2008 was an interesting year for the Buckeyes. Coming off of two straight national championship appearances, the Scarlet and Gray began the season with an eye on a third. Ranked No. 2 in the country with a Heisman trophy candidate in Beanie Wells and incoming freshman phenom, Terrelle Pryor, the group felt they could make some noise.
Of course, exactly how much noise rested entirely on the third game of the season; a monster matchup against USC in the coliseum.
The Buckeyes’ opened up with Youngstown State. As expected it was a tea party with the Buckeyes racking up 43 points to the Penguins’ zero. The final score looked like a romp, but to Buckeye Nation it felt a lot more like a loss. That’s because Wells went down with an injury in the third quarter, and had to be helped off the field. Suddenly that matchup in the coliseum looked a lot more daunting.
In game two against the Ohio University Bobcats, the Buckeyes came out flat, ultimately having to rely on 14 points in the fourth quarter (including a Ray Small punt return) to eek out a win 26-14.
The Buckeyes then traveled out to LA to take on the Trojans. Without their star RB, they looked lost. The QB combo of Todd Boeckman and Pryor was only able to muster a FG as the fighting Carrolls put a hurting on the Scarlet and Gray 35-3.
The following week, Tressel pulled the rip-cord on Boeckman and started Pryor. The debut was an impressive one as TP went 10-16 for 139 yards and 4 TDs. In week five, Wells returned from injury to help power the Buckeyes past Minnesota 34-21. The duo of Wells and Pryor rushed for 203 yards and 2 TDs.
The Buckeyes were starting to find their groove. With a little bit of momentum, they headed to Madison to take on the #18 Badgers.
Setting the Stage
The game would be the Bucks' second night affair on the road. Pryor and company got off to a great start, taking the ball 71 yards on their first drive for a TD. The score would be the only points of the quarter.
Moving into the second, the Badgers put together an impressive 91 yard drive for a TD, tying the game at 7-7. To end the half, Wisconsin would tack on a FG to go into the locker room up 10-7.
On the Buckeyes first possession of the second half, Wells would take the first hand-off from scrimmage and rumble 54 yards all the way to the Wisconsin 26. The Scarlet and Gray got the ball all the way to the Badger 3, but were unable to punch it in, settling for a FG to tie the game at 10-10.
Heading into the fourth, the Buckeyes would take advantage of their first possession, knocking through a 34 yard FG to go up 13-10. The Badgers would answer immediately via a P.J. Hill 2 yard TD rush to regain the lead at 17-13.
With 6:31 left on the clock and down 4, the freshman Pryor was charged with moving the Buckeyes 80 yards for a score.
On third and six, Pryor completed a 19 yard pass to WR Brian Hartline, but then fumbled the ball on the very next play. Pryor was able to recover the pigskin, but the Buckeyes weren’t done coughing it up as Hartline hauled in a 27 yard reception on the next play only to lose the handle.
Once again the Buckeyes were able to recover, but the dropsies forced Tressel to keep it in the dependable hands of Wells, going to him on the next two plays for a total gain of 11 yards. Two plays later, Pryor hit Small for a gain of 13 to get down to the Wisconsin 15. Three plays after that the Buckeyes had a second and eight with 1:13 left on the clock. Then this happened.
The Turning Point: Pryor Keeps It
Pryor caught the Badgers off-guard, quick snapping the ball and running the option to his left tailed by Wells. No. 2 slightly turned his shoulders suggesting a pitch, then kept it and knifed upfield largely untouched until he crossed the goal-line.
The score and extra point put the Buckeyes up 20-17 with 1:08 on the clock. On the very next Wisconsin play, Malcolm Jenkins picked off an Allan Evridge pass to seal the win.
The 2008 Buckeyes went on to win five of their last six games including a 42-7 victory over TTUN (the most lopsided win in 40 years). The 10-2 finish was enough for a B1G championship and BCS berth against No. 3 Texas. The Scarlet and Gray put up a fight, but would ultimately lose 24-21.
The defeat would be the third BCS loss in 3 years, but the future looked bright in Columbus.
Just one year later, fans would see a very different end to their season.
Until next week, Turning Points...out.