The Ohio Stadium turf was sloppy, and so were the Buckeyes offensively. Fortunately for Ohio State, the defense and special times thrived in the conditions. Linebacker Jerry Rudzinski recovered a Penn State fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, and Percy King blocked a punt that resulted in another score.
"I'm really proud of our football team," Ohio State head coach John Cooper said in the Oct. 10, 1998, edition of Buckeye Sports Bulletin. "I thought our special teams play really improved from two weeks ago, and that may have been the thing that won us the game."
Penn State scored first, posting the first points of the game on a 42-yard field goal by Travis Forney that capped a drive that began after a blocked OSU field goal attempt. The Nittany Lions held Ohio State to another punt following the score, but Ohio State's defense then made a big play to get the Buckeyes on the scoreboard. Penn State quarterback Kevin Thompson had the football slip out of his hand as he prepared to throw near his own goal line. He tried to pick it up, but Rudzinski immediately hit Thompson and fell on the loose ball for an Ohio State touchdown.
"That was the big play in the ball game," Cooper said. "We had a blitz called and Jerry came untouched. That play really woke us up."
The Buckeyes (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) increased the lead to 14-3 with a touchdown right before halftime. Taking over at the OSU 49-yard line with 1:48 left, quarterback Joe Germaine drove his team down the field. He connected with Dee Miller three times, including once for an 11-yard gain on a fourth-and-8 play. Germaine finished the drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Michael Wiley on a circle route out of the back field with 23 seconds left in the first half.
"It was a halfback option (pattern)," Wiley said. "I had the choice to either go inside or outside. They were playing Cover-2 deep. I was one-on-one with the linebacker. I faked outside and went inside. He made a great pass, and I just held on tight and ran into the end zone."
Ohio State built the lead to 21-3 early in the second half when King blocked a Pat Pidgeon punt deep in PSU territory. Joe Cooper scooped up the football and ran it back for a touchdown.
The Nittany Lions responded with a touchdown on a drive that started in OSU territory after a Germaine interception. Ohio State capped the scoring much the same way. Linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer hit Thompson as he threw, and cornerback Ahmed Plummer made a sliding catch of Thompson's pass at the OSU 39. Four plays later, Joe Montgomery scored on a 1-yard plunge to finish the scoring with 3:08 left in the third quarter.
Wiley led Ohio State's rushing attack with 62 yards on 19 carries, while Montgomery finished with eight carries for 40 yards. Germaine completed 16 of 30 passes for 213 with a touchdown and interception. Miller caught six passes for 108 yards.
It wasn't pretty, but the Buckeyes were still happy with the result.
"You can call it whatever kind of victory you want to," Cooper said. "I thought it was a good, solid victory over the No. 7-ranked team. If you tell me before the game we're going to beat them like we did, I'll take it in a minute."
1992: Wisconsin 20, No. 12 Ohio State 16 – Cooper's daring call to go for two following a late touchdown blew up in his face as the host Badgers upset the Buckeyes at Camp Randall Stadium.
Trailing by four with 4:29 remaining, Cooper was faced with a tough decision. His team had just scored a touchdown, and kicker Tim Williams had just made the extra-point attempt. However, Wisconsin was flagged for a roughing the kicker penalty, which would moved the ball to the 1½-yard line. Cooper decided to take the point off the scoreboard and go for two. If successful, the Buckeyes could win the game with a field goal.
Ohio State, which boasted an offensive line averaging nearly 6-5 and 290 pounds, lined up in its full house backfield. That formation utilized fullbacks Jeff Cothran and William Houston. However instead of freshman Eddie George, who scored three touchdowns out of that formation a week earlier at Syracuse, OSU had Raymont Harris in the tailback position. Wisconsin used a seven-man front and successfully clogged the line of scrimmage. Harris tried to leap over the pile, but he was met by UW linebacker Gary Casper and went no further.
"I couldn't believe they went for two," Casper said in the Oct. 10, 1992, edition of BSB. "It was just me and him in the hole, and I made the play."
The run up the middle was not Cooper's first idea.
"Initally, we thought about running a sweep," Cooper said. "But we decided to go inside. Raymont carried the ball and we didn't make it. But it wasn't Raymont. I don't think anybody blocked for him. I didn't see any blocking. I don't know how close he came, but obviously he didn't make it."
The call to go for two looked worse when Ohio State (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten) got the ball back in Wisconsin territory with 3:23 remaining. Quarterback Kirk Herbstreit was forced to run for a first down on a fourth-and-6 play from the UW 26-yard line. He came up three yards short.
If Cooper had kept the earlier extra point or if Harris had succeeded on the two-point conversion run, Ohio State could have attempted a 43-yard field goal by Williams.
Cooper told reporters he went for two because he didn't want the game to end in a tie.
"I wasn't going for a tie," he said. "In my opinion, with our big offensive line and the big backfield we had in there, if we can't make a yard and a half, we probably don't deserve to win the game, and it really boiled down to that."
Ohio State was put in that difficult fourth-quarter situation because it could not hold a 10-3 halftime lead. A 36-yard Williams field goal and a Harris 5-yard touchdown gave OSU that lead at the break, but the Badgers responded with the first 17-points of the second half. Brent Moss rushed for touchdown runs of 5 and 3 yards, and Rich Thompson added a 31-yard field goal with 6:45 left in the fourth quarter.
The Buckeyes' final scored came on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Herbstreit to split end Brian Stablein.
Herbstreit led the OSU offense with 216 yards on 20-of-33 passing, but he was pressured throughout the game and sacked five times. Harris led the rushing attack with just 30 yards.
"I'm disappointed in the way we played today," Cooper said. "I'm not very happy with anything we did today."
1987: No. 9 Ohio State 10, Illinois 6 – The man they called "Big George" eat up plenty of yardage in a road win at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill.
Fullback George Cooper had been asking Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce for more carries, and he finally got his wish against the Fighting Illini. Cooper bruised Illinois for 90 yards on 18 carries. He even caught two passes for 27 more yards and provided Ohio State with its lone offensive bright spot in a narrow victory.
"That was my kind of ball game," Cooper said. "I'm always begging the coaches to give me the ball more, and today they gave it to me."
Bruce said Illinois' lack of an answer for Cooper was a big part of that.
"Cooper ran very, very hard in that football game," Bruce said. "When something is working, you don't stop it until they stop it first. And they weren't stopping Cooper today."
None of the carries were flashy. Most were for roughly five yards, but they wore down the fight of the Illini.
"All it was was fullback dives up the middle, nothing fancy," said Cooper, who was nursing separated ribs following the game. "Our offensive line just blew their line off the ball and left the middle wide open. I just kept cutting through the middle and getting the yardage. The holes were huge sometimes."
The Buckeyes (3-0-1, 1-0 Big Ten) drove 80 yard down the field for their first touchdown on an 11-yard run by Tom Tupa, but the Illini held OSU to only 213 yards the rest of the way. Ohio State led 10-0 before the Illini got on the scoreboard with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Scott Mohr to Anthony Williams in the fourth quarter, but the Illini failed to convert the extra point.
Illinois did mount a late challenge, however. The Illini had a chance to drive for a potential game-winning touchdown when they took over with 1:26 remaining at their own 30-yard line. It only took four Mohr passes to move the ball to the OSU 20, but the Buckeye defense stood tall. The defense forced three incompletions, and a Mike Sullivan sack of Mohr on fourth down sealed the victory.
"We were in a prevent type defense and they were moving the ball," linebacker Chris Spielman said of the last Illini drive. "Mohr is a good quarterback and for his first season in the Big Ten, he's doing really well. Mike (Sullivan) came up with the big play when he had to and he got the sack."
Added Bruce: "I was happy our defense held them, and they did bend, but didn't break and give them a second score. I guess the fortunate part was they weren't able to kick the extra point, and that changed the complexion of the game at the end."
The talented OSU defense led the way in the victory. The unit continued its run of silencing opposing team's rushing attacks. Illinois rushed the ball 31 times and managed just 54 yards. Spielman led all tacklers with 18 stops, 14 of which were of the solo variety.
1981: Florida State 36, No. 7 Ohio State 27 – Sidney, Ohio, native Rick Stockstill outdueled Ohio State's Art Schlichter in a game that featured an aerial assault by both offenses at Ohio Stadium.
Schlichter finished with more completions and yards, but it was Stockstill and the Seminoles who left with the upset victory. Stocksill threw two touchdown passes, and FSU erased two first-half leads on the way to a nonconference win.
Three times Florida State erased Ohio State leads. The Buckeyes led 7-0 on a 9-yard Tim Spencer touchdown run, 13-10 after a Jimmy Gayle 7-yard run (and missed extra point) and 21-0 after a Gary Williams 52-yard touchdown strike from Schlichter and successful two-point conversion pass from Schlichter to Spencer.
Florida State pulled ahead for good in the second half, scoring 13 unanswered points in the third quarter. Tony Johnson caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Stockstill, and Sam Childers hauled in a 7-yard scoring strike from the FSU quarterback.
The Buckeyes narrowed the deficit to nine points when Schlichter threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Cedric Anderson, but the Seminoles defense held strong.
Stockstill completed 25 of 41 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Schlichter also threw a pair of touchdowns and completed 31 of 52 passes for 458 yards. Neither QB threw an interception as the Buckeyes fell to 3-1.
1970: No. 1 Ohio State 34, Duke 10 – A strong second half helped the Buckeyes pull away from the visiting Blue Devils in a nonconference victory.
Duke actually led 3-0 with 25 seconds left before halftime. Ohio State took the lead for good when Ralph Holloway blocked a Duke punt and Ken Luttner returned the fumble to the end zone for a 6-3 lead at the break.
The Buckeyes (2-0) scored 21 points in the third quarter to pull away. Head coach Woody Hayes chose to pound the Blue Devils with his most experienced backs after halftime. Leo Hayden (155), John Brockington (117) and Rex Kern (113) each finished with more than 100 yards rushing.
1964: No. 5 Ohio State 17, Indiana 9 – Cornerback Arnie Chonko intercepted three Indiana passes as the Buckeyes won their conference opener.
Ohio State (2-0) built a 17-3 after three quarters behind the arm of quarterback Don Unverferth, but the Hoosiers rallied late. IU quarterback Rich Badar tightened things after leading his team on a 33-yard touchdown drive. But Chonko made sure the Hoosiers got no closer. Indiana twice drove deep into Buckeye territory, only to have Chonko pick off a Badar pass.
1953: No. 6 Ohio State 33, California 19 – The Buckeyes (2-0) erased a 13-6 deficit and routed the Bears in Berkley, Calif.
Junior Bobby Watkins led the way in the victory, rushing for 129 yards and equaling a school single-game record with four touchdowns. He was inspired by a Berkley newspaper article that compared Watkins with California right halfback Don Marks and "gave the edge to California."
1942: Ohio State 32, Indiana 21 – A talented group from Bloomington, Ind., invaded Columbus but the Buckeyes outlasted Indiana in a back-and-forth affair.
Led by quarterback Lou Saban, the Hoosiers led Ohio State 21-19 after three quarters on a hot autumn afternoon with temperatures in the low 90s. The 2-0 Buckeyes responded and outscored Indiana 13-0 in the final quarter.
Halfback Tommy James aided the OSU cause with two timely interceptions. Ohio State outgained IU 449-257.
1936: Ohio State 60, NYU 0 –Francis Schmidt began his third season as Ohio State's head coach with a rout of the visiting Violets.
The Buckeyes were in command from the start. Jim McDonald intercepted a NYU pass on the first play from scrimmage and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown. The pick was one of seven interceptions Ohio State recorded.
Ohio State scored nine touchdowns and two were scored by the defense.
1931: Ohio State 67, Cincinnati 6 – While some question whether OSU or Cincinnati has a better team in 2009, there was no question in 1931. More than 15,000 watched the Buckeyes open the '31 season by blowing out the Bearcats.
A straight-ahead power attacked helped OSU build a commanding 40-0 halftime lead. The Buckeyes outgained UC 468-32.
1925: Ohio State 10, Ohio Wesleyan 3 – OSU beat the Bishops to open the 1925 season and earn the first of four wins they had for the season.
The Buckeyes finished the season 4-3-1.
1914: Ohio State 16, Ohio Wesleyan 2 – The Buckeyes earned a home victory to begin a stretch of two nonconference games to start the 1914 season.
Ohio State was in just its second season in the Big Ten.
1908: Wooster 8, Ohio State 0 – The Scots handed host Ohio State its first loss of the season. The loss was the first of three the Buckeyes would suffer in four weeks.
1903: Ohio State 28, Wittenberg 0 – The Buckeyes earned the first of four shutouts they'd earn in 1903 against the Tigers.
Ohio State outscored its opponents 265-87 en route to a 8-3 record.
1896: Ohio State 24, Ohio Medical 0 – The very brief Sid Farrer era began with a win over Ohio Medical.
Farrer guided the Buckeyes through the first few games of the season because the school had not yet hired a regular coach. Farrer was a former player at Princeton and served as an interim coach. Charles A. Hickey was eventually hired.