1998: No. 1 Ohio State 35, No. 21 Missouri 14 – The top-ranked Buckeyes overcame a sloppy first half in a nonconference victory over the Tigers at Ohio Stadium.
Ohio State actually trailed 14-13 at halftime before a big rally saved the Buckeyes.
"That was a good old rock 'em, sock 'em football game," Ohio State head coach John Cooper said. "We were our own worst enemy early in the ballgame. We need to secure the football. We'll work on that."
Ohio State started the game on an offensive tear, taking the ball down the field on its first drive and jumping out to a 7-0 lead on a Michael Wiley 22-yard touchdown run on a draw play. The Buckeyes held Missouri on the ensuing drive, but the Tigers took the momentum back thanks to an OSU turnover. Buckeye quarterback Joe Germaine found David Boston for a long pass play into Missouri territory, but the receiver fumbled the ball on his way to the Ohio Stadium turf. The Tigers recovered and turned it into points on a 10-yard quarterback run by Corby Jones early in the second quarter.
A 27-yard field goal by Dan Stultz gave Ohio State a 10-7 lead, but Missouri used another OSU turnover to erase that deficit. A Germaine scramble ended with a fumble, which was recovered by Carlos Posey and returned 58 yards for a Missouri touchdown.
Stultz booted a 26-yard field goal before halftime, but the Tigers still led at the break.
Ohio State took control after halftime. The Buckeyes went back in front on their second possession of the third quarter on a short-yardage touchdown by Joe Montgomery. A two-point conversion pass from Germaine to Boston increased the OSU lead to 21-14.
Missouri drove into OSU territory on the ensuing drive, but Jones fumbled on a QB keeper. It turned out to be a game-changing play, as Ohio State quickly drove down the field and scored again on a 5-yard Wiley run to help make it 28-14. Derek Combs closed the scoring with a 9-yard touchdown drive following a time-consuming fourth-quarter drive.
Wiley had a huge game, running for a career-best 209 yards.
Jones was held to only 32 yards on 13 carries. Missouri only managed 66 yards of total offense in the second half. The Buckeyes outgained the Tigers 532-211 for the game.
"When Corby was coming down the line, he was going to get hit," Cooper said.
1992: No. 21 Ohio State 35, No. 8 Syracuse 12 – Off the field distractions did not affect Ohio State's play on the field in a big road nonconference victory.
The Buckeyes dealt with rumors that head coach John Cooper would resign from Ohio State to take the head coaching job at the University of Arkansas in the days leading up to the game. The rumor was just that, and Ohio State took an early 14-0 lead and held off the Orangemen.
After a pair of lackluster victories to start the season, members of the team said they hoped the win in upstate New York would silence critics.
"Respect. That's what we were looking for, and I think we gained a little bit of that tonight," senior linebacker Steve Tovar said in the Oct. 3, 1992, edition of BSB. "We knew we didn't play the way we were capable of playing the first two games. But we didn't get down on ourselves. We knew we could play with these guys. We just wanted to prove it."
Ohio State entered the Carrier Dome as a 10-point underdog against a team it lost to in the Hall of Fame Bowl nine-and-a-half months earlier. However, the Buckeyes battered Syracuse in front of a national television audience.
Syracuse quarterback Marvin Graves was bruised and battered by Ohio State's defense. He had passed for 497 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in his first two games, but the Buckeyes forced four interceptions and allowed Graves no touchdowns.
"We just got our butts kicked," Graves said.
The defense also did a good job of silencing talented receiver Qadry "The Missile" Ismail, who was held to only 36 all-purpose yards before leaving the game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury.
Ohio State's offense followed the lead of the defense. Senior quarterback Kirk Herbstreit threw a 46-yard touchdown to classmate Brian Stablein early in the first quarter, and the Buckeyes added a 1-yard Eddie George touchdown run in the final minutes of the first quarter.
Syracuse kicker John Biskup made two second-quarter field goals, but George added another 1-yard TD plunge to make it 21-6 at halftime.
The Orangemen cut the lead to 21-12 with two third-quarter Biskup field goals, but the Buckeyes iced the game with two fourth-quarter touchdown runs. Sophomore tailback Robert Smith, who made his return after missing a game with a cracked rib, reached the end zone on a 16-yard run, while George scored his third TD on a 2-yard run.
"I don't think I've ever been more proud of a football team than I am of this one here tonight," Cooper said. "We beat a good football team, an extremely good football team tonight."
Smith led Ohio State's rushing attack with 82 yards on 14 carries. George had nine carries for 23 yards. Herbstreit completed 10 of 19 passes for 154 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Defensively, Tovar, Tim Walton, Chico Nelson and Brent Johnson each had interceptions.
As for the Cooper-to-Arkansas rumor, its origin was unknown. It had Cooper resigning following the game against Syracuse. That did not happen. Representatives from Arkansas and Ohio State told reporters they had no knowledge of any move, and Cooper refused to comment on the rumor following the game.
Cooper's tie to Arkansas was Razorbacks men's basketball coach Nolan Richardson, who was hired by Cooper when he was the athletic director at Tulsa.
1987: No. 5 Ohio State 24, Oregon 14 – With a showdown with fourth-ranked LSU looming, the Buckeyes improved to 2-0 with a home win over the Ducks.
Ohio State piled up 435 yards of offense a week after an inconsistent performance against West Virginia. Nonetheless, Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce saw plenty that still needed improvement.
"We're not where we want to be," Bruce said in the Sept. 27, 1987, BSB. "But we made enough improvement this week offensively that if we can put it all together… We're making simple, bad mistakes (offensively) and they've been very costly. But it all goes down to next week."
Junior Vince Workman led the way in the victory. He rushed for 162 yards and a touchdown. Workman also added 63 receiving yards.
It was a big turnaround for Workman, who managed only 51 yards on 21 carries against the Mountaineers.
"This week I worked to get mentally ready for this game," Workman said. "I was less tentative. It's all mental – you just have to say to yourself you're not going to get tackled. Last week I was worrying about holding onto the ball too much. I just wasn't into my rhythm. It goes back to last year. Early in the season I was fumbling too much."
Ohio State managed only a 34-yard field goal from Matt Frantz in the first half, but that was enough for a 3-0 lead at the break. The Buckeyes used a touchdown drive to extend the lead to 10-0 in the third quarter. The offense drove 88 yards, and Jay Koch hauled in a 4-yard Tom Tupa pass for the touchdown.
Oregon was forced to punt on the ensuing drive, and the Buckeyes blocked Jan Cespedes boot. David Brown got a hand on the kick, and Sean Bell recovered the ball for Ohio State at the Oregon 19. Fullback George Cooper quickly made the Ducks pay for their miscue, scoring on a nice catch-and-run on the first play after the turnover.
The Ducks answered the score with a touchdown of their own, but Workman extended OSU's lead to 24-7 with a 5-yard TD plunge. Oregon added a late touchdown, but that only made the final score a little more respectable.
Chris Spielman had a game-high 15 tackles to lead the defense. Tupa completed 20 of 32 passes for 234 yards and a pair of interceptions.
1981: No. 8 Ohio State 27, Michigan State 13 – An impressive first half turned into a shaky second, and the Buckeyes held on for a Big Ten victory at Ohio Stadium.
The Buckeyes built a 17-0 lead by halftime, but a combination of a sporadic offense and an improved Michigan State defense allowed the Spartans to threaten to tie the game late.
"I thought the Buckeyes played a very fine first half," Bruce said in the Sept. 26, 1981, BSB – only the third ever published. "They had some very big plays and a great performance out of the defense. They did an excellent job of rushing the passer and getting turnovers and fighting for the shutout."
The second half was another story.
"The second half I thought just the opposite," Bruce continued. "I thought the Spartans played very well, executed well."
After OSU built its 17-0 lead, the Spartans stormed back to cut their deficit to 20-13 midway through the fourth quarter. The Buckeyes suffered on offense after starting quarterback Art Schlichter left the game with a sprained ankle in the second half. Bob Atha subbed for Schlichter and looked primed to ice the game when the Buckeyes drove deep into Spartan territory later in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for the 87,084 watching in Ohio Stadium, MSU's Darryl Dixon intercepted an Atha pass at the goal line and returned it to the MSU 23.
A 15-yard personal foul against the Buckeyes placed the ball at the 38 with 3:16, but Ohio State forced a turnover on downs to end the threat. Atha then iced the game with a 27-yard touchdown run on a quarterback keeper.
"I was happy to see at the end of the ball game that our offense was able to move the ball and hang on to it at a critical time," Bruce said. "Fortunately, Atha broke up the middle and ran for a touchdown. That's unusual, but they were playing a lot of man and they didn't have a man in the middle and (Atha) was able to break it."
Tim Spencer led OSU's rushing attack with 93 yards on 20 carries – 46 of those yards coming on the first touchdowns of the game. Atha completed 2 of 6 passes for 22 yards in replace of Schlichter, who completed 12 of 22 passes for 155 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Linebacker Marcus Marek led the defense with 13 tackles. Fellow LB Glen Cobbs added 12 stops.