Happy New Year, everybody! This should have probably been up a few days ago, but a certain awards-for-tats crisis took a little bit of the fun out of getting it out. At the end of the day, however, 2010 was another amazing year in the Buckeye sporting world -- OSU is currently 5th in the Director's Cup standings -- and with that, we present our 3rd annual Top Buckeye Moments of the Year.
11. Boom Gets Hot & Cracks 1,000
2009 was an anomaly of sorts in Columbus. Not since Lydell Ross finished with a paltry 475 yards in 2004 had a Buckeye running back failed to crack the 1,000 yard mark for a season. The good news heading into 2010 was that both of Ohio State's top two running backs would be returning so the odds of one of them ending that slump would stand to be pretty good.
Brandon Saine, the "starter" heading into 2010, got off to a great start in the opener, finishing with 103 yards on just 9 carries, but quickly disappeared, accounting for just 80 yards on the ground in his next six outings. Boom Herron didn't fare much better, picking up just 192 yards in the first four games. But, much like last season, things began to click once the Buckeyes got into Big Ten play.
Against Illinois in week five, Herron finished with 95 tough yards and then followed that up with 233 combined yards against Indiana, Wisconsin and Purdue. And then he got red hot. In a late October game against Minnesota, he notched his first 100-yard game, with a 114 yard effort and then the following week, he piled up 190 yards against Penn State. He was held to 69 by a stingy Iowa front seven days later, but rebounded for 175 yards against the Wolverines in the finale, including what should have been a 98 yard touchdown run if not for a phantom holding call.
For the season, Boom more than shouldered the load finished with 1,068 yards on 192 carries, good enough for 5.5 per pop. Oh, and he continued to find the endzone, scoring 15 touchdowns on the year with at least one in each of the final 11 weeks of the season.
10. The Comeback
The Buckeyes traveled to Iowa City in late November, needing a win to keep pace with conference co-leaders Michigan State and Wisconsin. They were battling for a sixth-straight Big Ten championship, but it wouldn't come easy as the the same Hawkeye team that had battled the Bucks to overtime the year before in Columbus returned virtually intact and they were set up as three point favorites for their senior day.
Vegas looked to be on the mark once again as Iowa took 17-10 lead four minutes into the fourth quarter, but OSU had an answer. The Buckeyes took the ensuing kickoff down to the Iowa 31 before the drive stalled out and they settled for a 48 yard Devin Barclay field goal to cut Iowa's lead to four. After a Hawkeye three-and-out, the OSU took over again and quickly moved the ball to midfield before three Pryor incompletions forced a 4th-and-season. After taking the snap from shotgun, Pryor rolled to his right but unable to find an open receiver, he cut back through the middle of the line and raced up the left sideline for 16 yards to keep championship hopes alive.
Looking to top himself, Pryor found Dane Sanzenbacher two plays later on an acrobatic 24 yard hookup to the two that evoked memories of Gonzo in Ann Arbor and then Boom finished things off, punching it in from the one to put Ohio State up 20-17. The Hawkeyes turned the ball over on downs and Ohio State was able to run the clock out.
9. Clarett's Life Takes a Positive Turn
Maurice Clarett's Ohio State career didn't exactly end on a positive note. After leading the team to a national championship as a freshman, the most exciting OSU running back in 25 years filed a false police report, lobbed academic impropriety bombs at the university via the New York Times and then spiraled into a series of run-ins with the law after flaming out of the NFL, culminating in an incident in which he was pulled over with an AK, a bullet-proof vest and, just for good measure, some Grey Goose in August of 2006.
He received no favors from the judge when it came time for sentencing and was sent away for seven and a half years. Looking to turn things around, Clarett was, by all accounts, a model inmate, starting a blog from prison to provide inspiration to others and subsequently qualified for an early release in April of 2010. Four months later, he was released from a halfway house and received permission to attend a tryout for the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL.
The motion was approved and thanks to a letter of recommendation from Jim Tressel, Clarett made the Nighthawks and recently completed his first season of football in five years. Though he left on bad terms, we're a forgiving bunch and hope Maurice builds on this opportunity.
8. Woo-Hoo College Cup
After watching the men do it, the Lady Buckeye soccer team figured it was their turn and stormed into their first-ever berth in the Women's College Cup after a handful of narrow early escapes and a huge upset.
The fun started when the Buckeyes dropped St. Francis in the opener and then won on penalty kicks against Dayton in the second round. Up next was #2 Virginia, and after racing out to a 3-0 lead, OSU held on for a 3-2 win. After a 2-0 win against Georgetown, the Buckeyes had their place in the national semifinals -- the Big Ten's first such berth since 2005.
Unfortunately, they ran out of steam against eventual champion Notre Dame, but the future looks bright for coach Lori Walker's squad. 19 players were named Academic All-Big Ten and goalkeeper Katie Baumgardner, one of nine juniors on the squad, was named to the College Cup All-Tournament Team.
7. Heyward's Rumble
The Miami game had been marked on the calendar since they day it was announced over five years ago. The two teams hadn't met since the 2003 Fiesta Bowl that saw the Buckeyes snap the Hurricane's 34-game winnings streak and handed Ohio State its first national championship in over three decades. Both teams had a talented junior signal caller and plenty of speed on both sides of the ball and reflecting that, each entered ranked in the top 12.
Despite a shaky first half on special teams, the Buckeyes entered the half with a 26-17 lead, but there was still plenty of concern over how easy Miami had been able to move the ball on the OSU defense when it wasn't shooting itself in the foot with turnovers.
As Ohio State nursed a nine point lead, Miami took the second half kickoff and advanced to the OSU six in just four plays, quieting the home crowd. The defense stiffened a bit, forcing a third down and then Miami quarterback Jacory Harris took the snap and proceded to throw a floater over the middle. Buckeye defensive end Cameron Heyward, dropping into zone coverage, jumped the ball in front of the tight end, coming up with the interception and then things got real.
Heyward, behind a platoon of blockers, raced down the left sideline bringing back memories of his father, the late Craig "Ironhead" Heyward. Running out of gas a little, he cut back to the middle of the field at the Miami 25 before he was finally tripped up after an 80 yard return, snuffing out any second half momentum the Hurricanes had. The Buckeyes would finish Miami off 36-24 and fans had an epic memory of a 290-pounder getting his scamper-on.
6. The Vest Gets Angry
It's no stretch to say the Nittany Lions were down this season. By the time they reached Columbus for a week 10 matchup, they already had three losses, to Alabama, Iowa and Illinois under their belt, saying nothing of their nine point win over Temple early in the season.
As such, nobody was willing to give Penn State much of a chance against Ohio State, especially considering the fact that they'd have Matt McGloin, a former walk-on at quarterback for the tilt. Naturally, you can imagine the shock of Buckeye Nation as they watched McGloin throw darts on the way to staking Penn State to a 14-0 halftime lead behind two touchdown strikes. The booing fans in the Shoe weren't the only ones unhappy: Tressel lit into the team at halftime, something out of character for the typically reserved coach. To quote center Mike Brewster:
"Tress doesn’t really come out and yell very much. He stays very even, so when he comes out and gets after it in the locker room you can see the urgency on everyone’s faces."
The team responded in kind, reeling of 35 unanswered points in the second half, including two pick-sixes, to close out the Nittany Lions 38-14 and move to 9-1 on the year.
5. Lance Palmer Slays the Beast
Iowa wrestler Brent Metcalf might just be the best collegiate wrestler of the last 10 years. Raised by wolves (and ogres), the Michigan native finished high school with a 228-0 record and four state championships.
After losing his freshman year when he followed coach Tom Brands from Virginia Tech to Iowa, he had a monster sophomore campaign in which he won the Hodge Trophy (wrestling's Heisman), Big Ten Wrestler of the Year, and the NCAA Tournament's Outstanding Wrestler Award on the way to capturing the crown at the 149 pound weight class.
As a junior, he won his first 37 matches before being upset by North Carolina State's Darrion Caldwell in the NCAA finals. You can imagine how much anger he brought with him into the 2010 season and it was on display from the start as once again went undefeated in the regular season. Ohio State, in Lance Palmer, had the nation's 2nd-ranked wrestler at 149, but he'd fallen short of beating Metcalf in previous attempts, sometimes losing badly, but that was not to be the case in the Big Ten championships.
Tied 3-3 in the third and final period, Palmer put Metcalf on his back (which is as rare as a solar eclipse) and emerged with an 8-3 victory in what was easily the upset of the year in college wrestling. Metcalf would avenge the defeat in the NCAA finals, but for one night in March, Palmer was king of the world.
4. We're Going Streaking
When the Buckeyes vanquished the Wolverines in the season finale, they pushed forward quite a few noteworthy streaks. For starters, the team picked up their 7th-straight win against Michigan, moving Tressel to 9-1 against the heathens from the north. The win also captured a share of OSU's sixth-consecutive Big Ten title, matching their own conference mark set from 1972-1977 and later earned OSU a berth in their sixth-straight BCS bowl, something unmatched in modern football.
What's truly amazing about those accomplishments is that things have been so good under Tressel -- the last two wins over Michigan in Columbus have been the most lopsided since 1968 -- that it's easy for us, as fans, to take these kind of things for granted. But if you think back to how life was under Cooper or even Bruce, you quickly realize just how extraordinary these feats are.
For you, Mr. Tressel, and your fine work over the course of the last decade, we salute you at the #4 spot in our countdown. With some hard work and a little bit of luck, seven-straight is not out of reach next year.
They've been handing out the Naismith Award to the top college basketball player in the land for 41 years, but no Buckeye had ever won the award. Until last season.
Evan Marcel Turner, or as we affectionately call him, "The Villain", got things started the right way by recording the first triple double by a Big Ten player -- and first by a Buckeye since Dennis Hopson in the 80s -- by destroying Alcorn State in the season opener. He would repeat the feat two weeks later against Lipscomb and suddenly he had moved from being a pre-season second team All-American pick to a player who might just be the best in the nation.
Despite suffering a scary back injury, Turner returned to lead the Buckeyes in scoring, rebounds and assists, running the point for Thad Matta's squad. At the conclusion of the regular season, he had led the Buckeyes to a share of the Big Ten crown and shattered Glenn Robinson's record for most Big Ten Player of the Week awards when he captured his final honor of the season prior to the Big Ten Tournament.
In the conference tourney, it was more of the same as Turner led OSU to a championship and a two seed in the NCAA tournament. Though he and his mates were eventually bounced from the NCAA tourney by Tennessee in the Sweet Sixteen, he would go on to capture every major postseason award -- including the coveted Naismith -- and would later be selected by the Philadelphia 76ers with the 2nd overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft. Truly a magical season for the kid from the west side of Chicago.
Don't cry for Thad Matta over Turner's early departure, though. He inked the winner of the prep Naismith award, Jared Sullinger, as part of his loaded 2010 recruiting class and last time I checked, things were working out on that front.
2. Ducks Hunted
Thanks to a three-game skid in marquee bowl games, not many people were giving the Buckeyes much of a chance against the Oregon Ducks in the Rose Bowl. After all, the Ducks had completely annihilated the same USC team that dropped Ohio State in Columbus and no team seemed to have an answer for the high-octane Duck offense after their opening loss to Boise State. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was on his way to posting the 8th best total offense season in Oregon history and the offense was scoring touchdowns every 9.4 seconds (slight exaggeration, but you get the picture).
It's a good thing the Buckeyes didn't buy into that. Showing up and playing their most complete game of the season, Ohio State dominated Oregon, holding the ball (and keeping Oregon's potent offense off the field) for a staggering 41:37. From a defensive standpoint, the performance was so dominating that members of the Oregon press later floated the idea that the Buckeyes had stolen the Ducks' offensive signals. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor took a step forward in his evolution, finishing with a (then) career-high 266 yards passing to go along with two touchdowns and 72 yards on the ground.
The win was Tressel's first in the Granddaddy of Them All, and Ohio State's first since beating Arizona State in 1997. So important was the win and so high was the optimism heading into 2010, that Pryor and his teammates entered the season ranked #2 behind only defending national champion Alabama. Most importantly, the game served as a huge helping of comfort food for Buckeye fans. Their team could still play with and beat elite teams when the chips were on the table.
1. The Shot
No words here, just roll tape:
HONORABLE MENTION: Bob Todd goes out in style after a stellar career as OSU's baseball coach; The Women's field hockey team made the NCAA Final Four; Pryor's 16-straight completions against Ohio.
Did we miss anything?