This Date In Buckeye History

Every day in the late summer and fall has its moments in Ohio State football history, and Sept. 8 is no different. This day is best known for its firsts, as Jim Tressel and Earle Bruce both made their Buckeye coaching debuts on this date. Find out more in the first edition of a weekly series – "This Date In Buckeye History."

2001 – No. 22 Ohio State 28, Akron 14
It was a game of firsts for the Buckeyes the last time the Akron Zips came to Columbus.

The game was the first at Ohio Stadium following the completion of a three-year renovation. It also was the first game with Jim Tressel on the Ohio State sidelines as head coach. A then-record crowd of 102,602 fans packed the stadium to watch Tressel's Buckeyes defeat Akron 28-14.

"It was exciting. Who wouldn't be excited?," Tressel said after the Buckeyes posted 525 yards of total offense on a hot and humid day. "Everyone in there was excited whether they were running across the field or in the stands or in the press box. The atmosphere was extraordinary.

"There can't be a better place to play college football in America. What a gorgeous day and just couldn't have been better."

Senior tailback Jonathan Wells helped make the day special, running for two scores in the first half. He started the scoring when he capped off an eight-play, 66-yard drive with a 14-yard run touchdown run in the first quarter. He later added a 1-yard scored in the second quarter following an Akron fumbled punt.

Quarterbacks Steve Bellisari and Scott McMullen both played and combined for 289 yards through the air. Bellisari threw for a pair of touchdowns, the first to fullback Jamar Smith on a swing pass to the left corner of the endzone to make it 14-0 in the first quarter.

The Buckeyes went into halftime leading 21-7 following a late touchdown pass by Akron quarterback – and current Cleveland Browns signalcaller – Charlie Frye. The touchdown pass was caught by Jake Schifino and capped a 12-play, 88-yard drive with 2:09 left in the second quarter.

The Zips had a chance to cut deeper into the Ohio State lead in the third quarter following a drive deep into Buckeye territory, but Akron kicker Zac Derr missed a 37-yard attempt to end the threat. Akron then gave the Buckeyes a break when a Bellisari pass was tipped by an Akron defender into the arms of OSU receiver Chris Vance, who took it in untouched for a 61-yard touchdown. It was Vance's first career reception.

The Zips answered the score with one of their own with just under eight minutes left in the game. McMullen was intercepted by Akron defensive back Rickie Coble at the Akron 13, and Coble returned it 87 yards for a score. The Zips then executed and recovered an onside kick, but Ohio State stalled Akron's drive at the OSU 25. The Buckeyes then iced the game, driving to the Akron 1 before allowing the clock to run out.

"I thought we did an excellent job," Tressel said. "We hit a little lull in the second half, but I think for the most part (we played well). We only gave up seven points from our defense."

Wells had 24 carries for 119 yards, and the Buckeyes finished with 236 net yards rushing. Bellisari completed 15 of 24 passes for 246 yards.

"I thought we were relaxed out there," Bellisari said. "Offensively, we communicated really well. A lot of the young guys did a good job, running really good routes. They made it easy for me today."

One of those young receivers was Michael Jenkins, who had six catches for 106 yards in his first career start.

Defensively, senior linebacker Joe Cooper lead Ohio State with 9 1/2 tackles.

1990 – No. 18 Ohio State 17, Texas Tech 10
Freshman tailback Robert Smith had a breakout performance in a come-from-behind victory over the Red Raiders at Ohio Stadium.

Smith rushed for 86 yards, caught two passes for 41 yards and averaged 30.5 yards on two kickoff returns as Ohio State opened the season with a win. The freshman gave Ohio State the momentum after Texas Tech took a 10-3 third-quarter lead. Smith led the way on a five-play, 77-yard touchdown drive to tie the game. During the drive, Smith caught a 24-yard pass from senior quarterback Greg Frey and had a 39-yard run. He also capped the drive with a two-yard plunge to tie the game.

It was Smith's first touches during an offensive series as a Buckeye.

"There was no question that the player of the game for us was Robert Smith," Ohio State head coach John Cooper told BSB. "He came into the game and got our crowd excited. He got me excited, too."

Senior Jeff Graham put the Buckeyes ahead for good less than three minutes into the fourth quarter with a 50-yard punt return for a touchdown. Texas Tech punter Mike Delagerheim's low line drive kick was taken by Graham, who found a large hole and took it in for the game-winning score.

"We needed a break in the game," Graham told BSB. "We have really been working hard on our special teams during spring ball and fall camp. We needed a big play and I just tried to do what I could as a player to make things happen."

1984 – No. 6 Ohio State 22, Oregon State 14
Another running back helped the Buckeyes earn another comeback victory over the visiting Beavers.

Keith Byars rushed for a then-career high 182 yards on 34 rushes – even though he was battling cramps throughout the game. He also scored two touchdowns in the second half.

"It was just a long day," Byars told BSB. "I was just cramping up (in his legs, back and stomach). During the game, I didn't drink enough wqater. The doctor warned me, but I thought I was drinking enough. Apparently I wasn't, which brought on the cramps."

The Beavers led 14-3 at halftime, but Byars and the Buckeyes took control in the second half. Byars rushed for 113 yards in the final two quarters.

Freshman linebacker Chris Spielman had an impressive debut, making 10 tackles – including two for a loss. He did not start the game, but after playing only two plays in the first half, the 18-year old played much of the second half.

"I've never not started a football game in my life," Speilman told BSB. "It was hard to accept at first, but I've got to understand I'm not in high school I'm playing with men. I'm an 18-year-old kid playing with guys that shave everyday."

Speilman also made a key defensive stop with the Beavers driving for a go-ahead score at the beginning of the fourth quarter. He blitzed Oregon State quarterback Ricky Greene and forced a fumble that fellow linebacker Larry Kolic recovered for Ohio State. Byars turned the turnover into points with a 1-yard score on a somersault over left guard for a touchdown – his second score of the game after a 13-yard run in the third quarter.

"I think it was a turning point in the game, "Speilman told BSB of his forced fumble. "We went down and scored. That made me feel good. I just wanted my one shot. It took a while, but I got it."

1979 – Ohio State 31, Syracuse 8
The Earle Bruce era began with an impressive home win over Syracuse.

Bruce, faced with the daunting challenge of replacing a living legend in Woody Hayes, got off to an impressive start by coaching the Buckeyes to a win in their 800th all-time game (534-218-48). Ohio State led 21-0 at halftime and outgained the Orangemen 464-239 in front of 86,205 fans – the 64th consecutive sellout at Ohio Stadium.

Tight end Ron Barwig scored the first touchdown under Bruce, an 11-yard catch from Schlichter. Cornerback Mike Guess had 11 tackles and a fumble recovery to lead the Buckeye defense. He earned Big Ten defensive player of the week honors for his efforts.

This game was the only one of the 1979 season in which the Buckeyes were unranked. They were ranked No. 15 the following week and eventually reached No. 1 following an 18-15 win at No. 13 Michigan.

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