1997 was going to be a major rebuilding effort for John Cooper in his 10th season.
The '96 squad was stacked and many of the starters had moved on by way of graduation or the draft.
Fourteen first-stringers needed to be replaced, including Orlando Pace, Dimitrious Stanley, Luke Fickell, Mike Vrabel, Matt Finkes and Shawn Springs.
With that said, a few key pieces returned including QBs Stanley Jackson and Joe Germaine, RB Pepe Pearson, WR David Boston, CB Antoine Winfield and LB Andy Katzenmoyer.
The Buckeyes opened up their season with three straight wins over Wyoming, Bowling Green and Arizona, earning a No. 7 ranking in the process.
Setting the Stage
The fourth game on the slate was expected to be special. OSU would make their first trip to Columbia to play the Missouri Tigers, led by electrifying QB, Corby Jones.
In front of a record home attendance of over 58k, the Buckeyes came out swinging, scoring on their first drive via a Pepe Pearson pitch.
The Tigers would answer with roughly five minutes to go in the first as Jones ran an option keeper into the endzone to knot the score at 7-7.
Powered by the shifty Jones, Missouri would march down the field again, knocking through a go-ahead field goal to end the first quarter 10-7.
That’s where the score would remain, as the two teams traded possessions midway into the second quarter.
The stalemate was certainly favoring the Tigers as the home crowd began to sense an upset. With an X-factor like Jones, it appeared the Buckeyes would be in for a long day.
The defense had just forced an OSU punt, and Missouri was looking to make something happen on their second possession of the half.
Which brings us to…
The Turning Point: RIP Corby Jones
Facing a third and 10 from their own 15, Jones dropped back to pass but was flushed out of the pocket by the Silver Bullets.
Rolling to his left, Jones pulled the ball down and took off for the marker. He crossed the 10, made a man miss at the 20 and looked poised to cross the 25 yard line for a first down.
Then this happened.
Jones was reduced to pink mist on the field as everyone watching checked their teeth to make sure they were intact. What I’m saying is the hit was felt by everyone, ya dig?
While the hit drove Jones back 45 yards, his forward progress left the Tigers one yard short of the first down, forcing them to punt. The hit necessitated a change of possession, but it signaled something much larger than a third down stop.
With the vicious smack Katzenmoyer let his teammates know it was time for the real Buckeyes to take the field. The rest of the squad heard his message and responded in kind.
On OSU's next possession the struggling Stanley Jackson was pulled in favor of Joe Germaine, and the Buckeyes started putting together plays like this:
The aerial assault coupled with a defense that forced six punts and three interceptions on Missouri's next nine possessions resulted in 24 unanswered points and a 31-10 win.
When it was all said and done, the final score didn’t look close, but there’s no question the rally was keyed by Katzenmoyer’s cadaver factory. A true Turning Point indeed.
Until next week, Turning Points…out.