Five Great Ohio State Non-Conference Home Games from Seasons Past

By Joe Beale on September 18, 2013 at 1:45p
Jordan Hall gives Miami a lesson in speed.

This week Ohio State welcomes some new visitors to the old Horseshoe. I say new not because the Rattlers of Florida A&M have just started playing football (they produced Ken Riley, after all), but new in the sense that they have never played the Buckeyes before and will be new to the experience of entering one of college footballs most revered arenas. 

Because I have no Florida A&M flashback to offer you this week, I thought I might offer a few thoughts on OSU's best non-conference home games. Or at least the ones I can remember. In recent years the pre-conference schedule has been, shall we say, a bit light. With all due respect to the UABs and Buffalos of the world, I prefer a visit from a big conference team that might be a contender for a conference championship.

Not that we don't still have one of those here every now and then; one that happened only three years ago is profiled below. But starting in the Tressel era, you were more liable to see Youngstown State or Akron on the pre-conference schedule. And sometimes the teams that the schedule-makers thought would be contenders at the time they were scheduled (several years in advance) were somewhat less imposing when they finally made it to town (think Washington 2003 and Cal 2012). 

This list is not definitive; in fact, I'm quite sure that there have been some better games, but I don't like to think about some of them. For example, Oklahoma 1977 or Texas 2005. No, I'm not going to write about losses. The games that are memorable to me are wins over well-known adversaries. These are my favorites. I'd love to hear about some of yours in the comments.

MIAMI 2010

From the moment that Ken Dorsey threw incomplete to end the longest and most exciting BCS Championship game ever, the Miami Hurricanes had nursed an enduring hatred for all things Ohio State. Finally, they would get their chance to repay the debt and humiliate the hated Buckeyes in their own stadium on national television. The players were ready, the fans were poised to claim revenge, the reporters eagerly awaited a good revenge story.

However, the story they actually wrote was quite a different one. It was a story of how the supposedly slow team from the midwest went deep early and often and overwhelmed the visitors with both talent and poise. Terrelle Pryor passed for 233 yards and ran for another 113 to lead the Buckeyes to a 36-24 victory that was not as close as the score indicated. Of course, according to the NCAA, this game never took place. But since we had our first-ever Eat Too Brutus tailgate on that day, I think it will stick in my memory for a while. 


This game is memorable for several reasons. For one, it was the first game I had been able to attend in person since watching the Buckeyes demolish Toledo in 1998. Second, it was the debut for Maurice Clarett at Ohio State, and what a debut it was. Clarett carried 21 times for 175 yards and three touchdowns as OSU crushed the Red Raiders 45-21 in another game that was not as close as the final score indicated. 

Ohio State led the game 38-7 in the fourth quarter before emptying the bench and letting the reserves take over. Meanwhile, current Texas Tech coach and then-quarterback Kliff Kingsbury threw a pair of touchdown passes to Wes Welker to make the game look respectable. As I sat in the newly-remodeled Ohio Stadium on that day, I had no idea that this team, whose offensive line was patchwork and whose secondary seemed suspect, was on its way to an undefeated season and a national championship. Still felt good to win, though.


It had been 60 years since Notre Dame had visited Columbus to play Ohio State in football. The hype for the game was unbelievable, and it seemed nearly impossible for the game to live up to it. Nevertheless, the game was tight and filled with drama in the first half. Both teams moved the ball well, but the Irish got the better of it early, going up 10-0, and ultimately went to the locker room leading 17-14. 

Racing toward immortality.George rushed for over 200 yards against the Irish.

The second half was a different story. After spotting ND another field goal, the Buckeyes jumped on them for three touchdowns in the third quarter, one of them an electrifying 82-yard pass from Bob Hoying to Terry Glenn, to go up 35-20 entering the fourth. Eddie George and the OSU rushing offense controlled the clock from there and the Buckeyes cruised to a 45-26 triumph. 


When the Washington Huskies came to town in 1993, on the return trip of a home-and-home series that began in 1986, it seemed like an opportunity for Ohio State to validate that they had returned to prominence after a period of being mostly irrelevant to the national football conversation. The Buckeyes were on an early-season roll, especially on offense, but this would be the first true test. It was a nationally televised night game, and the atmosphere was electric.

Scripting their first 15 plays (an innovation at that time), the OSU offense moved right down the field on their first possession and scored to go up 7-0. Then, in the second quarter, coach John Cooper went for it on fourth-and-two from the UW 35. Hoying spotted Joey Galloway open on the right side, and Galloway took the ball and scooted all the way to the end zone to put the Buckeyes up 14-3. They cruised from there to secure a 21-12 victory.

LSU 1988

One of Ohio State's greatest comebacks, albeit as part of their worst season in my lifetime, occurred when LSU came to town in 1988. Jeff has already written at length about this game, so I won't spend a lot of time on it. All I will say is that I was still a student at the time, and that I was late to work (at a pizza shop) so that I could stay for the whole game. It was worth getting into a little trouble with the boss to witness OSU's last official victory over an SEC team. 

That's my top five; how's it compare to yours? Tell me what you remember about these games and remind me of others I might have forgotten.


Comments Show All Comments

Bucksnut13's picture

ohio state vs pitt
This was the start of the butt-hurt from mark may. What a great game this was!

It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog

Buckabroad's picture

Awesome game, and don't forget how David Boston ran a punt back 67 yards for a TD in the 4th with only 8 Buckeyes on the field. I truly think the Buckeyes were trying not to score ... and failed.

"The minute we stop expecting greatness, we become Wisconsin."

JimmyJack's picture

Oh yeah, I was at this game just after my 17th birthday, first game I drove to, if I remember right David Boston returned a punt for a touchdown that got called back because we only had 9 guys on the field!
**Snuck ahead of me BuckABroad, ha. At least I'm not just making it up someone else remembers!

Buckabroad's picture

Yup, it really did happen:
Bet Mr. May shutters every time he sees this.

"The minute we stop expecting greatness, we become Wisconsin."

Joe Beale's picture

Don't forget 1985 vs. Pitt, which was the first night home game for the Buckeyes.

Buckeye.383's picture

Love it!

Born, raised, educated, and will die a Buckeye ~ BuckeyeNation

Olentangy's picture

even though it goes against your prerequisites, usc is still the single greatest sporting event i have ever attended. the buildup and narrative of losing 2 NCs + bringing in the arrogant, free flowing golden boys of Left Coast into the Shoe for a night tilt was something that cannot be replicated. the amount of vengeance and revenge on the minds of the 106k+ that night was unimaginable. it really seemed like every single person at that game wanted to run down onto the field and light up the pretty boy freshman matt barkley [or any person who was currently employed at ESPN hurrMarkyMayhurrr] and i'll never forget when the punt snap went through the south endzone. it honestly felt like the stands were swaying and i was riding a wave. obviously, the game did not end on a high note but holy hell i dont think i've ever had an adrenaline rush [or emoutional rollercoaster] like i did that night.

How firm thy friendship

Buckabroad's picture

Thanks for a great list, JOE. I was at the 1988 LSU game and it was incredible. Clearly the highlight of an otherwise disappointing season. I think Washington State in 2002 also merits consideration, since that really was a breakout game for many Buckeyes en route to our NC. Also, while the 1995 ND game certainly was a classic, I kind of liked the 1996 ND game as well. They were talking a lot of pre-game smack before suffering another clear loss (29-15, I think) in their own house.

"The minute we stop expecting greatness, we become Wisconsin."

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

They were talking a lot of pre-game smack

What were they saying?

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Joe Beale's picture

Lou Holtz said, regarding all of the hype OSU was receiving after outscoring their first two opponents 142-7, "Is this a game or a coronation? These guys didn't invent the game of football!"  Of course, coach Holtz was on the staff with Woody back in 1968 when OSU, for all intents and purposes, really did invent the modern game of college football with all of the emphasis on national recruiting and playing guys as soon as they were ready regardless of class.

Goalscorer9's picture

I remember the Washington State game in '02 being a much bigger game than the Texas Tech game.  I think (correct me if I'm wrong on any of this) this Mike Price coached team led by Jason Gesser was number 10 when they visited the shoe, and stuck around the top ten all year.  I remember at one point they peaked at number 3, because I thought it was kind of funny that the number 2 and 3 teams had played earlier in the year.  I think they lost in the rose bowl and ended up around number ten.  So a very good team.

I remember in this game we were losing early, and it was close at half time, and the cougars just couldn't touch Mo C in the second half.  Dude was unstoppable.  And I think I remember after the game that it came out he was playing the whole second half with an injured knee and had to get it scoped after the game.  I think he ran for like 230 and 2 touchdowns.

Buckabroad's picture

You are right. WSU came into that game ranked no. 10 (OSU was no. 6). After that loss they won the rest of their regular season games going into the Apple Bowl ranked no. 3. They lost to WU in triple OT by a FG. As PAC 10 champs they then lost to Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl, finishing out at no. 10 in both polls.
MC got 230 yards rushing, just 9 yards short of Archie's freshman record. Imo one of the greatest OOC games for the Buckeyes.

"The minute we stop expecting greatness, we become Wisconsin."

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

Thanks for giving me a reason to post this:

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

dja.ohio's picture

That play was the loudest I have ever heard the crowd in Ohio Stadium. I was sitting in B deck that day; everyone went insane, and you could feel the stadium shake. 

Chief B1G Dump's picture

Man do I miss Keith Jackson.

Baroclinicity's picture

I was at the 2002 Texas Tech game.  I never paid attention to recruiting then, and even though I had heard Mo C. could be good, I just remember the wave that came over me and how I couldn't wait to watch him the rest of the season.  Also, even though it was mop up time, Tech was the only team to score over 20 pts against us, less the NC game that took OT to get the U over 20.
Miami in 2010... was at that game as well.  I remember more the people in the tailgating lots before the game.  One guy, in a line for the port-o-potty, remarked at how they had waited 7 years for that game (to which I responded they didn't really have a chance to win).  A few others were pulling the LBJ throwing talcum powder in the air routine to rub salt into that wound.  Credit to them... their sections were loud inside the 'Shoe.  I believe they ran two punts or kick offs back for TDs.  Otherwise, they were largely not a threat to win that game.
edit:  I'd also add the 2003 game against NC State.  Wasn't that the Will Allen hit on TA McClendon at the goal line to save it for us?

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Yankeetowner's picture

OSU vs. NC State on September 13, 2003.  Was there with my best friend from my OSU days (1968 was a great year to be a Buckeye), and our wives.  Phillip Rivers put on a show (36 completions of 52 attempts), but we won in triple overtime 44-38.  Craig Krenzel was 26 of 36 in passing.  The first overtime game in the history of Ohio Stadium per ESPN. 


droessl's picture

I was there for the game and was an NC State student at the time. There was ~0.5% of me pulling for NC State when I left Raleigh and by the time I could see the Olentangy, it had completely dissolved.  One hell of a game and it was really cool to hear all the Buckeye fans amazed by Rivers and the NC State fans I talked to had nothing but good things to say about their experience (3 straight QB sneaks aside). 
Far and away the best game I've been to. 

Buckeye06's picture

Texas 05; I know you said no losses, but that was the best game I've ever been to at the Horseshoe, and I've been to many big wins over Michigan and the like.  I've never heard the stadium rock like that, and it was 2 absolute powerhouses in primetime in week 2.  I have that ticket, and the one from the next year in Austin hanging in my office today.  September 10, 2005, Section 19K, Row 14, Seat 26; I saw Vince Young win a national title, and beat the best linebacking corp in the country to do it

EvanstonBuckeye's picture

That was a rare example of a loss that didn't feel like defeat. Young's throw to Sweed was crushing, but perfectly thrown. Great, great game.

Chief B1G Dump's picture

I was sitting right there in the first row where Sweed caught the TD in the north endzone. As the stadium went silent, I could hear everything those guys were saying. I will concur that the Texas game was one of the most rowdy I have seen the Shoe.
I remember Zwick was in...Texas went up 10...then we put in Troy Smith and stormed back to the lead...then unexplicably put Zwick back in.
Even though we lost that game was nuts. I read somewhere a few years later that VY said that the Shoe was the most intimidating stadium he ever played in.

73buckeye's picture

September 1977, Ohio State vs Oklahoma. Woody vs. Barry Switzer. Oklahoma had Billy Sims (one of the best running backs I ever saw). Rod Gerald was the OSU quarterback. Oklahoma went up early 20 to 0, Bucks came back to take the lead, only to lose after an failing to cover an onside kick and a field goal by Okla. Lots of turnovers on both sides. Final 29-28 Oklahoma. There's a couple good videos on u-tube if you're interested.


T4EHill's picture

USC 2009 was amazing! I know it was a loss but I never heard or felt the crowd as electric as it was that night. Normally I'm shouting at people to stand up and scream for our team, but it wasn't a problem that night!

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you." Woody Hayes

CC's picture

I've been to almost every night game at the shoe since the late 90's.  The USC game was different.
I would have to add the UCLA game in 1998 (ish) to the list.  Great atmosphere in the "old shoe".  We still had bleachers in the open end.  Our seats were across from the UCLA fans, when we scored the bleachers were rocking and they looked like they were afraid they were going to fall.
An amazing night, oh to be 21 again.

Stinson's picture

I know they were losses, but Texas in 2005 was an absolutely incredible atmosphere.

And USC in 2009 was by far the loudest I've ever heard Ohio Stadium. 

"The height of human desire is what wins, whether it's on Normandy Beach or in Ohio Stadium." -Wayne Woodrow Hayes

dlb72osu's picture

I do believe 73Buckeye wins the prize. The OSU-OU game was by far the most incredible, exciting and unbelievable game within OSU modern era. OSU did lose on a last second field goal by Uwe Von Schamann but, OMG, what a display it was. Drama by the boatload. How about a fumble by Kenny King that was  kicked by OSU defensive end right into the chest of Elvis Peacock, bounced onto the ground and right back into his arms where he ran it in for a td The entire game was like this. Up 20-0 OU only to have OSU answer with 28 unanswered points.
If you have never heard or read about this game do yourself a favor and google or youtube it. It is quite unbelievable. OSU was ranked 3rd (I think) and OU was ranked 4. Truly puts to shame some of the games of 2000's.

I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.

- Invictus

73buckeye's picture

Here's an up vote for you DLB. I guess we're the only geezers on 11W old enough to remember that game. Too bad the Buckeyes lost, but it was one of the most exciting games I ever saw. 


EvanstonBuckeye's picture

I remember, too. Wasn't there a big two-point conversion play in there somewhere too? Seems like it's kicking around in my collective memory. That was a great, great game.
A few years later, we got payback with Mike Tomczak. Went to Norman and basically handed them their asses. The 24-14 score is deceiving. John Frank, a great Buckeye, steamrolled some guys on his way to a TD.

Joe Beale's picture

I remember the game; I watched most of it on TV. It was a great game from an objective observer's perspective, but I hated it because I was anything but objective. The 1983 victory down in Norman was the sweetest revenge game ever.