First-year head coach Jim Tressel earned his first win over a Top 25 opponent with a home win over the defending Big Ten co-champions.
Senior tailback Jonathan Wells got the Buckeyes going early. He scored on the second play of the game on a 71-yard touchdown run to give the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead less than a minute into the game. The Wildcats answered the score, but the Buckeyes continued to score touchdowns while the OSU defense eventually solved the Northwestern offense. After Damien Anderson tied the game on an 8-yard touchdown run, Ohio State scored 31 unanswered points to put the game out of reach. Mike Doss had a 30-yard fumble recovery to give the Buckeyes a 14-7 lead, a play Tressel credited as a game-changer.
"That was huge," Tressel said. "Any time you get a defensive touchdown - I think that made it 14-7 and we scored again right near the end of the half, getting it to the point of 21-7 at halftime - I was really happy with the way our kids came out of the gate to start the second half. That may have been the turning point that made it a little tough for them (Northwestern) to make it all the way back."
Wells added touchdowns of 1 and 6 yards. Lydell Ross scored on a 9-yard run early in the third quarter, and Mike Nugent added a 44-yard field goal. The Buckeyes had nearly 400 yards of total offense (396), and 179 came from Wells on 22 carries.
"It was good to see Jonathan Wells come out of the gate like that," Tressel said. "I was really proud of him. A lot of people were saying Lydell has emerged and Jonathan was going to be old news. I think he showed all of us he is not old news. He's a good player and it's good to have a one-two punch like that."
The game was a rare night contest and was played in front of a then-record crowd of 104,042 at Ohio Stadium.
"There is no question our crowd stepped up big time - 104,000 and some," Tressel said. "It was an amazing night, a beautiful night for a football game. We challenged ourselves to put our best foot forward to show people that Ohio Stadium is one of those top places for a gameday atmosphere. Our players played with the same kind of intensity that our crowd had and that just gave the crowd more to cheer about."
Northwestern made the score a little more respectable with two fourth quarter touchdowns. Quarterback Zak Kustok scored on a 2-yard run, and Jon Schweighardt caught a 4-yard pass from Kustok.
The win improved Ohio State to 3-1 and 2-0 in the Big Ten.
1990 – No. 13 Illinois 31, No. 20 Ohio State 20
The Buckeyes lost their Big Ten opener for the third straight time thanks in part to six turnovers.
Ohio State won on the stat sheet with more first downs (25-23), rushing yards (243-149), total yards (484-407) and yards-per-play (6.3-5.4), but four interceptions, two fumbles lost and a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown all conspired to doom the Buckeyes.
"I think all you have to do is look at the fact that we turned the ball over six times and you can figure out how we lost the ball game," OSU head coach John Cooper said. "I can't really fault some of those turnovers, though, to poor play on our part. I give Illinois a lot of credit for creating some of those plays and being in the right place at the right time."
OSU's first turnover came on its first play from scrimmage. Freshman tailback Robert Smith gained seven yards on his first run, but he had the ball stripped by Illini linebacker Darrick Brownlow. It set up Illinois' first touchdown, a two-yard catch by Jeff Finke from Jason Verduzco.
Smith and redshirt freshman running back Raymont Harris both scored first-quarter touchdowns to erase the Illini lead, and OSU led 17-10 at halftime. However, Illinois got two third-quarter scores from running back Howard Griffith on a 12-yard run and from tight end David Olson on a 1-yard touchdown catch.
The Buckeyes were trailing 24-20 and driving when disaster struck. For the third straight game, Ohio State had a kick blocked. With 10:12 remaining in the fourth quarter, kicker Tim Williams lined up for a 51-yard field goal attempt. Illinois defensive back Jerry Hamner blocked the kick and Mike Poloskey picked up the loose ball and pitched it to Quinton Parker, who ran it back for a touchdown. It was a controversial play, as television replays not only showed the Poloskey's knee was on the turf before he pitched the ball, but he also pitched the ball forward – an illegal forward lateral.
"Again, our kicking game killed us," Cooper said. "There's no question the blocked field goal was a big play in the game. It was our thinking that since we had the wind at our backs – and the fact that (Williams) has made a 52-yarder this year – we thought we would try the field goal.
"But they came in, blocked it and ran it back for a touchdown. There's no question that was the turning point of the ball game."
The score gave Illinois an 11-point lead it would hold for the win.
Quarterback Greg Frey had four passes picked off, but he still threw for 244 yards and completed 18 of 32 passes. Harris ran for 118 yards, and Smith added 86. Senior flanker Jeff Graham had a career day, catching seven passes for 85 yards – all with a separated shoulder.
1984 – Purdue 28, No. 2 Ohio State 23
Even an upset at Purdue could not keep the spotlight off OSU running back Keith Byars.
Ohio State fell at West Lafayette, Ind., but that could hardly be blamed on Byars. The Dayton, Ohio, native ran the ball 30 times, caught nine passes and ran back a kickoff. He finished with 191 yards rushing, 102 receiving and 61 on his lone kickoff return.
He also left northwest Indiana with a sense of disappointment.
"Apparently I didn't do enough to help my team win," Byars said. "I'm going to have to do better next week."
Byars scored two touchdowns, but even his heroics were not enough to save the second-ranked Buckeyes. Twenty-one unanswered second-half points helped Purdue build a 28-17 lead, and despite a Cris Carter 5-yard touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter, the Buckeyes never recovered.
Byars' first touchdown was on a 20-yard option play, and his second scored was on a drive where he accounted for all of the yards. He ran a Purdue kickoff 61 yards and then accounted for 37 more yards for an Ohio State touchdown in only three runs.
"I don't think I've seen a young man run harder and play harder than Keith Byars did," OSU head coach Earle Bruce said.
Only twice since 1948 had a Buckeye topped 100 yards rushing and receiving in the same game. Both times it was Byars, and both times it was against Purdue in 1983 and 1984, respectively.
Byars' final catch put him past 100 yards receiving but it was bittersweet. He caught a Mike Tomczak pass and picked up seven yards in the game's final seconds. Unfortunately, he could not get out of bounds, and a panicking Tomczak threw the ball out of bounds on fourth down at the Purdue 28-yard line with five seconds left to seal the Boilermakers' win.
"The defensive player (linebacker Kevin Sumlin) made a good play on me before I had the chance to get out of bounds," Byars said. "He hit me before I had the chance to even fumble it out."
1979 – No. 8 Ohio State 16, Northwestern 7
The Buckeyes committed nine penalties, lost two fumbles and had a pass intercepted. But it was still not enough for the Wildcats.
Quarterback Art Schlichter threw the Buckeyes' lone touchdown pass to Brad Dwelle for a 4-yard score, and Ohio State overcame a slight letdown following a thrilling come-from-behind win at UCLA a week earlier.
As the Buckeyes were beating Northwestern, Purdue was losing to Minnesota in Minneapolis. The Golden Gophers won the game, 31-14, and it would be Purdue's lone Big Ten loss. Ohio State would not face the Boilermakers in 1979 and the Buckeyes would go on to win the Big Ten.
1973 – No. 1 Ohio State 27, Washington State 3
Archie Griffin and fullback Bruce Elia both scored touchdowns in a home non-conference win.
Elia had moved to the offensive side of the ball only five days earlier after starting the season as a linebacker. He had been a fullback during his sophomore season, but had started his junior year playing defense.
Ohio State struggled early, gaining only 23 yards and no first downs in the first quarter. All 27 of the Buckeyes' points came in the second and third quarters. Griffin finished with 128 yards – his third-consecutive 100-yard game.
Randy Gradishar led the defense with 22 tackles, and punter Tom Skladany averaged 48.3 yards on four kicks.
1962 – UCLA 9, No. 1 Ohio State 7
After scoring 41 points in its season opener seven days earlier, the OSU offense stalled in an upset at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
UCLA sophomore kicker Larry Zeno kicked a 24-yard field goal with 1:35 left in the fourth quarter to give the Bruins the win. Ohio State out gained UCLA 276-18 and had 78 offensive plays compared to 38 for the Bruins. That did not equate with the final score, thanks in part to three stops at the UCLA 1-yard line by the Bruins defense.
Quarterback Joe Sparma threw OSU's lone touchdown, a 6-yard pass to Matt Snell. UCLA's lone touchdown came on the first play using its new T-formation. Halfback Kermit Alexander ran for a 45-yard score after an Ohio State fumble early in the game.
1956 – No. 4 Ohio State 32, Stanford 20
Ohio State's rushing offense outplayed Stanford's high-powered passing attack in front of 82,881 fans at Ohio Stadium.
Don Clark ran for 141 yards and two touchdowns. However, it was a rare pass that put the game squarely in the Buckeyes' favor. Clark threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Jim Roseboro to give the Buckeyes a 12-point win.
Stanford quarterback John Brodie had a big game, completing 21 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns. Brodie went on the play in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers.
1951 – No. 1 Michigan State 24, No. 7 Ohio State 20
The Buckeyes led the top-ranked Spartans in the fourth quarter, but Ohio State could not pull off the upset in a non-conference showdown.
The Spartans, who would join the Big Ten two years later when the University of Chicago dropped football, took advantage of an OSU fumble for its final score. The Buckeyes lost the ball at their own 45, but Ohio State forced a fourth down-and-6 at the OSU 28. Michigan State head coach Clarence "Biggie" Munn brought in reserve quarterback Tom Yewsic at halfback, and quarterback Al Dorrow lateraled the ball to Yewsic. The sophomore ran to his right, but then stopped, and passed back across the field to Darrow, who escaped two Buckeye defenders and scored the game-winning touchdown.
Ray Hamilton scored both of Ohio State's touchdowns. The end caught a 19-yard pass from halfback Vic Janowicz and a 25-yard score from quarterback Tony Curcillo.
1945 – Ohio State 42, Iowa 0
The Buckeyes scored 35 second-half points to rout the Hawkeyes at Ohio Stadium.
Iowa slowed Ohio State's rushing attack in the first half, using an eight-man front of five linemen and three linebackers close to the line of scrimmage. OSU's first-year head coach Carroll Widdoes used more passes and sweeps to the outside in the second half to pull away.
1934 – Ohio State 33, Indiana 0
Ohio State opened the '34 campaign with a blanking of the visiting Hoosiers, who came to Columbus 1-0 after a 27-0 whitewash of Ohio University.
The Buckeyes struggled with fumbles and poor passes, but Ohio State used three fourth-quarter touchdowns to pull away.
Frank Boucher scored the game's first touchdown on a 78-yard run when he broke through the IU line on a fake reverse.
1928 – Ohio State 41, Wittenberg 0
Head coach John Wilce began his 16th and final season at Ohio State with a shutout of Wittenberg.
The win was the 200th in program history and began what would be a four-game winning streak for the Buckeyes.
Wilce had tendered his resignation in June of 1928, effective at the end of the '28 season. Wilce planned to enter the medical profession and teach at Ohio State.
1923 – Ohio State 24, Ohio Wesleyan 7
The Buckeyes defeated the Methodists in front of 24,283 home fans, but the win came with a cost.
Quarterback Ollie Klee suffered a shoulder injury that would hinder his playing time throughout the entire 1923 season.
In attendance for the Buckeyes' season opener were Michigan head coach Fielding Yost and assistant Ernie Vick. Both were in Columbus scouting OSU while the Wolverines took care of Case in Ann Arbor, 36-0.
1917 – Ohio State 53, Ohio Wesleyan 0
Wilce used 30 players as the Buckeyes cruised to their second win of the season.
Chic Harley scored three touchdowns in the win. Ohio State led 14-0 at halftime and exploded for 39 second-half points.
Ohio Wesleyan reached the OSU 2-yard line near halftime before the Buckeyes stopped a quarterback sneak on fourth down. It would be the closest any opponent would get to scoring a touchdown against Ohio State all season.
1906 – Ohio State 52, Wittenberg 0
Ohio State had little trouble in earning its season straight shutout.
Buckeye head coach Albert E. Herrnstein was not even at the game. He was in Ann Arbor scouting Michigan. The Wolverines defeated Case, 28-0, as the Buckeyes beat the Tigers.
1900 – Ohio State 20, Ohio University 0
The Buckeyes earned the second of six consecutive shutouts to begin the season.
Ohio State blanked the Bobcats by the same score it had Otterbein a week earlier. The Buckeyes would outscore their first six opponents 160-0.
1897 – Ohio State 6, Ohio Medical 0
In its only win of the season, the Buckeyes defeated the Medics in OSU's first game under head coach David Edwards.
The win was somewhat marred by the fact that the Medics left the field leading by a touchdown. They left protesting an Ohio State touchdown, and the referee then awarded the game to OSU by forfeit.
Edwards was chosen over Yost, who when on to be a successful coach at rival Michigan.
1894 – Ohio State 32, Antioch 0
Ohio State earned its first win in three games with a blanking of Antioch.
The Buckeyes lost to Akron and Wittenberg at the Ohio State Fair to begin the season. Ohio State would finish the season 6-5, thanks to three straight wins to end the campaign.