Flashback: Ohio State vs. Wisconsin, 1995

By Joe Beale on November 14, 2012 at 1:30p

The 1995 season was one of high expectations for Ohio State football, and also one filled with great performances. In the end, the team disappointed their fans and themselves, but for much of the season there was no better team in college football. And there was one star on this team of stars who shined brighter than the rest. 

The applause is deserved.George set a new standard for rushing at OSU.

Senior running back Eddie George had rushed for over 1,400 yards the previous season, and senior quarterback Bobby Hoying had passed for over 2,300 yards. The return of both of them fueled a powerful offense that would be augmented by a new short-passing attack under the direction of quarterback coach Walt Harris. Head coach John Cooper believed in a balanced attack, and the new angle would mean fans would see a lot more of George catching the ball out of the backfield.

Some of that was a necessary adjustment, since Ohio State had lost both of their starting wide receivers from the previous season. In particular, big-play threat Joey Galloway had left for the NFL and no one was certain who would play that role in the new offense. However, the coaches were raving about junior Terry Glenn in practice, and fans would soon find out what kind of player he was. Buster Tillman took over at the other receiver spot and former Buckeye hoops stalwart Rickey Dudley turned his attention to football and earned the starting nod at tight end.

The offensive line was anchored by outstanding left tackle Orlando Pace. Three other starters returned, and former center Eric Gohlsten moved from center to right tackle to replace the departed Korey Stringer. Bruising blocker Nicky Sualua returned to open holes for George in OSU's power-I running attack. The offense was loaded and poised to spark the team to great heights.

On defense, the defensive line returned intact with tackle Matt Bonhaus, noseguard Luke Fickell, and ends Matt Finkes and Mike Vrabel. However, the secondary and linebacker corps would need to be reloaded as only two starters returned among the back seven. The lone secondary returnee was cornerback Shawn Springs, an outstanding cover man who was also extremely dangerous as a kick returner.

The defense would need to grow up quickly, as Ohio State faced a difficult early schedule. First they would head to East Rutherford, NJ to face Boston College in the Kickoff Classic, then return home to take on a Washington team that had vanquished them in Seattle the previous season, 25-16. That would be followed by a road trip to Pittsburgh, a home date with Notre Dame, then successive road trips to conference rivals Penn State and Wisconsin. This team was going to have to get moving early or else it could be a long season.

The Kickoff Classic was the official first game of the college football season from 1983 to 2002. Ohio State was the event's second choice after Penn State dropped out. As it turned out, the Buckeyes were a great choice. They rolled over Boston College, 38-6, in a game that they dominated right from the start. Springs returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown and George was named MVP after having a great game both rushing and receiving. 

Twenty days later, OSU welcomed Washington for the home opener, and again the Buckeyes dominated on their way to a 30-20 triumph. George vaulted himself into the Heisman Trophy conversation by rushing for 212 yards and 2 TDs on 36 carries. It was his third 200-yard game as a Buckeye, but it wouldn't be his last. The nationally televised victory moved Ohio State up to #8 in the rankings and another dominating performance in their next game against Pitt (a 54-14 win) moved them up to #7.

The best was yet to come. 15th ranked Notre Dame came to Columbus for the first time since 1935, led by former OSU assistant coach Lou Holtz. They left humbled and defeated, 45-26. After that, the Buckeyes traveled to Penn State and pulled out a dramatic 28-25 victory to go to 5-0 and improve to #4 in the rankings. This would set up a trip to Madison, WI to take on Wisconsin, a team that had ruined Ohio State's unbeaten season only two years before. 

Wisconsin had started the season ranked #21, but they were drilled at home by Colorado in their opener, 43-7, which dropped them from the rankings. They then traveled out to Stanford and forged a tie with the Cardinal, 24-24. They rebounded at home with a 42-0 drubbing of SMU and then they upset Penn State, 17-9, in the conference opener (the week before Ohio State played them). The win moved them back to #21 in the rankings, and they enjoyed a week off while Ohio State traveled to State College.

The visor adds to his swagger.Terry Glenn scores against Wisconsin.

Playing at home for the third game in a row, the Badgers (OSU's fifth ranked opponent in six games) were sure to be tough. Not only that, but they were eager to atone for a 24-3 stomping that the Buckeyes had given them in Columbus the previous season. Their defense held OSU in check early, and they drove the ball well on offense but stalled out and had to settle for 3 field goals to take a 9-7 halftime lead. Unfortunately for them, their luck ran out in the second half.

The 3rd quarter started badly for the Badgers, as Ohio State linebacker Ryan Miller intercepted a pass and returned it to the Badger 5-yard line. OSU scored a couple plays later on a 2-yard pass from Hoying to George and just like that they led, 13-9. Undaunted, Wisconsin took the ball down the field on their next possession and scored on a 14-yard run by tailback Carl McCullough to take a 16-13 lead. The two teams traded possessions and punts after that until the 4th quarter. For OSU, it was looking eerily similar to the 13-13 tie of 1993, but George and the running attack would make the difference this time.

In the first three quarters, OSU's vaunted offense had hardly been stellar. They had fumbled the ball away twice and thrown an interception. They also shanked a punt 7 yards. The Badgers had bottled up the passing attack for the most part and George had yet to break a big run. But now it was crunch time, and OSU would go with their "bread and butter". Taking the ball in good field position, the Buckeyes drove 46 yards on 8 plays for the go-ahead touchdown, with George carrying for 35 yards on the last six plays including the 1-yard TD run.

After forcing a 3-and-out, OSU got the ball again in good field position at their own 46. George carried for 3 yards on first down, and then on second down he busted through the line and raced 51 yards for another touchdown to put Ohio State up 27-16. George had rushed for only 33 yards in the first half, but he finished with 141 yards and 3 TDs on the day. Wisconsin never recovered from those two drives and OSU held on for the win.

They would keep on winning for the rest of the season until losing on the road to Michigan in the finale. Another loss in the Citrus Bowl meant a sad end to a great season. But several Buckeyes would re-write the OSU record books and take home post-season hardware. Hoying would set a new school record for passing yards in a season with 3,269 and for touchdowns with 29. Glenn would set single-game and season school records for receiving yards with 253 (Pitt) and 1,411, respectively, on his way to winning the Fred Biletnikoff Award for best wide receiver in college football. 

Best of all, George would set new single-game and season rushing records with 314 (Illinois) and 1,927, respectively, on his way to winning the coveted Heisman Trophy award. George would be selected in the first round of the NFL draft (14th overall) by the Houston Oilers and go on to have a long and successful career with the Oilers/Titans franchise. Glenn would leave school early for the draft and was selected in the first round (7th overall) by the New England Patriots. Hoying would be selected in the 3rd round by the Philadelphia Eagles. 


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Tanner's picture

I was at this game, sitting in the endzone that Eddie ran toward for the touchdown

Tanner's picture

Gray and cold and rainy that day iirc. Glad they came away with a win.
And allow me to be the 1,000,000th person to say: how in the world did John Cooper not win at least one national title with all the players he had coming through during his time as coach. I mean, when you go back and read old game recaps like this one, he didn't just have NFL players, he had NFL stars. All over the field. 

jthiel09's picture

I was only 10 when this happened but it still sits in my mind like it happened just last year, especially the Illinois game where George set the record with 314 yards ... I was in attendance for that game and what a game it was to witness in person.
Go Bucks!


grcunning's picture

I was at that Illinois game, in the south stands. Mostly I remember it being bitter cold that day.

misterbulbous's picture

was there also.  you're right...it was miserably cold.

cabanaboy925's picture

remember it well...  I had never in my life had a "man-crush", and I've never had one since
Eddie George passed a lot of greats to become my favorite Buckeye of all time.

it's Miller time....

chitown buckeye's picture

Its great to look back on these teams and games! I am just dumbfounded how we never got a Title in the 90's!? Especially from 93-98... so much talent! Damn you Tai Streets and Biakabatuka!!

"I'm having a heart attack!"

Tanner's picture

Ha, didn't see this before I just wrote the same thing.
Boggles the damn mind.

JLBNYC's picture

Yep - just reading this recap brings back the frustration - all of those great players and great wins, and then we end up in the Citrus bowl! 
We could also have that conversation about a couple of Earle's teams: For example, 1984 - Cris Carter, Keith Byars (should have won the heisman), Spielman, Pepper, Kumerow, Lachey (I think the whole O-line went to the NFL), Tomczak;.  We end up 9-3 (again). 

BuckGnome's picture

Yes, the unrealized potential of those '90's teams was maddenning.     Tressel excorcised those demons, and that is a major part of how he endeared himself to the fanbase.
Can't wait to see him with the '02 team when they are honored at halftime of the game against TTUP!

DarthSweaterVest's picture

What really jumped out at me was the OOC schedule, all BCS conference foes, maybe not the elite, but all decent foes, no Mac and no FCS or other cupcakes. 

sir rickithda3rd's picture

cooper was a great recruiter. however, he was not a good coach imo. could you imagine what urbz would do with those skill players? esp in 94 that team had nfl talent everywhere

mark may wins douchebag of the year... again

Earle's picture

Someone had a forum post a couple of weeks back on top ten buckeyes you have seen play.  I didn't contribute because I couldn't narrow it down to ten, but a lot of the names from this flashback were on my not-so-short list:
George, Glenn, and Pace were all included.  That was a really talented team.

Have you tried Not Your Father's Root Beer?  It tastes just like the real thing, but it packs a punch (5.9%ABV).  It's a little sweet for me though.  Two is my limit.

JLBNYC's picture

That jumps out at me anytime I look at some of the past seasons.  I was looking at the yearbook site the other day at my graduating year 1987  (1986 football season) -- non-conference games were Alabama (Kick off classic), Washington, Colorado and Utah. 
I would like to see our schedules consist of games with BCS Conference schools (including one marquee/elite school),  no more than one MAC school, and no more FCS schools.  

This year was a little better (not our fault that Cal was down), but a couple of the past years were truly embarassing.  
I assume that the FBS playoff system will get us back into the right scheduling direction. 

DarthSweaterVest's picture

Yeah, can't wait to see seasons with mutiple good OOC games again.

Savage45's picture

Wisconsin player #48 in the Glenn pic looks headless.

Todd-Not Boeckmann's picture

Ahh 1995.  Despite how it ended, one of my favorite seasons of all time.  The last road trip I ever made with my Dad (PSU); my kids first game (Illinois) and the best of all:
I married into a Notre Dame family.  My in-laws 40th anniversary was the day after the ND game in Ashtabula.  There was a huge party at Elks in 'Bula.  I came down in my grey suite but wearing my Eddie George jersey like a sweater under my suit coat.  My wife threatened to turn back to th dark side if I wore it.  But I got the last laugh.  I had an Ohio State  tie that played Across the Field.  I wore it out that night.

On the wall guarding the North Coast from all Weasel invasions.

BuckeyeBoyer85's picture

I firmly believe that the '95 and '96 Buckeyes were the best collection of talent to come through Columbus since the '68 and '69 versions. It's a shame they couldn't put it all together. I will unfortunately always remember the heartbreaking losses. The NFL talent was exceptional.

Wayne Woodrow Hayes

Tim's picture

Nice flashback, that team really was loaded.  The 1995 team was the first team I was old enough to remember rooting for the entire season, but I had forgotten a few of the names you mentioned.

avail31678's picture

Nice recap and write-up.  I was a junior in high school, didn't follow college ball much, and didn't know that I would soon be a Buckeye.  A former classmate of mine, who went to UM invited me to the Game that year.  I instantly became a Buckeye fan....only to hear the name "Biakabatuka" endlessly over the loud speakers.  Sigh...
After reading this article, they had a SICK amount of talent.  Some of the best ever at OSU in their positions.

JC-28's picture

We easily had the talent to win at least 2 or 3 national titles in the mid 90's. So many great players, so many disappointing losses to TTUN. Eddie is still my all time favorite Buckeye. He was unbelievably dominant in that 95 season. 


We for sure were the best team in the country in 98. The irony there was we beat Michigan but it was Michigan State that cost us the shot at the national title.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

Todd-Not Boeckmann's picture

I used to buy/play Lance Hafner College Football every year and play out the whole season.  the 1996 and 1998 teams were easily the best teams both years. LOL

On the wall guarding the North Coast from all Weasel invasions.