1995’s pre-season was an exciting time to be a Buckeye. During the previous three years, John Cooper’s Scarlet and Gray squads had compiled a 17-5-2 record, (good enough for best in the conference) and the ’95 team was looking to build on that success.
They would attempt to do so with 32 returning lettermen including QB Bobby Hoying, RB, Eddie George, OT Orlando Pace, NG, Luke Fickell, DE, Mike Vrabel and CB, Shawn Springs.
Despite returning a bevy of talent, one look at the schedule proved the season wouldn’t be a cake-walk. The slate boasted a four game non-conference schedule including Lou Holtz’s Notre Dame squad followed by back-to-back away games against Penn State and Wisconsin to open up conference play.
The Buckeyes came out swinging, dispatching Boston College 38-6 in the Kickoff Classic.
The win would set up a clash between #10 Ohio State and #18 Washington in the Buckeye home-opener. Once again the Scarlet and Gray would rise to the challenge, beating the Huskies 30-20.
The following week, the squad would put on an aerial assault for the ages with three different QBs tossing seven total TDs. Hoying equaled his own single-game record with five, while backups Stanley Jackson and Tom Hoying were each able to tack on a score of their own. The impressive performance resulted in a 54-14 win and set up a much anticipated meeting with the Fighting Irish in Columbus.
Setting the Stage
For the first time in 60 years, the gold-domers were making their way back to the ‘Shoe. The scene was raucous, as over 95k fans packed into Ohio Stadium to witness the contest (the largest Ohio Stadium crowd in history at the time).
After trading possessions early, the Buckeyes moved the ball all the way to the Irish 3 before being stopped on third down. Instead of gunning for the easy points, Cooper decided to go for it and the Scarlet and Gray were stone-walled, forced to give the ball back on downs.
The chance would be one of the Buckeyes’ only opportunities in the first quarter, and while OSU searched for their bearings, Notre Dame built up a 10-0 lead.
As the half wore on, the Scarlet and Gray were able to narrow the lead at 10-7 after Hoying hit WR, Terry Glenn for a 10 yard TD.
ND would answer with seven of their own, but OSU was quick to counter after a 12 play, 76-yard march ended with a Hoying to Dimitrious Stanley score to make it 17-14 at half.
The Irish received the ball to start the third quarter and drove all the way to the Buckeye 2 before a big hit by Vrabel on third and goal forced them to settle for three.
At 20-14, the Buckeyes needed an answer. Unfortunately their next series resulted in a three and out, but that’s when lady luck decided to pay the Buckeyes a visit.
You know where we’re headed…
The Turning Point: A Botched Ball Off The Foot of Bartholomew
Forced to punt the ball away, kicker Brent Bartholomew let it fly. The routine pop-up was fumbled by receiver Emmit Mosely and recovered by the Buckeyes at the Irish 19.
Here it is, in all its glory.
Looking to cash-in on the miscue, Hoying connected with TE, Rickey Dudley, who decided to drag the entire ND defense into the endzone with him.
With the score and extra point, the Buckeyes took their first lead at 21-20. They wouldn’t relinquish it for the rest of the game.
In fact, the Scarlet and Gray would put up one of their most impressive halves in recent memory, outscoring the Irish 31-9.
The scores came or were catalyzed by a number of large plays including this 61-yard romp by George:
and this 82 yard TD by Glenn (the second-longest scoring play in OSU history at the time).
When it was all said and done the Buckeyes went on to win 45-26 (the most points ever scored against a Holtz coached Notre Dame team).
Hoying finished the game with 272 passing yards (128 to Glenn), while George ended his day with 207 yards on 32 carries.
The win meant this team was for real. They would go on to prove that for 99% of the rest of the regular season, going 7-0 in their next seven games and working their way up to No. 2 in the country before losing their last game to TTUN in the most Cooperish of Cooper moves ever (TIM BIAKABUTUKA!!!).
At 11-1, the Scarlet and Gray were selected to play in the Citrus Bowl where they lost 20-14 to Tennessee. The two straight defeats put a damper on an otherwise successful season, but it wasn’t all bad news.
The star-studded Buckeyes were able to bag a number of post-season awards including Pace’s Lombardi Award, Glenn’s Biletnikoff and Eddie’s Heisman (just the fifth OSU player to win the award at the time).
Ohhhh Cooper, if only you could have shaken that Michigan curse.
Until next week, Turning Points…out.