Any extra-time game needs a hero, and playing the role this time around was sophomore Ben Buchanan. His 39-yarder in sudden death provided the winning points as his Gray team beat Scarlet 27-24 in the twice-annual event.
"It's awesome," he said afterward. "I think that's something you dream about as a kid. I have to give thanks to my snapper and my holder and the line, they did a good job and it's nice to come out on top like that."
Buchanan's kick held up as the winner when true freshman Drew Basil's response for Scarlet from 39 yards sailed well wide to the left of the goalposts.
Thus an up-and-down day for the team's specialists concluded in a contest that neither team could grasp as the day went on.
The team's kickers combined to go 17 for 33 on field goals, Buchanan leading the way with an 8-for-14 mark with the longest make of 50. Devin Barclay, who became the starter at the end of last year and sent Ohio State to the Rose Bowl with a field goal against Iowa, was off his game, struggling on deep field goals and going 8 for 15 on the Scarlet side.
"It was the first time we were live so that has a lot to do with it," said special teams assistant Wes Satterfield. "It's like your first day in pads as an offensive unit. You can't come out and look your sharpest. You want to gradually get better and better. We probably missed some kicks we should have made but overall it was a good experience and we'll learn from it."
Chipping in on long field goals for either squad, Basil – in his first public appearance as a Buckeye – was 1 for 4 and agreed it was his most pressure-packed moment yet at Ohio State.
"The other times it seemed like there's not as many people out there, but today it felt like there was a ton of people coming at me," said Basil, who handled kickoffs just as he has throughout the rest of the spring. "(On the last one) honestly there wasn't anything going through my head. It was just go out there and try to kick the ball straight."
Unfortunately for his squad, he did not, leaving the rest of the Scarlet unit to walk back to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
Just as frustrated was Barclay, who was 7 of 8 from inside of 40 yards but just 1 of 7 from beyond. He left many of his longer kicks short, and his longest made try was a 44-yarder.
"Just a bad day," he said. "I can't really say it's one thing or the other. Sometimes you go out there and you're hitting great balls, and other times you have a rough day and today was not one of my best days, I tell you that."
Barclay entered the spring as the presumed starter at the field-goal spot, but Buchanan was almost literally his equal, banging through 6 of 8 from inside 40 but struggling with his accuracy on longer kicks.
Buchanan also was by far the team's best punter and seems ready to sew up the job of replacing Jon Thoma, pulling away in his battle with walk-on Derek Erwin, who punted for Scarlet. Buchanan struggled early with his punts but showed the big leg he's had all spring, booting a few close to or past the 50-yard line during drills in which he had to punt from the shadow of his own goal post.
The kick scrimmage starts with a kickoff, and afterward every down is fourth down as teams try to move the ball down the field through punt exchanges, turnovers and fakes. If a team gets in range, it can try a field goal for points.
Interspersed are two stations of five field-goal attempts per team, and after the second of those come the punts from the teams' own 1-yard lines. Upon receiving the punt, the teams can try to score as per the usual fourth-down rules.
After the final field-goal portion, Gray led 21-18, but Buchanan's first punt from his own end zone was blocked by Nate Ebner and recovered inside the 5, allowing Barclay to knot the score with a field goal.
From there, the teams exchanged another set of field goals and couldn't break the deadlock through another set of punts, resulting in sudden death.
There, Buchanan capped his up-and-down day with a high note.
"It was good to hit a 50-yarder back there, and any time you hit a game winner, Coach doesn't take that lightly," he said. "I thought my practice kicks have been good and I hit some pressure punts out of the end zone so that was a lot of fun."
Scarlet punt returns were handled by Devon Torrence and Dane Sanzenbacher, while Torrence and Jaamal Berry were in on kickoffs. Gray countered with DeVier Posey on punts with Dan Herron on kickoffs with Jordan Hall mixed in.