The Buckeyes lost on Senior Day for the third consecutive time, but in the process Ohio State found its new starting quarterback.
Third-string QB Craig Krenzel led OSU on two touchdown drives in the second half but it was not enough to push the Buckeyes past the Fighting Illini. Krenzel replaced Scott McMullen, who was ineffective and started in the place of suspended quarterback Steve Bellisari. Bellisari was arrested for drunk driving on the Friday before the game.
Krenzel completed 11 of 23 passes and threw two interception, one of which was returned by Illinois' Ty Myers 5 yards for a game-sealing touchdown. Nonetheless, Krenzel had impressed his teammates.
"Krenzel really came in and took a leadership role and did a good job out there," said receiver Michael Jenkins, who caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from the Michigan native.
Added Krenzel: "It was a roller coaster ride for myself and obviously the fans."
Ohio State had a 10-7 lead after the first quarter, thanks to a Chris Vance 10-yard touchdown reception from McMullen and a 23-yard field goal by Mike Nugent. Illinois quarterback Kurt Kittner led his team on two second-quarter touchdown drives and the Fighting Illini led 21-10 at halftime.
Krenzel replaced McMullen in the third quarter and the Buckeyes responded by scoring twice and taking a 22-21 lead after three quarters. Krenzel hooked up with Jenkins on a touchdown pass, but Krenzel's two-point conversion pass failed. Senior running back Jonathan Wells later added a 1-yard touchdown run, but again Krenzel's two-point pass failed.
Kittner played the hero in the end. He led a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive to put Illinois in front to stay. Carey Davis scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 4:12 remaining.
Wells had a career-day for the Buckeyes, rushing for 192 yards. He became the 16th Buckeye to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark.
"He's really had a pretty darn good year," Tressel said of his running back. "We asked our seniors to each have a career-best year and most of them have done a good job with that."
1990 – No. 21 Ohio State 35, Wisconsin 10
Robert Smith broke Archie Griffin's freshman rushing record and went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season in a rout of the host Badgers.
Smith needed 18 yards to pass the Buckeye great's mark of 867 in 1972, and Smith broke it in the first quarter on a 29-yard run. He later went over the century mark in the third quarter.
"I think Archie Griffin represents Ohio State and Ohio State football to a lot of people," Smith said. "What he has done for Ohio State, and the football program especially, will never be repeated.
"No matter how many yards I gain this season, how many yards I beat the record by, I don't think there's ever any way I could ever repeat what he's done for Ohio State. I feel honored just to be mentioned in the same company."
Griffin congratulated Smith during the game and had plenty of praise for the freshman.
"I broke some records and, somewhere along the line, I knew there would be someone who would come along and break mine," Griffin said. "Honestly, I didn't think this particular record would last this long.
"But I think it's a great honor to have the record broken by Robert. He's a great athlete and a great young man who is just beginning to show his talents."
Wisconsin actually led 10-7 before the Buckeyes took control. Raymont Harris scored on a 2-yard touchdown run with 1:10 left before halftime, and Ohio State pulled away thanks in part to two Smith touchdown runs.
Steve Tovar led OSU's defense with 10 tackles.
1984 – No. 11 Ohio State 21, Michigan 6
Senior quarterback Mike Tomczak capped his comeback by leading the Buckeyes to the Rose Bowl with a win over the Wolverines at Ohio Stadium.
Tomczak threw for only 139 yards and completed 11 of 15 passes, but he completed four of four passes during a key fourth-quarter drive that led to OSU taking a 14-6 lead with only 6:08 remaining.
"Mike Tomczak is the greatest comeback story that we've ever had at Ohio State," Bruce said following the win. "On May 5th, in the spring game, he broke his leg. On May 31st, it didn't look like he was going to be able to make it (for the 1984 season). On Sept. 4th, it didn't look like he was going to be able to make it.
"But he stuck in there and – goodness gracious sakes – he had the greatest spring I've ever seen a quarterback have at Ohio State. He's been a one-legged guy for a long time. Today, he did a good job for us. A great job for us. And he's one reason we're going to the Rose Bowl – you better believe it."
Keith Byars scored all three of Ohio State's touchdowns. He scored on a 1-yard plunge in the first quarter and added two 2-yard touchdown runs in the fourth.
For Tomczak, the win not only meant a happy end to his comeback, but it also meant the Buckeyes had finally made it over the hump.
"It means a long four years finally paid off," Tomczak said. "We've been 9-3 the last three years. We hung in there long enough. Last week, I used the analogy that we were floating in water until last week when somebody threw us a life preserver. This week, the tide took us into the shore and that shore is Pasadena.
"It's a great team victory. And what more can you ask for – being a senior, being captain of the team and the quarterback. It hasn't hit me yet. It won't hit me for a while, but our goal is accomplished."
1979 – No. 2 Ohio State 18, No. 13 Michigan 15
The Buckeyes clinched the Big Ten title with a comeback win.
Vlade Janakievski gave OSU a 3-0 lead in the second quarter to start the scoring, but Michigan rallied for a 7-3 lead after a 59-yard touchdown catch by Anthony Carter. The Wolverines led 7-6 at halftime following a late field goal by Janakievski.
Quarterback Art Schlichter connected with Chuck Hunter for an 18-yard touchdown to give OSU a 12-7 lead in the third quarter. Michigan's Mike Jolly tipped the pass, but Hunter made a leaping catch to give the Buckeyes their first touchdown against Michigan since 1975. Ohio State went for two, but the conversion failed.
A Roosevelt Smith 1-yard touchdown run gave Michigan a 15-12 lead going into the fourth quarter, but the Buckeyes rallied for the win thanks to a key blocked punt by linebacker Jim Laughlin with just over four minutes remaining. After Laughlin blocked Brian Virgil's kick, Todd Bell picked up the football and ran 18-yards for the game-winning score.
1973 – No. 1 Ohio State 55, Iowa 13
Ohio State celebrated Senior Day with a shellacking of the winless Hawkeyes.
Thirty seniors played their last game at Ohio Stadium, and Archie Griffin set a then-school record for single-game rushing yards with 246.
Bruce Elia finished with only 11 yards on nine carries, but four of those carries resulted in short-yardage touchdowns.
Iowa scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns against OSU's reserves – the first touchdowns the Buckeyes allowed in 15 quarters.
1962 – Ohio State 26, Oregon 7
After a lackluster win over Indiana a week prior, the Buckeyes responded with a solid non-conference win over the visiting Ducks.
Bill Mrukowski moved back to quarterback from defense for the game and ran for two 4-yard touchdowns. OSU ran for 316 yards and Oregon had no answer for the Buckeyes' power game.
1956 – No. 7 Iowa 6, No. 6 Ohio State 0
Ohio State's conference record winning streak came to an end in a bruising loss at Iowa.
Both teams went scoreless in the first half before the Hawkeyes scored the game's lone touchdown. Quarterback Kenny Ploen capped an 80-yard drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Jim Gibbos.
The Buckeyes were held to only nine first downs and 147 yards of total offense.
It was arguably the biggest win in Iowa football history. It clinched the Hawkeyes' first postseason bowl bid and a share of the Big Ten title.
1951 – Ohio State 0, No. 3 Illinois 0
The Buckeyes earned a hard-fought tie on homecoming against unbeaten and heavily-favored Illinois.
The tie was the lone 1951 blemish for the Fighting Illini, who finished 9-0-1 with a Rose Bowl win over Stanford, 40-7.
1945 – No. 9 Ohio State 27, Illinois 2
Playing in the cold and rain for the second straight week, the Buckeyes turned in one of their best performances of the season.
Ohio State turned a five-point, second-half lead into a rout with 20 fourth-quarter points. Ollie Cline led the Buckeyes attack with 122 yards and two touchdowns. Hal Daugherty added a 15-yard touchdown run and the Buckeyes also scored on a 15-yard pass from Paul Sarringhaus to Chuck Gandee.
1934 – Ohio State 34, Michigan 0
The Buckeyes drubbed rival Michigan for only their seventh win over the Wolverines in 31 games.
Ohio State led 13-0 at halftime and cruised to the victory. The Buckeyes led in first downs, 24-3, and out-gained Michigan 460-40.
After the win, fans tore down the goal posts for what is believed to be the first time in OSU history.
Future President Gerald R. Ford led the Wolverines.
1928 – Ohio State 39, Muskingum 0
Only 10,035 were on hand at Ohio Stadium as the Buckeyes closed the home portion of their season with a whitewash of Muskingum.
It was head coach John Wilce's final game at Ohio Stadium.
1923 – Chicago 17, Ohio State 3
The Buckeyes played well, but could not keep up with Amos Alonzo Stagg's Maroons.
Over 3,500 OSU fans made the trip to Chicago. The Maroons finished the season 7-1. Their lone loss that season was two weeks later at Illinois – the first game ever played at Memorial Stadium.
1917 – Ohio State 13, Illinois 0
The Buckeyes won the Big Ten championship with a shutout win over the previously unbeaten Fighting Illini.
Chic Harley once again starred for the Buckeyes, making field goals of 14 and 29 yards and throwing a 20-yard touchdown pass to Howard Courtney.
1906 – Ohio State 9, Case 0
Ohio State won the "Big Six" championship with a win over Case in Cleveland.
The Big Six included Case, Kenyon, Oberlin, Ohio State, Ohio Wesleyan and Western Reserve.
1900 – Ohio Medical 11, Ohio State 6
In a game that almost did not happen, the Medics handed OSU its lone loss of the season.
The Buckeyes had charged Ohio Medical with "professionalism" and the game was nearly stricken from the schedule. However, the Medics dropped one player from its roster and the game went on as planned.
1894 – Ohio State 6, Cincinnati 4
Ohio State began a season-ending three-game winning streak with a win over Cincinnati.
The Buckeyes would finish the 1894 season 6-5 after adding two more wins vs. 17th Regiment Nov. 24 and Kenyon Nov. 29 – Thanksgiving Day.