2002: No. 6 Ohio State 25, No. 10 Washington State 7: Against the highest-ranked foe the Buckeyes would face until the Fiesta Bowl showdown with No. 1 Miami (Fla.), Ohio State rode freshman phenom Maurice Clarett to a victory over the visiting Cougars.
Clarett bruised and battered Washington State, gaining 230 yards on 31 carries with two touchdowns. Through the first three games of his collegiate career, Clarett had rushed for 471 yards with an average of 7.5 yards per carry and six touchdowns. Earlier in the week, Clarett told reporters he wanted fans leaving Ohio Stadium for Buckeye games to leave having gotten their money’s worth – and saying Clarett was one of the best players they had ever seen.
Had he done so against WSU?
“I think so,” Clarett said in the Sept. 21, 2002, edition of Buckeye Sports Bulletin. “Some people work all week. All they have to look forward to is the Buckeyes. Then they come out here and some of them have the worst seats in the house – Section ZZ, Seat 99. Basically all they can see is the top of our helmets.
“But they came to see a good game just like the people in the good seats. I try to give people their money’s worth. I try and work hard for every fan in the stadium.”
Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel had pretty high praise for Clarett after the game.
“One thing that I think about Maurice Clarett is I think a little bit like when we had Keith Byars here, he wore on people,” Tressel said. “In the first quarter you might get him down for 2 (yards) and then in the second quarter you might get him down for 3.
“In the third quarter you couldn’t get him down. He’s that kind of guy.”
If drawing a comparison to Byars wasn’t enough, OSU running backs coach Tim Spencer brought up another Buckeye great when discussion Clarett – Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George.
“He reminds me of Eddie when it comes to the work ethic,” Spencer said. “He comes to work every day. He has upped the level of play in the running backs (room) and that hasn’t been here since Eddie. He kicks it up a notch and when the young guys see that out there they respect it.”
Washington State, who went on to play in the Rose Bowl the following January, led 7-6 after the first half. Ohio State’s lone scores came on a pair of Mike Nugent 43-yard field goals. The Cougars held the advantage thanks to a 5-yard TD pass from Jason Gesser to Devard Darling.
The second half was all OSU. Clarett put the Buckeyes ahead for good with a 3-yard touchdown scamper early in the third quarter, capping an eight-play, 91-yard drive. Nugent added a 45-yard field goal and WSU helped Ohio State’s cause by snapping a ball out of the back of the end zone late in the third quarter, giving OSU an 18-7 lead heading into the final 15 minutes.
Clarett closed the scoring with a 1-yard TD plunge with 10:41 remaining. The yard was just one of 292 the Buckeyes rushed for – most coming from the efforts of the dynamic freshman. Junior quarterback Craig Krenzel completed four of 10 passes for 71 yards and rushed for 19 yards on eight carries.
Defensively, Ohio State was led by an eight-tackle performance by senior Cie Grant. Matt Wilhelm and Tyler Everett intercepted Gesser passes, while Darrion Scott and Kenny Peterson recorded a sack apiece.
1991: No. 19 Ohio State 23, Louisville 15: It was a case of winning ugly for the Buckeyes, who overcame 15 penalties and several other miscues to hold off the upset-minded Cardinals at Ohio Stadium.
“It was a game that, to be honest with you, I thought we should have won a little more easily,” OSU head coach John Cooper said in the Sept. 21, 1991, edition of BSB. “But when you have the number of penalties and mistakes we had, you can’t complain about winning. They all count (for) one, so now we’ll put that behind us and go on to the next one.”
For much of the game, it looked like Ohio State would emerge with a low-scoring win. Butler By’not’e gave the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead in the first quarter with a 5-yard TD run, and Tim Williams added a 36-yard field goal in the second quarter to give OSU a 10-0 lead at halftime.
That score held until early in the fourth quarter, when By’not’e added another score, this on a 4-yard run, three seconds into the final 15 minutes. However, Louisville blocked the extra point and returned it 80 yards for two points.
Less than two minutes later, the Cardinals narrowed their deficit to 16-9 thanks to a 48-yard TD pass from Erik Watts to Jose Gonzalez.
Ohio State extended its lead on a 16-yard scoring run by Carlos Snow, but Louisville did not quit. The Cardinals responded with a 23-yard TD pass from Watts to Fred Jones – a score that was aided by an Ohio State penalty. The Cardinals had kicked a field goal before a personal foul allowed Louisville to continue its drive.
“A win is a win and we’re 2-0, but I’m not very happy with the way we played,” Cooper said. “We had way, way, way too many penalties. That’s the second week in a row I’ve said that. I have to coach better because we’ve got to eliminate our penalties.”
The Jones TD reception was the final score of the game, coming with 9:12 remaining, but it was not the end of the drama. Louisville missed the extra point, keeping OSU’s lead at eight, and Louisville’s next drive advanced into the red zone. Facing a fourth-and-2 at the OSU 12, Watts attempted to find Greg Brohm in the end zone, but OSU’s double coverage prevented the lob from being caught.
“I can’t say enough about our defense,” OSU offensive coordinator Elliot Uzelac said. “Make sure you make that clear, because buddy, without us stopping them at the end, that would have been chaos out there. That was a big stop, so I take my hat off to our defense.”
Jeff Cothran led Ohio State’s rushing attack with 61 yards on 10 carries, while By’not’e had 48 yards on 18 carries and Snow had 14 carries for 58 yards. Kent Graham threw for 141 yards and two interceptions on 10-of-17 passing.
Bryan Cook had nine tackles to pace the OSU defense. Chico Nelson, Foster Paulk and John Kacherski each picked off a Watts pass.
1985: No. 9 Ohio State 10, Pitt 7: The Buckeyes defeated visiting Pitt in the season opener, but perhaps the more notable fact about the game was when it was played.
The cover of the Sept. 21, 1985, edition of Buckeye Sports Bulletin is dominated by a single image – Ohio Stadium bathed in artificial light. The game between the Buckeyes and Panthers was the first played at night on the banks of the Olentangy River.
If not for a late touchdown, the game would have resulted in an upset victory for the visitors. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, quarterback Jim Karsatos connected with wide receiver Cris Carter on a fourth-and-goal play at the Pitt 1-yard line. With 4:24 left, Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce called a timeout before the crucial play.
“When I came to the sidelines (Bruce) asked me if I thought I could get open,” Carter said in the Sept. 21, 1985 edition of BSB. “He had the play in mind the whole time. He knew what play we were going to run. He just asked me if I could get open and score a touchdown.”
Karsatos took the snap on the fourth-down play, rolled right and – getting ample time to pass from his offensive line – found Carter wide open for the winning score.
“I think that was a tremendously executed play by the offensive football team,” Bruce said. “Who ever thought Ohio State would throw the ball on fourth and a yard-and-a-half? That’s hard to believe, but the yards were coming hard for us on the ground.”
The Buckeyes finished with 48 yards rushing on 39 carries. The passing game was better – Karsatos completed 19 of 32 passes for 242 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions – but Ohio State’s offense struggled against the Panthers.
Ohio State led 3-0 at halftime thanks to a 29-yard field goal by Rich Spangler with 56 seconds left in the second quarter. That score held until early in the fourth quarter. Pitt took the lead on a 13-yard TD pass from John Congemi to fullback Chuck Scales with 13:43 remaining.
The Buckeyes found their answer to that score in the final minutes, giving the Ohio Stadium crowd a victory to celebrate under the lights.
1974: No. 4 Ohio State 34, Minnesota 19: A mere 100 days after head coach Woody Hayes suffered a heart attack on June 6, he was back on the sidelines as the Buckeyes traveled to Minnesota and beat the Golden Gophers.
The Buckeyes had 16 returning starters from a 1973 team that finished 10-0-1 and began the 1974 season on a good note thanks to running back Archie Griffin. The two-time Heisman Trophy winner ran for 133 yards, upping his career total to 2,577 yards – a school record that bested marks by Jim Otis (2,542) and Hopalong Cassady (2,466).
Ohio State led 28-3 through three quarters before the Golden Gophers, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Memorial Stadium, made it a game. Quarterback Tony Dungy led a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown drives and narrowed the lead to nine points before the Buckeyes ended any threat of a comeback when Cornelius Green rushed for a 57-yard touchdown run on a third-and-5 play.
As for Hayes’ health, he told reporters after the game he felt tired but no more than usual.