2007: Illinois 28, No. 1 Ohio State 21 – Senior day was spoiled when Illinois quarterback Isaiah “Juice” Williams led the Fighting Illini to a stunning upset of the previously unbeaten Buckeyes.
Ohio State offensive tackle Kirk Barton was one of 15 seniors honored before the game and was the last to be introduced to the crowd. The vocal leader embraced head coach Jim Tressel before the game, but 60 minutes of football later, the emotions were completely different.
As was the tradition since Tressel took the helm, the Buckeyes assembled in front of the south stands to face the band for the singing of “Carmen Ohio.” There was Tressel front and center, standing in front of his team and singing along – although few of the players appeared to be moving their lips.
Standing a solid 10 yards away was Barton, staring straight into the stands as if he was burning the entire situation into his memory. Then, as the song wound down, he began heading toward the tunnel.
Throwing out an abbreviated “O-HI-O” cheer with his arms in the air, he ducked into the tunnel leading to the locker room as the band was playing the final three notes of the song. His final game at Ohio Stadium had come and gone, and with it nearly all the goals the team had set at the beginning of the season.
And Barton knew it.
“You feel like a failure as a captain when you lose a game like this,” he said in the Nov. 17, 2007, edition of Buckeye Sports Bulletin. “You really hope that you can lead the guys out of the murky waters that we were in, but we just couldn’t do it.
“It takes a little bit away from your captaincy if you can’t lead your team the way you need to.”
It wasn't all Barton's fault, of course, Illinois played well. The Illini outrushed OSU, 260-180, committed no turnovers and held the ball for 33 minutes.
For 10 straight weeks, Ohio State (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) relied on a smothering defense that simply refused to allow opposing teams to breathe. Against Illinois, however, the Buckeyes could not solve the puzzle that was Williams.
As a result, the Illini came up with their first victory over a No. 1-ranked team since 1956, Ron Zook got his first signature win as Illinois head coach, and OSU went down to defeat for the first time this season, absorbing a 28-21 defeat in front of the fifth-largest crowd ever to witness a game in Ohio Stadium.
“Hats off to Illinois,” Tressel said. “They did the things that you need to do to win a tough battle, and unfortunately we didn’t do all the things that you need to do.
“I feel bad that we didn’t come through for those guys playing for the last time here at Ohio Stadium, but nevertheless I’m still proud of how hard they go after it and how much it means to them. This stings, but we’ve got to pick up and move on.”
The Buckeyes came out like gangbusters early, drawing first blood with a touchdown just 23 seconds into the game and crossing the goal line again at the 9:37 mark of the first quarter to take a 14-7 lead.
But the Illini came roaring back each time. They answered OSU’s quick score at the beginning of the game with one of their own less than a minute later and then went ahead with two touchdowns in the final 19-plus minutes of the first half.
The teams traded scores in the third quarter, but when it came time for the Ohio State defense to make a stop when the team needed it most, it couldn’t handle Williams. In the fourth quarter alone, Williams rushed for 37 yards – 34 of it on four important third- or fourth-down situations – to keep the ball away from the Buckeyes. Illinois held the ball for all but one minute and 14 seconds in the fourth quarter.
That final period was a microcosm of the game itself. Williams was a consistent thorn in Ohio State’s side, completing 12 of 22 passes for 140 yards and four touchdowns and adding 70 yards rushing on 16 carries. The sophomore QB led the Illinois offense to 400 total yards and four touchdowns. None of the Buckeyes’ previous 10 opponents had cracked the 350-yard mark or scored more than 17 points.
Zook, who had replaced Williams in the lineup during a couple of games in midseason, praised his quarterback for his field generalship especially during that fourth quarter.
“He managed the game well, and after today you can all see why he is our starter,” Zook said. “When the game is on the line, he does what needs to be done. He is a tough competitor who plays the game well.”
In addition to Williams, the Illini got excellent production from twin tailbacks Daniel Dufrene and Rashard Mendenhall, who combined for 194 yards on the ground.
That Mendenhall was able to break loose for 88 yards on 26 carries was not that much of a surprise. After all, he entered the game as the Big Ten’s second-leading rusher with an average of 131.4 yards per game. Dufrene was a different story altogether. He rushed for 106 yards on just eight carries after averaging only 19.5 yards in the Illini’s 10 previous games.
The 5-11, 197-pound sophomore figured prominently in one of the game’s key plays. On Illinois’ second offensive play, Dufrene broke loose for an 80-yard run. But television replays appeared to show him losing control of the football while being tackled by OSU cornerback Donald Washington. The possible fumble was not reviewed, however, and the Illini scored their first touchdown on the next play.
While Illinois was piling up the yardage, the Buckeyes also appeared to move the ball well. They had 336 yards of total offense, including an almost 50-50 split of 180 yards on the ground and 156 through the air.
However, the Illini almost completely shut down the OSU passing game after quarterback Todd Boeckman and receiver Brian Hartline hooked up for a 65-yard gain on the first play of the contest. And after piling up 194 yards in the first quarter alone, the Buckeyes managed only 142 more the rest of the way.
Boeckman finished with 13 completions in 23 attempts for 156 yards, no touchdowns and three costly interceptions. The first two led to Illinois touchdowns and the third occurred in the fourth quarter, after which the Buckeyes never got the ball back.
“I’m disappointed,” Boeckman said. “These kinds of losses are hard to take. It’s even tougher being a leader on this team and knowing you could have played better and helped out the team.”
Sophomore tailback Chris Wells gave the Buckeyes what he could on the ground despite going in and out of the lineup with what appeared to be hand and ankle problems. Wells wound up with 76 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 20 carries.
Boeckman was also a threat in the running game, scrambling for a career-high 68 yards on eight carries.
Illinois successfully neutralized Ohio State’s defensive line, leading to a host of tackles for linebackers and safeties. Outside linebacker Marcus Freeman established a new career high with 18 stops, including 10 solos, while middle linebacker James Laurinaitis added 12 tackles. Outside linebacker Larry Grant and defensive end Cameron Heyward had seven tackles apiece.
Unfortunately, the Buckeyes couldn’t get any kind of sustained pass rush on Williams. Just one week after registering 10 sacks against Wisconsin, Ohio State tallied only one against the Illini.
“I don’t think they did anything we hadn’t seen,” Freeman said. “I think the thing that they were doing was that they were executing. (Williams) was making plays with his feet and his arm. That’s tough. He’s a great quarterback, and he was the best today.”
2001: Ohio State 35, Purdue 9 – Despite losing four fumbles, the Buckeyes had little trouble dispatching Purdue at Ohio Stadium.
Ohio State (6-3, 4-2) dominated all facets of the game, outgaining the Boilermakers, 429-211, producing 20 first downs to PU’s 12 and eating up 35:43 of the clock. The Buckeyes even had a better passing performance than the visitors. OSU allowed only 140 passing yards one year after Drew Brees threw for 455 yards against the Buckeyes.
This time, Steve Bellisari outdueled Brees’ successor, Brandon Hance. Bellisari completed 14 of 20 passes for 263 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Hance threw for 122 yards with no TDs and three picks.
On defense, Ohio State had 16 players record at least two tackles.
“I thought that our players had a great dispositions about them in the bus on the way to the game, in the locker room before the game and during pregame warm-ups,” OSU defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio said in the Nov. 17, 2001, edition of BSB. “I thought out players wanted to erase some things from last year and also erase some things from this year.
“We came in with an idea of this is what had to be done and we’re going to get these things accomplished.”
Like Dantonio, Tressel was pleased with the performance.
“It was good to come out and get a decisive victory,” Tressel said. “We came out of the game and got up by 12. We had a little setback there and allowed them to get us to 12-9. But we came up with some big plays.
“We made big plays defensively with the turnovers and safeties. Those are huge.”
The Buckeyes started strong, going on an 11-play, 61-yard drive that was capped by 36-yard field goal by Mike Nugent with 9:08 left in the first quarter. The OSU defense then put more points on the ball with a safety. With the Boilermakers facing a second-and-9 at the Purdue 11, Hance had a shotgun snap from Gene Mruczkowski go low and wide to the left. Hance scrambled to gather the ball near the goal line, and under pressure from OSU’s Kenny Peterson, Will Smith and Tim Anderson, flipped the football out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
“I didn’t want to try and run the ball out and get tackled at the 1 or risk fumbling,” Hance said. “I just scratched it and thought, ‘Hey, we can give them the two points, punt the ball out and start over.’ ”
The risk did not go well, as Ohio State turned the punt into points. Jonathan Wells extended the lead with a 14-yard touchdown run that, in addition to Nugent’s PAT, gave OSU a 12-0 advantage.
Purdue answered with the game’s next nine points. Travis Dorsch made a 41-yard field goal late in the first quarter to make it 12-3, and Purdue added a touchdown close to halftime on a 1-yard TD run by Hance on a bootleg that capped a drive that started thanks to an OSU fumble.
Dorsch missed the PAT, however, allowing the Buckeyes to hold a three-point lead at the break.
Ohio State dominated the second half. Michael Jenkins started the onslaught with a 53-yard touchdown pass from Bellisari with 12:34 left in the third quarter. Later in the quarter, OSU added another safety when Peterson tackled Hance in the end zone.
The Buckeyes added two more touchdowns in the final frame, both coming on Bellisari TD passes – a 13-yarder to Ben Hartsock and a 7-yard connection with Chris Vance on an highlight reel-worthy reception. Vance got behind a defender and made a one-handed grab before putting his right foot in bounds for a score.
“When I looked at the ball, it looked like it was going to go out of the end zone,” Vance said. “I just decided, ‘I’m going to catch this ball no matter what.’ I jumped and extended my arms. Then when I came down I looked down to make sure I was coming down in the end zone. After that, I just heard the crowd go wild.”
Vance finished with the game with new career highs in catches (seven) and yardage (138). Wells rushed for 101 yards on 21 carries.
1990: Ohio State 27, No. 6 Iowa 26 – A stirring fourth-quarter rally gave Ohio State an upset victory in Iowa City. The win for the beleaguered Buckeyes came thanks in large part to a pair of Greg Frey-to-Bobby Olive touchdown connections and a solid defensive performance.
Facing a 26-21 deficit after Olive had narrowed the deficit with a 21-yard touchdown reception with just under seven minutes left, Ohio State (6-2-1, 4-1-1) nearly had its comeback hopes ended before they could really begin. With 2:31 remaining, Frey tried to find junior flanker Bernard Edwards for a reception but had his pass picked off by Iowa defensive back Jason Olejniczak.
That forced the OSU defense to come up with a stop. Despite allowing nearly 400 yards at that point in the game, the Buckeyes stood tall when needed. Sophomore nose guard Greg Smith dropped Iowa tailback Tony Stewart on first down for a 1-yard loss, then redshirt freshman linebacker Jason Simmons threw Stewart for a 6-yard loss on second down.
Simmons made another big play on third down, stopping fullback Lew Montgomery for a 1-yard gain and forcing the Hawkeyes to punt. After Iowa punter Jim Hujsak’s boot only went 27 yards to the Iowa 48-yard line, Ohio State’s offense took over.
Frey then engineered a drive that will be remembered for some time. He completed 4 of 6 passes on the final march, the first going for 23 yards to Olive. The second connection was a 7-yard gain to Jeff Graham. After an incompletion stopped the clock, Frey went back to Graham for a 15-yard gain that put the ball at the Iowa 3 with less than 15 seconds left on the clock.
Frey again threw an incomplete pass, which stopped the clock with just enough time for one more play. The OSU quarterback then took the final snap, rolled out to his right and, getting excellent blocking from tailback Robert Smith on Iowa DE Leroy Smith, found Olive on a crossing pattern in the back of the end zone.
Oliver nabbed the ball out of the air just before Iowa’s Merton Hanks got there, cradling the football for the winning score with the scoreboard clock reading “0:01.”
“Bobby Olive will never made a bigger play than the one he made at the end of the ball game,” OSU head coach John Cooper said in the Nov. 17, 1990, edition of BSB. “We obviously had to get a big play on that last drive. … Bobby made a great play. He’s made big plays all year and his entire career.”
Olive said his last pass route was not a difficult one.
“It’s something we practice a lot,” he said. “On that particular coverage, Iowa overplayed in the corner, and I found an open spot in the back of the end zone. I’m just out there to get open and catch the ball. We’ve got a good quarterback and good receivers. And I do what I have to do.”
The two fourth-quarter touchdown drives overshadowed a difficult day for the Ohio State offense. Frey was constantly under pressure. Even so, Frey finished with 223 yards. He completed 14 of 37 passes and threw three TDs. Those scores gave him 15 for the season and 36 for his career, which tied him with Jim Karsatos for second more in school history.
“Greg had an almost impossible situation,” Cooper said. “They were rushing us and overpowering our offensive linemen.”
The late touchdown provided Ohio State its only lead of the afternoon. Iowa scored first and held a 17-14 lead at halftime. The Buckeyes scored their first-half points on a Frey 1-yard TD run and a Graham 38-yard scoring reception – both coming in the second quarter. The Hawkeyes extended the lead to 26-14 in the second half before the Buckeyes mounted their late rally.
Smith led the OSU rushing attack with 51 yards on 14 carries. On defense, Steve Tovar led the Buckeyes with 14 tackles. Lance Price picked off an Iowa pass, and Foster Paulk recovered a fumble.
1984: No. 13 Ohio State 52, Northwestern 3 – The Buckeyes set up another crucial showdown with Michigan thanks to a rout of the Wildcats at Dyche Stadium in Evanston.
The time for scoreboard watching ended with the victory. With a win against their longtime rivals a week later, the Buckeyes would win the Big Ten and earn their first trip to the Rose Bowl since the 1979 season.
Ohio State tailback Keith Byars was feeling rosy after dispatching the Wildcats.
“I got a sniff of (the roses), but in one more week I hope to get a dozen of them,” Byars said in the Nov. 17, 1984, edition of BSB.
“This is the first time for me that a Michigan game has had a significant meaning on the Big Ten race,” Byars added. “I always dreamed for it come down to something like this. I’m just thankful to get the opportunity. I’ll be even more thankful next week if we come out of it with a victory.”
Northwestern provided a light workout before the future main event with the Wolverines. The Wildcats scored first and held a 3-0 lead after the first quarter before the Buckeyes took command. The Buckeyes took the lead for good on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Mike Tomczak to Cris Carter at 11:02 of the second quarter.
Greg Rogan then recovered a Wildcat fumble on Northwestern’s next possession, and the Buckeyes marched another 66 yards, with John Wooldridge going over from the 2 for a 14-3 lead.
Northwestern was forced to punt on its next possession. The Buckeyes put on a ferocious rush and Shawn Carpenter’s punt into the wind traveled only seven yards, giving the Buckeyes the ball at the NU 41 with 40 seconds to play before the intermission.
Tomczak hit Mike Lanese with a quick 11-yard strike and then followed that with a 29-yard scoring pass to Carter, giving the freshmen seven touchdown receptions for the season, equaling the Ohio State record set by Doug Donley in 1980.
The Wildcats had one last chance to stay in the game, as speedy Steve Tasker returned the following kickoff 72 yards before Steve Hill and Pepper Johnson ran him down at the OSU 15 with 29 seconds left. On the next play, however, quarterback Mike Greenfield fumbled and Johnson made his fourth fumble recovery of the year to end the threat.
Carpenter set up another Buckeye score in the third quarter with a 10-yard punt, giving OSU the ball at the NU 24. It took the Buckeyes four plays to make it 28-3, with Byars going around left end for a 7-yard score.
Northwestern fumbled again on its next play from scrimmage, with Anthony Giuliani recovering, giving the Buckeyes the ball back at on the Wildcat 37. Eight plays later, Byars went around right end for a 5-yard touchdown run and a 35-3 lead.
Most of the Buckeye starters called it a day after that, but Jim Karsatos and Dino Dawson came on to give an aerial exhibition, connecting on scoring bombs of 57 and 36 yards, sandwiching a 37-yard Rich Spangler field goal to cap the scoring.
Ohio State finished with 562 yards of total offense. The Wildcats had 149. Byars ran for 151 yards on 27 carries.
1979: No. 3 Ohio State 34, Iowa 7 – The Buckeyes forced took advantage of 10 turnovers and moved into sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with a lopsided win at Ohio Stadium.
Ohio State (10-0, 7-0) recovered five Iowa fumbles and nabbed five interceptions in the victory. While the Buckeyes took care of business on senior day, Purdue defeated visiting Michigan. That left OSU atop the league, with the Wolverines and Boilermakers in second one game behind.
1973: No. 1 Ohio State 35, Michigan State 0 – Ohio State posted its fourth shutout of the season, holding the visiting Spartans to 94 yards of total offense. The Buckeyes (8-0, 6-0) did not allow MSU to cross midfield until the fourth quarter.
Neal Colzie had a big game, returning eight kicks for 170 yards and a touchdown on a 43-yard return in the second quarter. Archie Griffin rushed for 131 yards, moving to 1,019 yards for the season. Bruce Elia added three touchdowns, and Pepper Johnson scored one of his own.
1962: Ohio State 10, Indiana 7 – The upset-minded Hoosiers tied the game in the third quarter before the Buckeyes escaped thanks to a 27-yard field goal by kicker Dick VanRaaphorst with eight seconds remaining.
Paul Warfield gave Ohio State (4-3, 3-2) a 7-0 halftime lead thanks to a 75-yard touchdown run, but IU QB Woody Moore tied the game with a 1-yard scoring run in the second half. VanRaaphorst’s kick allowed the rain-soaked fans at Ohio Stadium to leave happy.
1956: No. 7 Ohio State 35, Indiana 14 – The Buckeyes won their 17th straight Big Ten game by posting a record-setting performance against the visiting Hoosiers. Ohio State (6-1, 4-0) finished with a then-school and conference single-game record 465 yards rushing. Three rushers finished with more than 100 yards in the game: fullback Galen Cisco (160) and halfbacks Jim Roseboro (157) and Don Clark (112).
1951: No. 20 Ohio State 16, Pitt 14 – A 20-yard Vic Janowicz field goal was enough to give the Buckeyes (4-2-1, 2-2-1) a win and spoil homecoming for the Panthers. Three times Pitt drove inside the Ohio State 10-yard line and failed to score, giving first-year OSU head coach Woody Hayes his first road victory.
1945: No. 8 Ohio State 14, Pitt 0 – All the scoring came in the final eight minutes, giving Ohio State a win at Pittsburgh. A cold, windy afternoon with a snow-and-rain mix was not enough to stop the Buckeyes (6-1, 4-1), who also had the Ohio State Marching Band in attendance – the band’s first road trip since 1941.
1934: Ohio State 33, Chicago 0 – In the first meeting between the Buckeyes and Maroons since 1927, Ohio State cruised to an easy win at Ohio Stadium. OSU (5-1) took advantage of the fact that Chicago was missing injured quarterback Jay Berwanger.
1928: Iowa 14, Ohio State 7 – A week after a hard-earned nonconference tie against Eastern power Princeton, the Buckeyes (4-1-1, 3-1) dropped a disappointing game to the visiting Hawkeyes. Iowa earned the victory by breaking a 7-7 tie with late touchdown by Mayes McLain, his second of the game.
1923: Ohio State 32, Purdue 0 – The Buckeyes earned their most impressive win of the season in their first-ever game in West Lafayette. Hoge Workman starred on both sides of the ball, as Ohio State improved to 3-2-1.
1917: Ohio State 16, Wisconsin 3 – The second-ever game played at Camp Randall Stadium was the first win there for the Buckeyes and the first loss for the Badgers. Ohio State (5-0) trailed 3-0 in the first quarter – only the second time an opponent had scored against the Buckeyes and the first time they had trailed all season – before rallying for the win.
Chic Harley started the scoring for OSU by throwing a TD pass to Shifty Bolen on a faked kick. After a PAT, the Buckeyes led 7-3. That lead extended by six more points later when Howard Yerges rushed for a 2-yard TD run. Harley ended the scoring with a fourth-quarter field goal.
1906: Ohio State 6, Kenyon 0 – The Buckeyes moved to 5-1 with a victory against their in-state foe. Ohio State posted its fifth shutout in as many wins.
1900: Ohio State 24, Case 10 – Ohio State allowed its first 10 points of the season but improved to 7-0.
1894: Case 38, Ohio State 0 – OSU fell to 3-5 with a loss in its third road game of the year.