2007: Ohio State 20, Akron 2 – The Ohio State defense dominated, as the visiting Zips found little traction against the Buckeyes. Senior offensive lineman Kirk Barton summed things up when he and junior linebacker Marcus Freeman, both team captains, arrived after the game to speak to the media.
Both hesitated when getting to the microphones. Then Barton spoke up.
“It’s all you, man,” said Barton, gesturing to Freeman. “You carried us.”
The defense did just that, holding Akron to 69 yards of total offense and three first downs – two of which came on the first drive of the game. Meanwhile, the offense sputtered. The unit committed five turnovers, three coming on fumbles and two on interceptions. A week after looking solid against Youngstown State, the offense appeared to have taken a step back.
“We just can’t have it,” Barton said in the Sept. 15, 2007, edition of Buckeye Sports Bulletin. “We put our defense in bad situations with five turnovers. We can’t leave our defense hanging out to dry. They were the supermen today. They just bailed us out time after time.
“Offensively we need to look in the mirror because we’re not on the slope that we need to be on. We need to be getting better every day, and it seems like we’re either flat-lining or getting worse. As seniors … we’re not happy with what’s going on right now.”
The first half was particularly ugly. Ohio State took a 3-2 lead into the break thanks to a 37-yard field goal by Ryan Pretorius. Akron’s points came when OSU tailback Beanie Wells was tackled in the end zone by UA linebacker Brion Stokes on the first play of the Buckeyes’ second offensive series.
Despite the safety, Wells led the attack for Ohio State. He recorded his first 100-yard rushing performance of a Buckeye, finishing the afternoon with 143 yards on 20 carries. Those figures were boosted by back-to-back runs of 25 and 40 yards during a fourth-quarter drive.
“It was frustrating, so frustrating, just because you know we can be such a good football team,” Wells said. “I was feeling it late in the game. I feel as if the later in the game, the better I was doing.”
Ohio State outscored Akron 17-0 after halftime. Pretorius started the scoring with a 33-yard field goal early in the third quarter. Brandon Saine added a 6-yard TD reception from Todd Boeckman later in the quarter.
Brian Robiskie ended the scoring in the fourth quarter with a 13-yard touchdown strike from Boeckman with 9:18 remaining.
2001: Ohio State 28, Akron 14 – It wasn’t exactly pretty, but the Tressel era opened with a win – albeit one closer than most had expected – against the Zips in front of a then-record crowd of 102,602 at Ohio Stadium.
The Buckeyes committed three turnovers, helping to keep things interesting. The sloppiness overshadowed an afternoon during which Jonathan Wells rushed for 119 yards and a pair of touchdowns and quarterback Steve Bellisari threw two more.
“Obviously when you have some turnovers it bothers you,” Tressel said in the Sept. 15, 2001, edition of BSB. “I think perhaps if I could have a couple of calls back I would, but I’m going to learn as well as the guys are.”
Wells led a rushing attack that compiled 236 yards. Bellisari completed 15 of 24 passes, but also fumbled a snap. His backup, Scott McMullen, also played and had an interception returned 87 yards for an Akron touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Defensively, senior linebacker Joe Cooper led the way with a team-high 10 tackles.
The game was the first between Ohio State and Akron since the 1890s.
1990: Ohio State 17, Texas Tech 10 – The host Buckeyes erased a 10-3 second half deficit and earned a 17-10 win against the Red Raiders.
Ohio State rallied in large part because of freshman tailback Robert Smith. He nearly single-handedly tied the game on an 82-yard TD drive in the third quarter. Smith recorded all of the yards, coming on three carries for 49 yards and a pass reception for 24 more. The final play was a 2-yard touchdown run that knotted the score at 10-10 following an extra point.
Jeff Graham broke the tie with a 50-yard punt return for a touchdown with 12:47 remaining, but Smith was the No. 1 talking point following the win.
“There was no question that the player of the game for us was Robert Smith,” OSU head coach John Cooper said in the Sept. 15, 1990, edition of BSB. “He came into the game and got our crowd excited and got our football team excited. He got me excited, too.”
That excitement was delayed, too, as Cooper kept Smith on the sidelines for much of the game until late in the second quarter.
“I really wanted to get in there and do something,” Smith said. “My kick returns were decent, but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to get in there and make any contribution I could. I felt that I could do something out there.
“I was running up and down the sidelines staying close to (running backs coach Bobby Turner) because I wanted to get in there and do what I could to help these guys win.”
Smith finished with 86 yards on 17 carries in his limited action. Quarterback Greg Frey completed 11 of 23 passes for 149 yards and an interception. Defensively, Steve Tovar recorded a team-high 13 tackles with a fumble recovery and 3½ tackles for loss.
1984: Ohio State 22, Oregon State – Standout tailback Keith Byars led the host Buckeyes to a come-from-behind victory against upset-minded Oregon State in the season opener for both teams.
Byars did all he could for the Buckeyes in the win, carrying the ball 34 times for 182 yards and two touchdowns. His yardage total was a then-career best. It didn’t come easy, however, as he dealt with cramping through the game.
“It was a long day,” Byars said in the Sept. 15, 1984, edition of BSB. “I was just cramping up (in the legs, back and stomach). During the game, I didn’t drink enough water. The doctor warned me, but I thought I was drinking enough. Apparently I wasn’t, which brought on the cramps.”
Both of his touchdowns came in the second half. The first came on a 13-yard run in the third quarter, with the second coming in the fourth quarter when he somersaulted over left guard on a 1-yard run.
Before Byars’ heroics, the Buckeyes were in trouble. The Beavers led 14-3 at halftime. Fortunately for Ohio State, Byars wasn’t worried.
“It takes two halves to win a football game,” he said. “They don’t start giving out trophies at the end of the first half. It’s not over until it’s over. That’s what we were saying at halftime, ‘Hey, if we’re going to lose this game, we’re going to lose it fighting. We’ve come too far to just roll over and die.’ ”
Byars rushed for a 13-yard touchdown after halftime to cut the Oregon State lead to 14-9. A missed extra point kept the score there until John Wooldridge gave OSU a 15-14 lead on a 4-yard TD run late in the third quarter. The one-point remained that when Ohio State failed on a two-point pass attempt.
Byars closed the scoring with his fourth-quarter score. It came on a 1-yard touchdown with 8:33 remaining. Rich Spangler made the extra point to close the scoring.
1979: Ohio State 31, Syracuse 8 – The post-Woody Hayes era began with Earle Bruce at the helm and with the Buckeyes trouncing the visiting Orangemen.
Bruce’s Buckeyes led 21-0 at halftime. The first player to score a touchdown during the Bruce regime was tight end Ron Barwig, who caught an 11-yard TD pass from Art Schlichter. Ohio State outgained SU 464-239, and cornerback Mike Guess was named the Big Ten defensive player of the week thanks to his 11-tackle performance that included a fumble recovery.