With the long and winding offseason ahead of us (and with the Stumbler retired), it was high time to launch a new weekly column. After weeks of deliberation in an undisclosed location, 11W's finest minds spawned, “Turning Points.”
What is Turning Points? In essence it will be a look back at one game each week and the pivotal moment in which that contest turned its gaze toward the Buckeyes and whispered, “I’m yours.” The perfect turning point is one in which NOTHING is going right for the Scarlet and Gray until a single play serves as the catalyst for a massive change of fortune. However, some turning points are a little less dramatic, requiring a series of plays to turn the tide in the Buckeyes’ favor.
So, now that we’re all up to speed, let’s kick this series off with the 1994 contest against Michigan State.
Setting the Scene
The 1994 Buckeyes were coming off a 10-1-1 season [shakes fist in the direction of Ann Arbor] that saw them grab a share of the B1G title with the Wisconsin Badgers who they played to a tie during the regular season. Unfortunately due to the conference’s tiebreaker rules, Wisconsin was able to go bowling in Pasadena instead of the Bucks.
Even with the outstanding 1993 season, expectations were tempered in Columbus. Graduation and the draft left the team with six spots to fill on defense and seven positions to fill on offense including one very large hole left by No. 1 overall draft pick, Dan “Big Daddy” Wilkinson.
Still, the team returned a solid nucleus including second-year starting QB Bobby Hoying, All-American OT Korey Stringer, WR Joey Galloway, DE Mike Vrabel, Nose Guard Luke Fickell, and LB Greg Bellisari.
The Buckeyes opened their season a disappointing 4-2 with losses to Washington and Illinois – Ohio State's sixth loss to the Illini is seven years.
Included in that list was a junior who went by the name of Eddie George. In 1994 the RB was finally getting his first starts as a Buckeye.
Coming into the contest against Michigan State, George had rushed for 100 yards five consecutive times and tallied a 200+ yard game against the Wildcats of Northwestern.
The Buckeyes would need more than that from Eddie against the Spartans.
Turning Point: Eddie's 76
Coming off of their loss to Illinois, the Buckeyes came out sluggish against Michigan State and found themselves down, 7-3, at the half.
Needing something to go their way, the Scarlet and Gray turned to George, who had helped them out of a similar jam against Northwestern.
Down 9-0 against the Wildcats at intermission, the Buckeyes leaned heavily on #27. He responded to the tune of 206 yards, helping the Scarlet and Gray rack up 17 points in the third quarter to win the game, 17-15.
Two weeks later, Eddie would be the rock this team would lean on once again. Straight out of the locker room he ran with a purpose. On OSU’s third play from scrimmage (a 3rd and 3 at the Buckeye 24) George rolled to the right on a Hoying option, received the pitch and took it 76 yards to pay dirt. George did most of the heavy lifting, but benefited from a huge Juan Porter block at midfield as well.
Chris Spielman, then a Detroit Lion, gave the Buckeyes a pep talk at their East Lansing hotel Friday night before the game and spent Saturday afternoon pacing the sideline at Spartan Stadium.
The score would give the Buckeyes their first lead of the game. The 76-yard scamper would prove to be the longest play from scrimmage in 1994, but more importantly, it served as the turning point in the contest.
Invigorated by the swing in momentum, the Buckeye defense would not give up another point for the remainder of the game.
OSU wasn’t done scoring, however. They would put two more TDs on the board via a Hoying 10-yard scramble and a 35-yard interception return by Bellisari.
George finished the game with 219 yards, making him the only player in Buckeye history at the time with more than 200 yards twice in the same season (the record was later tied by Chris Wells in 2007).
The 219-yard game (1 TD and 7.6 YPC) is still good enough for 11th on the Buckeyes' all-time single game rushing list.
In addition, the win against that other team up north must have inspired the Buckeyes. Five weeks later they went on to vanquish the Wolverines for the first time in John Cooper’s career.
1994: a good year for Michigan thumping.
Until next week, Turning Points...out.