January 1, 1999 - Texas A&M vs. Ohio State:
The Buckeyes entered the 1998-99 season ranked #1 in both the AP and Coaches polls. Their only slip-up was the devastating home loss to Michigan State on Oct. 25th of 1998 (this loss still haunts folks around Buckeye Nation). Regardless, the Buckeyes still felt they still had an outside shot at the national title if their Sugar Bowl opponent of the previous year, Florida State, beat Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl in an unconvincing manner. But it was not to be as Tennessee capped off their undefeated season by beating the 'Noles and taking the National Championship. So the Bucks could only hope for a final #2 ranking.
Big 12 Champion Texas A&M entered the 1999 Sugar Bowl with an 11-2 record and ranked #6 in the newly BCS Standings. The Buckeyes entered the game with an 11-1 record, they were #4 in the BCS, and they shared the Big 10 title with Michigan and Wisconsin.
It was a furious first quarter. The Aggies scored first on a 9 yard TD run by Dante Hall. After Hall's score, the Buckeyes owned the rest of the 1st quarter. First, Joe Germaine connected on a 19 yard TD pass to Reggie Germany. Joe Montgomery followed that with a 10 yard TD run. And then Derek Ross blocked and Aggie punt that Kevin Griffin returned 16 yards for a TD to close the quarter.
The game looked like it would be a Buckeye rout. But as they often did during the JHC-era, the Buckeyes didn't put away a team they should have. After a Dan Stultz 2nd quarter 31 yard FG, the Buckeyes would not score again in this game. It was disappointing because the Buckeyes totaled 432 yards of offense, were in Texas A&M territory a total of 9 times, but still failed to score a TD in the final 3 quarters.
After trailing 24-7 at halftime, the Aggies creeped a little closer to the Bucks when QB Branndon Stewart connected with Leroy Hodge on a 7 yard TD pass. The Aggies were known for comeback wins during the season. Most recently, they came back to win versus Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship game. But the Buckeyes defense made enough plays to halt any comeback efforts in the 2nd half. Most notably, LB Jerry Rudzinski tipped a lateral pass and recovered the fumble to end a drive.
In the end, Ohio State defeated Texas A&M 24-14. David Boston won the Sugar Bowl MVP by catching 11 passes for 105 yards. Joe Germaine ended the day completing 21 of 38 passes for 222 yards and the one score. Joe Montgomery had 9 carries for 96 yards and one score. Michael Wiley had 16 carries for 88 yards and also had 5 catches for 40 yards.
The Buckeyes did end the 1998-99 season better than most during the Coach Cooper era. The Bucks had a final #2 ranking and a 12-1 record, they beat Michigan, and the won their Bowl game. As Buckeye Nation remembers though, the 1998-99 season may be one of the most disappointing due to the talent and opportunities at hand. This was much the norm for the Cooper regime. Thank God for JT!