threw Bam Childress on a deep pass, which Newson picked and returned down the east sideline 38 yards to the OSU 23. Carter made a touchdown saving tackle for the Buckeyes on that play.
But the Falcons failed to find the end zone, as two plays later, Harris threw a pass in the right flat, which OSU's Brandon Mitchell tipped straight up in the air to linebacker A.J. Hawk for an interception at the BGSU 26 with 13:07 left in the third quarter.
Two possessions later, OSU drove 60 yards down to the BGSU 23. But on fourth-and-2 there, Hall netted just 1 yard and the Buckeyes lost the ball on downs with 2:00 left in the third quarter.
Ohio State finally broke out of the offensive malaise early in the fourth quarter. The Buckeyes put together a six-play, 76-yard scoring possession. Ross opened it with a 13-yard run before McMullen found Jenkins on a 46-yard gain down to the BGSU 17. Three Hall runs netted 13 yards before Ross took a toss left and went 4 yards for the touchdown and a 24-7 lead with 8:46 left.
But Bowling Green had a fantastic finish in mind, rallying for 10 points to create nervous feelings inside the Horseshoe for the second straight week.
First, Harris led BGSU on a 12-play, 80-yard scoring march, capped by his 25-yard TD pass to Magner, cutting the OSU lead to 24-14 with 3:25 left. Then, BG's Jannssen Patton recovered the ensuing onside kick at the OSU 44. BGSU got as close as the OSU 5. But a false start and an intentional grounding penalty led the Falcons to settle for Shaun Suisham's 33-yard field goal, trimming the gap to 24-17 with 1:46 left.
BGSU attempted another onside kick, but OSU's Ben Hartsock recovered it at the BGSU 43. But on third-and-10 there, Ross fumbled a pitch. He and BGSU's Jason Morton fought over the ball, but the officials ruled Ross had recovered it. OSU punted the ball away with 42 seconds left, pinning BGSU back to its own 24.
But Harris wasn't done. He hit Magner for a 29-yard play and a first down at the OSU 47 with 23 seconds left. He spiked it to stop the clock on first down before his second down bomb to Patton was broken up by Gamble. Finally, OSU's Allen intercepted his final pass and ran out the final seconds before going down. Whew.
"I wanted to keep the ball," Allen said of his cross-country return. "I was looking up the scoreboard and saw five, four, three. Then I saw the guy coming and I got down."
* McMullen's 46-yard pass to Jenkins was a career-long, besting a 44-yarder against Fresno State in 2000 and a 43-yarder against Akron in 2001. His longest completion a year ago was a 28-yard pass against San Jose State.
This was McMullen's second career start. He also started a 2001 loss to Illinois.
* Fox's pick was the fifth of his career and first of the year. Hawk's pick was his second this year and fourth of his career.
* OSU has now won 10 consecutive games with the margin seven points or less.
* OSU improved to 171-48-17 all-time against Ohio opponents.
* The OSU win snapped BGSU's 6-0 string against BCS affiliated schools since 2001.
* BGSU falls to 3-8 all-time against Big Ten teams, all on the road. The Falcons are 2-0 all-time against Purdue. This year's win over the 16th-ranked Boilermakers was BGSU's first against a ranked team since a 1972 win over then-No. 18 Purdue in 1972. The Northwestern game in 2001 is BGSU's other win over a Big Ten opponent.
The previous losses came against Michigan State (1981), Minnesota (1986), Ohio State (1992 and 1997), Wisconsin (1992), Penn State (1998) and Michigan (2000).
* OSU improved to 3-0 all-time against Bowling Green. OSU also won 17-6 in 1992, marking OSU's first game against an Ohio opponent since 1934. OSU then blasted BGSU 44-13 in 1997, marking the first of seven straight years OSU has played an MAC opponent.
* OSU is 18-1 all-time against current MAC schools. Akron got the lone win (12-6) over OSU at the 1894 Ohio State Fair in Akron. OSU has five wins against Akron and Ohio U., three wins over Miami (Ohio), three over BGSU and one over both Toledo and Kent State.
The string of Ohio MAC opponents will end next year, although the Buckeyes will host Cincinnati and MAC powerhouse Marshall instead. Miami (Ohio) is booked for 2005.
* The win gave the current Buckeyes an 18-game winning streak, making it the second longest in school history. This win makes a string of 17 straight wins from 1915-17 as the school's third longest streak. The record for consecutive wins at OSU is 22, set in 1967-69.
* OSU has now won 35 straight home non-conference games. The last home non-conference loss was to USC in 1990. OSU has also won 12 straight home games, dating to a 2001 loss to Illinois in the home finale.
* OSU opens Big Ten play next Saturday against Northwestern. It will be the fourth straight OSU game to open in the noon hour (ESPN2).