This time heartbreak replaced embarrassment for Ohio State on the national stage.
The Buckeyes lost another bowl game, but not before showing resilience and creativity that often seemed to lack in previous prime-time affairs.
Colt McCoy threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Quan Cosby with 16 seconds remaining to provide the winning points as No. 3 Texas rallied to beat the 10th-ranked Buckeyes 24-21 Monday night in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.
Ohio State (10-3) had two final plays from scrimmage to attempt to move into position for a game-tying field goal, but Todd Boeckman was sacked on first down then threw a desperation Hail Mary pass that fell incomplete after time expired.
No such plays looked as if they would be necessary in the waning minutes of the third quarter when McCoy found Cosby with a short touchdown pass to extend the Longhorns’ lead to 17-6 with 1:06 to play.
That capped the second of two long drives in which the Longhorns wiped away a 6-3 halftime deficit and seemed to wear out the Buckeye defense as one highly regarded unit began getting the better of another.
While Texas (12-1) scored 14 points in the third quarter, Ohio State ran eight plays, the last of which was a sack of Terrelle Pryor that seemed to signal the Buckeyes, without a touchdown to that point, were on their way to a third dismal bowl showing in a row.
However, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Todd Boeckman replaced Pryor and hit Brian Robiskie for a deep pass the senior wideout dove to catch inside the Texas 30-yard line.
Three plays later, Aaron Pettrey kicked a 43-yard field goal to pull the Buckeyes back within one score at 17-9.
After the Buckeye defense forced a punt, true freshman starting quarterback Pryor went back to work with 10:06 to play.
He moved the Buckeyes to a first-and-goal at the 5, where Boeckman joined him on the field. The senior took a shotgun snap and threw a fade pass to the right corner of the end zone, where the 6-6 Pryor outjumped Texas safety Blake Gideon for the first touchdown reception of his career.
Although the ensuing two-point conversion attempt failed, the Buckeyes had new life.
The defense forced a three-and-out that concluded with OSU linebacker Ross Homan deflecting a McCoy pass on third down to force a punt.
Then Pryor and Boeckman went to work again, moving the Buckeyes down the field to set up Daniel “Boom” Herron’s 15-yard touchdown run that gave them back the lead with 2:05.
That proved to be more than enough time for McCoy, however.
The Heisman runner-up moved the Longhorns 52 yards down the field before finding Cosby isolated on Ohio State safety Anderson Russell, who bounced off the Longhorn as he hauled in McCoy’s pass in the middle of the field. That left a clear path to the end zone as Ohio State had brought a blitz on the play.
The Buckeyes held Texas, which averaged 43.9 points per game in the regular season, to its lowest point total of the season but fell to 4-3 in BCS games, a mark that includes three consecutive losses after high-profile failings in the previous two BCS National Championship games by a combined 41 points.
In both those games, a 41-14 loss to Florida in January 2007 and a 38-24 defeat at the hands of LSU last year, the Buckeyes fell behind in the first half and never recovered.
Ohio State is 4-2 in Fiesta Bowls and had a four-game winning streak snapped in the event.
McCoy passed for 414 yards while completing 41 of 59 attempts. He threw two touchdowns and an interception and also ran for a touchdown. Cosby caught 14 passes for 171 yards and two scores.
Although Ohio State star tailback Chris “Beanie” Wells ran for 106 yards, he was not on the field for either of the Buckeyes’ touchdown drives after suffering what was later described as a mild concussion. Herron ran for 30 yards on five carries.
Pryor completed 5 of 14 passes for 66 yards and was sacked twice. Boeckman, the 2007 starter who was supplanted by Pryor earlier this season, completed 5 of 11 passes for 110 yards and the touchdown to Pryor in his final collegiate game.
Robiskie closed out his OSU career with five catches for 116 yards.