Hello and welcome back to another edition of the Stumbler. This weekly column scours Ebay for “For Sale” items that hold a special place in Buckeye lore.
So, without further adieu, I give you:
The Item: A 2006 Fiesta Bowl Program
With Manti Te’o apparently on the mind of the nation these days, I thought it appropriate to bring up another Irish shaming: the 2006 Fiesta Bowl.
Featured on the cover of this Ebay gem are unanimous first team All-American A.J. Hawk and the guy whose sister he was dating, Brady Quinn.
The matchup was billed as one of the best bowl games on the schedule, pitting #6 Notre Dame against #4 Ohio State.
Led by junior Troy Smith, the Buckeyes came into the game at 10-2 with two close losses to #18 Penn State and eventual national champion, #2 Texas.
The year was Smith’s coming out party. The dual-threat QB leveraged the 2005 season as a springboard for his 2006 Heisman campaign, amassing 2,282 yards, 16 TDs and 4 INTs through the air with 611 yards and 11 TDs on the ground.
Beyond Smith, the Buckeyes were stacked with talent, including five first-round draft picks in LB Hawk, DB Donte Whitner, LB Bobby Carpenter, WR Santonio Holmes and C Nick Mangold.
Notre Dame entered the game at 9-2 with losses to unranked Michigan State and #1 USC.
Riding the arm of QB Quinn (3,919 yards, 32 TDs and 7 INTs, his best statistical collegiate season), the Fighting Irish began the 2005 campaign with back-to-back wins against #25 Pitt and #3 Michigan, catapulting them from unranked to #12 in the country.
Much like OSU, Notre Dame’s two losses came relatively early and were incredibly close. Entering the Fiesta Bowl, the Buckeyes and Irish were riding six and five game win streaks, respectively. Needless to say, both teams felt they could play with any team in the country.
That brings us to:
The Clips: A Long Day in the Desert for Charlie Weis
The game began with a bang for the Irish, as the wily Weises received the ball and took it 72 yards in only six plays for a score. The quick start startled Buckeye Nation, but history would promptly forget about this early dominance, as it was Notre Dame’s only lead on the day.
Smith and company weren’t fazed by the offensive explosion, primed and ready to showcase some fireworks of their own.
Receiving the ball at their own 18, the Buckeyes used five plays to move the ball to their own 38 before this happened:
Teddy Ginn did what Teddy Ginn did best and made Notre Dame’s secondary look foolish. It was early, but the amount of separation between Ginn and any other defending human gave all of Buckeye Nation a much needed boost of confidence. The secret was out: no one wearing a gold helmet could stop number seven. This was never more evident than on the Buckeye’s next scoring possession to start the second quarter.
Despite Musburger’s trademarked way-too-early TD call, Ginn took an option pitch, found the corner and cranked it to 11 on his way to paydirt.
Following the score, the Buckeye D promptly forced a three and out, giving the ball back to Troy and the gang, who drove all the way to the Irish 15 before fumbling. The OSU D held again, forcing an Irish punt that pinned the Scarlet and Gray on their own two-yard line.
Three straight rushes got the ball to the Buckeye 15. Then another OSU WR got loose.
Scoring saw a lull to finish the half, and the Buckeyes entered the locker room up 21-7.
The Irish scored in the middle of the third but missed the extra point to make it 21-13. On the Buckeyes next possession, they answered with a 40-yard Josh Huston FG go to up 24-13.
Another Huston FG to start the fourth made it 24-13, and the Buckeyes looked like they were rolling. But, a five-minute 80-yard drive orchestrated by Quinn resulted in a three-yard Darius Walker TD to bring the Irish closer at 27-20.
Not to be denied their third Fiesta Bowl win in four years, the Buckeyes put together their own TD drive capped off by this Antonio Pittman 60-yard scamper.
The score put the game on ice, 34-20, catalyzed the slow demise of Charlie Weis and paved the way for a preseason #1 ranking for the 2006 squad.
Not bad for a day’s work in the desert.
Thanks for stumbling in. Let’s do this again sometime.