OSU's national championship dreams were dimmed with a Sept. 10 loss to Texas at Ohio Stadium, and less than a month later they were dashed. The loss left Ohio State players looking for answers.
"I really don't know what to say," offensive lineman and senior co-captain Rob Sims said in the Oct. 15, 2005, edition of Buckeye Sports Bulletin. "Before this game, I still felt like we were the best team in the country. I know that Texas beat us, but we just as easily could have won that game. We wanted to keep going after that, win out and maybe play them again in the Rose Bowl (for the national championship). I guess that's pretty much out now.
"And it's tough to take, you know? We're better than this. I know we are. I really don't have any explanation for what happened in this game. We could have had this game just like we could have had the Texas game. We can still be Big Ten co-champs, and that's got to be our focus now. But we wanted more. We wanted this season to be magical."
The inconsistent Ohio State offense was a major factor in the loss. Two weeks after posting 530 yards against Iowa in their previous game, the Buckeyes (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) were held to only 230 vs. the Nittany Lions.
"We had plenty of opportunities," OSU junior quarterback Troy Smith said. "We just didn't capitalize on those opportunities. I take a lot of the blame on myself. I'm the quarterback and I made too many mistakes. I threw an interception and I had a fumble. I can't do that on the road against a Big Ten defense like the one Penn State has and expect to win."
Ohio State turnovers helped Penn State to victory. The first came in the second quarter when Smith threw an interception that set up PSU's second touchdown. The other came when Smith was sacked near the end of the game and lost the football.
The Buckeyes led 3-0 after Josh Huston made a 30-yard field goal at the 6:41 mark of the first quarter. Penn State answered in the second quarter when Derrick Williams capped a nine-play, 74-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown run with 10:20 left before halftime.
Smith's interception happened on the ensuing OSU drive, leading to Penn State's next score. PSU safety Calvin Lowry picked off Smith's pass and returned it to the OSU 2-yard line. On third down from the Buckeye 1, Michael Robinson scored to give the Nittany Lions a 14-3 lead.
Ohio State answered with a 10-yard TD run by Smith after a 14-play, 81-yard drive that lasted 7:22. The score with 33 seconds left before halftime gave the Buckeyes momentum into the break.
Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, the Smith run provided OSU's final points. Penn State added a 41-yard field goal by Kevin Kelly in the third quarter to extend the lead and close the scoring.
Ohio State's final drive was its best chance to try to tie the game. The Buckeyes' march went into PSU territory before Smith was sacked from the blind side by defensive end Tamba Hali. The force of the hit cause Smith to fumble, and PSU defensive tackle Scott Paxson recovered the ball at the OSU 48 to end the treat and seal the victory for the Lions.
The game drew 109,839, the then-second largest crowd in Beaver Stadium history.
1994: Illinois 24, No. 17 Ohio State 10: After the Fighting Illini earned their fourth straight victory at Ohio Stadium, the then-10th largest crowd in stadium history let their displeasure known.
"You guys have no pride," screamed one fan. Another chimed in, "We haven't beaten these guys here since Reagan was president."
As Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger walked off the field, some in the crowd began chanting, "Time for a change! Time for a change!"
Things got even worse when head coach John Cooper and his son John Jr. made their way to the OSU locker room.
"Gotta go, Johnny boy!," was one of the more printable epithets that ran in the Oct. 15, 1994, edition of BSB. "And take your hayseed family with you!" Most of what was said was unfit for a family newspaper, but one woman who yelled, "You stink Cooper!," pretty much summed it up.
Cooper was the target of most fan vile, but senior cornerback and co-captain Marlon Kerner said that was unfair.
"I don't think Coach Cooper or the coaching staff or anybody else lost this game," Kerner said. "If you want to point fingers, point them at me. As far as I'm concerned, I'm the reason we lost this game."
Kerner made a couple of mental mistakes in the loss as the Illini erased a three-point halftime deficit en route to a surprisingly easy victory. The first came when he was providing help coverage early in the third quarter when Illini quarterback Johnny Johnson hit split end Jason Dulick for a 46-yard pass. That play set up an Illinois field goal that tied the score at 10-10.
Later, on the field play of the third quarter, Kerner blew coverage on wide receiver Jason Strong. That resulted in Strong ending up on the receiving end of a 49-yard touchdown. It gave the Illini a lead they did not relinquish.
As Kerner stood up for Cooper, Kerner's teammates did not want him to take all the blame either.
"You can't fault the secondary because it's a team game," middle linebacker Lorenzo Styles said. "(Kerner) feels that he didn't play his best game, but you know, you can't just blame it one one person. Maybe the coverage wasn't there on one play, but if we had given their quarterback some pressure on that play, maybe he wouldn't have gotten the ball off. You just can't put the blame on one person."
Added OSU quarterback Bobby Hoying: "That's crazy. No way was it just Marlon's fault. I mean, look at the offense. We only scored 10 points. Look at me. I threw three interceptions. It's not just his fault. We talked about this in the locker room. Everybody on this team can look at how he played today and see what he did wrong within the team concept."
Hoying completed 18 of 33 passes for 229 yards. He was picked off three times and didn't throw a TD pass. OSU's points came on a 1-yard touchdown run by Eddie George and a 35-yard field goal by Josh Jackson, both coming in the second quarter.
George finished with 124 yards on 26 carries. More importantly, George didn't lose a fumble after turning it over twice against the Illini two years earlier in Columbus.
"I'd trade anything for a win," said George after OSU fell to 4-2 (1-1 Big Ten). "The past was an illusion. I just look forward to the future and try to build upon that. I really wanted to win this game for the team. Now we have to regroup and hopefully learn from what we did wrong today."
1988: Indiana 41, Ohio State 7: Cooper questioned the intestinal fortitude of his players after the host Hooisers had their way with his team, earning IU's first home win against the Buckeyes in 84 years.
"To be honest with you, I think we've got too many players that are participating. I don't see a lot of competitors on this team," Cooper said in the Oct. 15, 1988, edition of BSB. "I don't see a lot of guys that get upset when they play like they did today. To me, that's the difference between participating and competing. I don't see too many competitors out there."
Other than calling out his players, Cooper didn't have many answers after watching Indiana thoroughly dominate on both sides of the ball.
"I don't know what else you can do," Cooper said. "We went in pads every day this week. We had contact almost every day this week. We yelled at them. We challenged their pride. I don't know what else we can do to be truthful with you. We didn't play like we were ready. Maybe we weren't. I just don't know.
"I don't think I have ever been so puzzled about a team in all my life. I don't know what you have to do to get a team ready. I really don't want to sit here and rip our players, but you saw the game. I don't know what else I can do. I can't play. Our coaches can't play."
The coaching staff probably couldn't do much worse than the Buckeyes (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten) did against the Hoosiers. The only player who provided a bright spot was junior tailback Jaymes Bryant. Subbing for injured Carlos Snow, Bryant provided 98 rushing yards and the Buckeyes' lone touchdown of the day. His good effort could not overshadow the struggles of sophomore quarterback Greg Frey, who completed 7 of 22 passes for 101 yards and no touchdowns. He was also picked off four times, providing all but one of the turnovers committed by Ohio State in the game.
"I tried to push the ball in a couple of time when I shouldn't have," Frey said. "The line did block well and I had time. I just didn't get the job done."
Indiana was led by tailback Anthony Thompson, who rushed all over the OSU defense to the tune of 190 yards. He scored four touchdowns to set an IU single-game record and also surpassed the school's single-season mark for most TDs and eclipsed the school career touchdown mark of 30 set by Jade Butcher from 1977 to 1980.
1983: No. 6 Ohio State 33, Purdue 22: A pair of Garcia Lane punt returns for touchdowns helped the Buckeyes escape against the visiting Boilermakers.
The Buckeyes held a narrow 12-7 lead at halftime before Lane's efforts gave OSU a 19-point cushion. He finished with 161 yards on six punt returns. That total was just 9 yards short of the single-game record held by Neal Colzie (170 vs. Michigan State in 1973) and 5 short of Tom Campana (166 at Michigan in 1971).
Lane scored on returns of 63 and 71 yards as Ohio State improved to 4-1 (2-1 Big Ten).
"When I was being recruited, I told (the OSU coaching staff) I wanted to be a punt returner," the Youngstown (Ohio) South product said in the Oct. 15, 1983, edition of BSB. "In high school, I was an option quarterback, and I felt that was one of my assets – I was elusive. And I didn't think I'd play running back here, so that's my way of getting the ball."
Adding to Lane's big day was tailback Keith Byars, who rushed 23 times for a then-career best 135 yards and a pair of short-yardage touchdowns. He also caught four passes for 120 yards.
Ohio State's Paul Allen made a pair of first-quarter field goals of 21 and 41 yards.
1977: No. 4 Ohio State 46, Purdue 0: The visiting Boilermakers provided little resistance in a game OSU head coach Woody Hayes described as "about as perfect a game as we could play against a team as good as Purdue." The Buckeyes (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) built a 39-0 halftime lead before coasting to victory.
1966: Illinois 10, Ohio State 9: Kicker Gary Cairns made three field goals but that wasn't enough give the Buckeyes (1-2, 0-1 Big Ten) the victory. Cairns even set a then-Big Ten record with a 55-yard field goal, besting the previously record-holding boot – a 50-yarder by Indiana's Tom Nowatzke in 1964. Illinois' lone touchdown came on a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Bob Naponic in the fourth quarter.
1960: No. 5 Ohio State 34, No. 4 Illinois 7: A showdown of top-five teams ended in a laugher with the Buckeyes romping the host Illini. The stunned homecoming crowd at Memorial Stadium watched Ohio State (3-0, 1-0 Big Ten) pound its way to a 13-0 halftime lead and cruise from there. Halfback Bill Wentz opened the second half with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to highlight the afternoon.
1955: Ohio State 27, Illinois 12: A week after being shut out at Stanford, the Buckeyes (2-1, 1-0 Big Ten) bounced back at home against the Fighting Illini. The offense got back on track by scoring 27 unanswered points after spotting Illinois a 6-0 lead. Hopalong Cassady led all rushers with 95 yards and two touchdowns.
1949: No. 11 Ohio State 13, No. 8 USC 13: A missed extra point by both teams resulted in a tie between the Trojans and Buckeyes in Los Angeles. Sophomore Frank Gifford – yep, the future Monday Night Football color commentator – missed a boot after USC's first touchdown. Jimmy Hague missed one after Ohio State's second touchdown. The Buckeyes (2-0-1) outgained USC 407-194 but were hurt by seven fumbles and two interceptions.
1938: USC 14, Ohio State 7: The Buckeyes dominated all of the stats except for the one that mattered. Ohio State (1-1) outgained the Trojans 257-137 and had 14 first downs compared to only five for USC, but that was not enough. Fullback Jim Langhurst had the Buckeyes' lone score on a 1-yard TD plunge in the second quarter.
1932: Ohio State 7, Indiana 7: The visiting Hoosiers left Columbus with a tie, but for the Buckeyes (1-0-1, 0-0-1 Big Ten), it could have been much worse. Indiana nearly pulled off the upset. Fitzhugh Lyons narrowly missed a field goal attempt from the OSU 20 that would have won the game for IU. Bill Carroll scored OSU's lone touchdown on a 5-yard sweep around left end in the second quarter.
1927: Ohio State 13, Iowa 6: All of the scoring took place in the second half, and fortunately for OSU, the Buckeyes had the last laugh on the road. Ohio State improved to 2-0 with the win.
1921: Oberlin 7, Ohio State 6: An Ohio Field crowd of 9,000 was shocked to watch the Buckeyes suffer an upset loss to Oberlin. The Congregationalists drove 85 yards for the winning touchdown in the third quarter. The Buckeyes (1-1) have not lost to an in-state foe since.
1910: Ohio State 23, Cincinnati 0: The Buckeyes earned their second straight shutout victory and improved to 3-0 with a blanking of the visiting Bearcats.
1904: Ohio State 24, Denison 0: E.R. Sweetland's Buckeyes moved to 4-0 on the season with the win and got added momentum leading up to their next game at home against rival Michigan.
1898: Ohio Medical 10, Ohio State 0: In the second game at University Field (later Ohio Field), the Buckeyes fell to 1-1 on the season with a loss to the Medics.