It has gone by as fast as Ezekiel Elliott on his way to the end zone with a linebacker and a safety chasing him.
This is the twenty-fifth season I have covered Ohio State football for The Lima News. When I covered my first OSU game in September 1992, I didn’t give a thought to how many more times I would do that.
It’s 2016, my Ohio State coverage appears in nearly 40 papers and I have now been to 299 OSU games. Next week’s Rutgers game will be No. 300. I’ve seen every home game since 1992 and missed only one road game in the last 15 years.
That’s a lot of football so I might have left out a few things, but here are some of the games, players and stadiums which stand out most from those 25 seasons:
Five Most Memorable OSU wins
1. 2002 national championship game. One Ohio State fan described the Buckeyes’ 31-24 double-overtime win over a supposedly invincible Miami team that was on a 34-game winning streak to me as the greatest event since the Ressurection. I think he was kidding but I’m not sure. Great game. Great players. Thirty-seven of the starters in this game were selected in NFL drafts.
2. 2014 national championship game. It is only slightly less amazing two years later than it was then that Ohio State could win a national championship playing its third-string quarterback, Cardale Jones. And he didn’t just play, he played a huge role in postseason wins over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game, Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and a 42-20 win over Oregon in the College Football Playoff national championship game.
3. 2006 Michigan game. If No. 1 Ohio State against No. 2 Michigan wasn’t enough drama, the game was played a day after legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler died of a heart attack. Ohio State clinched a trip to the BCS national championship game with a 42-39 win.
4. 1995 Notre Dame game. The two schools hadn’t played each other for 59 years when Notre Dame won the only two games between them in 1935 and 1936. Ohio State won big, 45-26, behind 207 yards rushing by Eddie George and four touchdown passes by Bob Hoying.
5. 2014 Sugar Bowl. Some days I think this win over Alabama was even more memorable than the national championship game that followed it. Alabama was favored and the Buckeyes fell behind 21-6 early in the second quarter but scored 28 unanswered points and never lost the lead after that. An 85-yard touchdown run by Ezekiel Elliott with 3:24 to play put Ohio State in control and on its way to a 42-35 win.
Five Most Memorable OSU losses
1. 1995 Michigan game. The 313 yards Tshimanga Biakabutuka ran for that day looked more like two miles. Simply one of the most stunning games I’ve ever seen. Michigan’s 31-23 win was Ohio State’s first loss but it wouldn’t be its last when the obviously disappointed Buckeyes were beaten by Tennessee and a young quarterback named Peyton Manning in the Citrus Bowl.
2. 1998 Michigan State game. Ohio State was undefeated, dominant and seemingly on its way to a national championship when it let a 15-point lead in the second half slip away in a lackluster display of bad football. Michigan State, coached by Nick Saban, came into the game with a 4-4 record and finished 6-6.
3. 2015 Michigan State game. A lot of Ohio State fans were looking ahead to a match-up with Michigan as the key to returning to the College Football Playoff to defend the 2014 national title even before they knew MSU starting quarterback Connor Cook was too injured to play. But with Lima Central Catholic grad Tyler O’Connor making his first start at quarterback, Michigan State won 17-14 and kept Ohio State out of the playoffs.
4. 2006 national championship game. Ohio State was undefeated, ranked No. 1 and had the Heisman Trophy winner, Troy Smith. Some people said Florida didn’t belong there, but the Gators mauled OSU and made the Buckeyes look like the team that didn’t belong in a 41-14 win that produced the first of Urban Meyer’s three national championships.
5. 1994 Penn State game. The Nittany Lions had Kerry Collins, Ki-Jana Carter, Bobby Engram, Kyle Brady and an offensive line led by St. Henry’s Jeff Hartings and Marco Rivera. They combined to average nearly 50 points a game and never looked better than in a 63-14 win over OSU at Beaver Stadium.
Five Favorite Away Stadiums
1. Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium. Great atmosphere. Great town. The jump around at the beginning of the fourth quarter is the big tradtion. My tradition is to get there early and walk up State Street to the huge Farmers Market at the state capitol and eat free cheese samples to my heart’s content.
2. Notre Dame Stadium. It’s Notre Dame Stadium. You don’t need any more than that if you appreciate college football history.
3. Rose Bowl. I didn’t get the aura of the Rose Bowl the first time I was there because it was a cloudy day. The second time it was sunny and I got it. The sunset on the San Gabriel Mountains is amazing.
4. Michigan Stadium. It’s Michigan Stadium. You don’t need any more than that. And it’s real big.
5. Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium. Kinnick is one of the most underrated stadiums in the Big Ten, maybe in college football.
Five Plays I’ll Never Forget
1. Terry Glenn’s 82-yard touchdown catch against Notre Dame in 1995. When you watch it on video, it looks like someone speeded it up. It looked the same way in real time when Glenn took a short pass from Bob Hoying and simply outran Notre Dame’s defense to the end zone.
2. Anthony Gonzalez’s fourth-quarter catch against Michigan in 2005. It didn’t score the winning touchdown, but it set it up when Gonzalez went high over a Michigan defender inside the five-yard line with less than a minute to play in a 25-21 Ohio State win in Ann Arbor.
3. Tie – Ezekiel Elliott’s 85-yard touchdown run against Alabama and Michael Thomas’ touchdown catch from Evan Spencer in the Sugar Bowl in the 2014 season.
4. Ted Ginn Jr.’s punt return against Michigan for an 82-yard touchdown in 2004. Actually, there are several Ginn returns that were memorable. But this one stands out a little more since it was in a game against Michigan where Ohio State was the underdog.
5. Tie — Devin Smith’s one-handed touchdown catch against Miami of Ohio in 2012 and Noah Brown’s wrap-around touchdown catch against Oklahoma last Saturday.