Sept. 22, 2001: No. 12 UCLA 13, No. 21 Ohio State 6 Sadly, the first open week the Buckeyes had under Tressel was not a scheduled one. Ohio State's Sept. 15 home game vs. San Diego State was postponed in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
The Buckeyes did not play the Aztecs until Oct. 20 (the date that was originally to represent OSU's open week), but there were fans in Ohio Stadium on Sept. 15. The newly-renovated stadium served as the site for a rally and telethon. More than 15,000 people attended, including members of Ohio State's atheltic squads and marching band. More than $585,000 was raised for the American Red Cross disaster relief fund.
"This is a place of celebration, of human achievement, whether academic when commencement is held here, or athletic," then-OSU athletic director Andy Geiger said. "We would rather be watching football, for that would mean that last Tuesday never happened."
As for the Buckeyes' next game, the offense never got on track in a loss to the Bruins at the Rose Bowl. UCLA limited Ohio State to just 166 yards of total offense and eight first downs in what was a physical contest.
"I think sometimes people look at us and see those baby blue jerseys and don't think we're very physical," UCLA Bob Toledo said. "But after we play, I think they realize we do have some physical football players."
The Bruin defense held in key situations. Ohio State recovered four UCLA fumbles inside the Bruin 45-yard line but failed to score on any of those chances.
"We probably had more opportunities than we deserved," Tressel said. "They were all hurtful. We feel like we let the rest of the group down.
"I'm proud of the way our guys kept fighting. Despite the fact we didn't move the football, the defense still came up with some stops to keep us in the game."
Ohio State's lone touchdown came on a blocked punt by Mike Doss, which teammate Ricky Bryant recovered for a first-quarter score. Quarterback Steve Bellisari struggled to lead the offense, completing 5 of 23 passing for 45 yards and two touchdowns. Over the final three quarters, Bellisari completed only 1 of 17 passes for 9 yards.
"Some of the things we asked of Steve he did," Tressel said. "There were things he could have done better. But at the same time I could say that about the rest of the offense and coaches, too. We struggled some up front. We struggled some with our design. We struggled some at receiver and we struggled some at quarterback."
UCLA took 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter on a 24-yard scoring strike from Cory Paus to Ryan Smith before OSU got on the board. The Buckeyes failed to tie the game when Mike Nugent's point-after attempt failed.
A pair of Chris Griffith field goals, from 49 and 33 yards, capped the scoring.
Sept. 7, 2002: No. 8 Ohio State 51, Kent State 17 Fourteen days following Ohio State's season-opening 45-21 victory over Texas Tech, the Buckeyes crushed the Golden Flashes.
The Buckeyes scored on their first four offensive possessions and raced out to a 38-0 lead, quickly halting any thoughts of a Kent State upset in its first trip to Ohio Stadium. Even the OSU defense got in on the scoring. Doss and freshman linebacker A.J. Hawk each returned interceptions for touchdowns against Kent State quarterback and current Cleveland Brown Joshua Cribbs.
"Obviously, goal No. 1 we accomplished and that was to get a win in Ohio Stadium," Tressel said. "I thought our guys came out of the gate really well coming off the open week."
Ohio State had a big afternoon offensively and never had to punt. Quarterback Craig Krenzel completed all of his first 11 passes and finished 12 of 14 for 190 yards with a touchdown. Freshman tailback Maurice Clarett led the rushing attack with 64 yards on 12 carries. He rushed for a score and caught another.
The Buckeyes built a 21-0 by the end of the first quarter. Clarett began the scoring with a 2-yard run. Doss' 45-yard interception return and Maurice Hall's 28-yard run added the other scores.
Ryan Hamby caught a fourth-quarter score on an 18-yard reception from backup QB Scott McMullen. Nugent made three field goals in the rout on kicks of 40, 33 and 45 yards.
Ohio State lost for the first time in 21 months on a rainy night in Madison, Wis., 14 days after its last game Sept. 27 vs. Northwestern. A fumbled punt return and a blown coverage on a 79-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter finally doomed the Buckeyes. It was Ohio State's first loss in 647 days, since the 2002 Outback Bowl vs. South Carolina.
With Wisconsin holding a 7-3 lead midway through the third quarter, it looked like Ohio State was going to have short field position when the defense forced the Badgers to punt from deep within Wisconsin territory. But Chris Gamble mishandled R.J. Morse's punt near midfield. Wisconsin long snapper Matt Katula recovered the fumble, and the turnover led to a Wisconsin field goal.
The Buckeyes tied the game with a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 6-yard scoring strike to Jenkins from Krenzel.
The momentum was short-lived, however, as Wisconsin scored the game-winning touchdown two plays after OSU's tying score. Wisconsin backup quarterback Matt Schabert, who entered the game in the third quarter when starter Jim Sorgi was injured in a pileup, found Evans streaking down field. Schabert's pass was a good one, and Evans outraced Gamble who bit on Evans' out-and-up pattern to the end zone.
"They had doubled Lee all night, and we felt that in that situation that we might get man coverage and we wanted to take a shot," UW head coach Barry Alvarez said. "But in my wildest dreams, I never imagined Matt throwing the ball like that. But that‘s football. When someone goes down, the next guy has to come in and do the job."
Schabert did just that, completing 2 of his 3 passes for 104 yards and keeping OSU's defense off balance with some key scrambles late in the game.
Ohio State's running game continued its struggles, managing only 69 yards. Krenzel returned to the starting lineup after missing two games with a hyper extended elbow. He completed 14 of 26 passes for 202 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Ben Hartsock caught five of those passes for 41 yards.
Defensively, Robert Reynolds led the Buckeyes with 12 tackles, 2.5 for a loss. The linebacker was also involved in one of the game's most controversial plays. On the play where Sorgi was injured, Reynolds was seen in television replays grabbing the Wisconsin QB by the neck at the bottom of the pile. Following the game, several Badgers criticized Reynolds for dirty play. Tressel told reporters he did not have a good view of the play, and Alvarez simply said, "You saw the film."
Oct. 2, 2004: Northwestern 33, No. 7 Ohio State 27 The Buckeyes began the season 3-0 after non-conference victories over Cincinnati, Marshall and N.C. State. Yet after an open week, Ohio State lost to the Wildcats for the first time in Evanston since 1958.
Like in its 2003 road Big Ten losses at Wisconsin and Michigan, the Buckeye rushing attack never got going. OSU was held to under 100 yards on the ground for the third game in a row. The loss was Ohio State's third in its last five Big Ten road games.
"Frustrating? Yeah, it's frustrating because I know we have guys who can run the ball and we have guys who can block," junior offensive tackle Rob Sims said. "We just didn't execute like we're capable of doing tonight and it bit us. We had some opportunities to get things done and didn't.
"That's why it's so frustrating. It's not the loss so much as the opportunities we didn't take advantage of. This game was right there for us and we didn't take it."
The Buckeyes rallied from a 10-point deficit (27-17) early in the fourth quarter to force overtime. Nugent cut into the lead with a 29-yard field goal, and Ohio State tied the game with 1:54 remaining on a 21-yard touchdown reception by Santonio Holmes.
But the magic ran out in overtime. The Buckeyes started with the ball and managed only three yards before settling for a field goal attempt. Nugent, who had only missed one kick before the game, missed the 40-yard attempt.
Northwestern then sealed the win by driving for a game-winning touchdown. Wildcat quarterback Brett Basanez rushed for a 21 yard gain on the second play of the drive to give his team a first-and-goal from the OSU 3. Two plays later, tailback Noah Herron scored his second touchdown of the night and gave his team the upset victory.
"Tonight reminded me of two great heavyweights going 15 rounds," Northwestern head coach Randy Walker said. "I'm glad we got in the last punch."
The Wildcats actually got in several punches, piling up 444 yards of total offense. Basanez led the way and completed 24 of 44 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns. Receiver Mark Philmore had a career day with 11 receptions for 134 yards and a score.
Oct. 8, 2005: No. 16 Penn State 17, No. 6 Ohio State 10 Ohio State saw its Rose Bowl hopes take a big hit at Beaver Stadium.
After getting a week's break following its 31-6 win over Iowa Sept. 24, Tressel's team dropped a primetime showdown with the Nittany Lions. Penn State's defense starred, allowing the Buckeyes to reach the red zone only twice.
"Maybe it didn't look like it on the stat sheet, but we had our chances," OSU quarterback Troy Smith said. "We just never got our consistency going. We'd have a couple of good plays, then we'd have a breakdown or a penalty or a mistake. We just didn't ever get anything going."
Smith led the offense by completing 13 of 25 passes for 139 yards and another 15 rushing yards on 19 carries. Yet he had little help from the rest of the offesne. Penn State held the OSU rushing attack in check. Tailback Antonio Pittman had only 58 hard-earned yards on the ground.
"They played us pretty well, but we could have done more," said Holmes, who touched off a mini controversy leading up to the game when he said Ohio State would bring the Lions' impressive secondary "back to reality" in the game. "I'm not going to stand here and make excuses. We played as hard as we could, but maybe Penn State wanted it more."
Holmes caught only four passes for 41 yards, while Ginn had three receptions for 40 yards. Sophomore Anthony Gonzalez was shut out.
The game hinged on a pair of Ohio State turnovers. The first came in the second quarter when Smith threw an interception that set up a Penn State touchdown. The latter came when Smith fumbled when he was sacked near the end of the game.
"We made too many mistakes," center and senior co-captain Nick Mangold said. "To play as well as we did (two weeks ago) against Iowa, and then to make as many mistakes as we did tonight…" Mangold's voice trailed off as he shook his head in disgust.
Ohio State led in the first quarter thanks to a 30-yard field goal by Josh Huston, but Penn State scored two second-quarter touchdowns and led 14-10 at halftime. A Kevin Kelly 41-yard field goal capped the scoring in the third quarter.