We covered #11-6 last week and are back with the top five Buckeye moments of 2008. We're sure these will spur some disagreement, but hopefully they are all enjoyable for you to relive in one way or another. Be sure to let us know if we missed any.
5. Boeckman Throws a Bullet
True, it was late and insignificant in regards to the outcome of the game, but still, it was one more moment of joy on the field for Todd Boeckman. And it came against the Wolverines.
The senior captain had lost his job a couple of months earlier to the nation's top quarterback recruit and though it must have hurt in a way that few of us could imagine, he was the consummate team player, never once spouting off to the media, instead saying the right thing when inevitably asked how he felt about a freshman taking his job.
Despite several lopsided scores, Boeckman had rarely seen the field since the USC game yet hopes were high that he'd get some action on senior day against Michigan.
With the Buckeyes up 35-7 in the 4th quarter and having just recovered a Boubacar Cissoko fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Boeckman came on to the field to cheers from the Horseshoe partisans. After handing off twice to Mo Wells for minimal gains, the Buckeyes faced a 3rd and 6 from the Michigan 18 yard line.
Boeckman took the snap out of the shotgun, paused for a second and then fired a laser to Brian Hartline up the right seam for an 18 yard score. And good feelings were had by all.
4. Pryor's First Comeback Win
Coming off an ugly home win that had seen the Buckeye offense kept out of the end zone and Purdue pile up nearly 50% more yards than they had -- at home, no less -- Pryor had gone to Tressel and asked to be yanked if the team got off to another slow start against the Badgers the following week in Madison.
Tressel shrugged it off, but for most of the Saturday night matchup at Camp Randall, the offense was sluggish. The team had put together a nice opening drive that resulted in a 33 yard Beanie Wells touchdown scamper, but had only been able to muster two field goals and were hanging on to a precarious three point lead over the Badgers in the 4th quarter.
After PJ Hill scored from two yards out to put the Badgers up 17-13 with a little over six to play, Pryor was getting his first challenge on the road.
After Beanie welcomed him to manhood on the sidelines before the drive, Pryor went 3-3 for 59 yards and the offense found itself facing a 2nd and 8 from the Badger 11 with just over a minute left in the game. Seeing the Wisconsin linebackers confused, Pryor called for a quick snap and kept the ball on an option to the left side, racing into the end zone to put the Buckeyes up.
After a Malcolm Jenkins pick on the very next play, the victory was in the bag. Pryor had taken a partial step into manhood and Mark May had his answer to whether Pryor could deliver in a hostile environment on the road.
3. Jenkins Takes the Thorpe
Malcolm Jenkins is a Buckeye that was always appreciated by the fans, but by returning for his senior season, he may have elevated himself into rarified status amongst Buckeye greats.
While Laurinaitis got a good portion of the ink, astute followers of the team realize that it was Jenkins that was the defensive MVP of the team from his cornerback position. He commanded so much respect that he was rarely challenged and when he was, he was usually there to break up a pass or force an interception.
He notched two blocked punts on the seasons, both paramount to the outcome of the game. The first, against Purdue, proved to be the only Buckeye touchdown on the afternoon as Ohio State pulled through 16-3 in what was otherwise one of the most boring games ever televised. The second, at the end of the 1st quarter of the Illinois game, put the Buckeyes up 9-7 and the team subsequently scored a touchdown off of the free kick turning a close game into a 16-7 lead that the team would never relinquish.
When Jenkins wasn't disrupting opposing passing attacks or blocking punts, he was blitzing from the edge, causing havoc in the backfield. It was a Jenkins blitz, after all, that forced the fumble that led to Thad Gibson's romp and the put-away score in East Lansing.
I'm not sure whether it's because I thought the Thorpe Award was destined to land in Eric Berry's hands, or whether his winning the award made Jenkins only the 2nd Buckeye ever to have done so (despite a strong lineage of cornerbacks), but Jenkins will fondly be remembered with the best of the Buckeye defensive backs. Whatever the case, his name is now etched alongside Winfield, Springs and others.
2. Beanie Hops
2008 may not have gone as Beanie and much of us envisioned it would for him, what with the toe injury suffered in the opener, but when he did return to action, he gave us the gift of hop.
The first one came against the Gophers in his first game back from injury. With the Buckeyes up 13-3 and time running out in the first half, the team had just taken possession of the ball after a gang-tackle-delayed-whistle fumble that sent Minnesota coach Tim Brewster into a minor rage.
After an incomplete pass to Hartline, Beanie took the ball from the Gopher 35, cut right and hurdled defensive back Kyle Theret on his way to a 21 yard gain. The foot appeared fine and a couple of plays later, Pryor found Robo on a fade to make it 20-3 with a little over 30 seconds remaining the half.
Three weeks later, Wells delighted us again with a stiff-arm side-hop combo for six
to put the Buckeyes up 28-0 in East Lansing. But the encore was yet to come.
With the Buckeyes nursing a 23-13 lead in Champaign, Wells took a handoff up the middle and again cut back to the right, breaking through the first level and hurdling Illini defensive back Donsay Hardeman on the way to a 25 yard run. Though he would eventually fumble the ball away inside the Illini 20 a few plays later, a new threshold for airborne excellence had been set for Buckeye running backs.
1. Pryor Committing
The wooing had been fierce for the services of the Jeannette quarterback, believed to be the next coming of Vince Young. The Buckeyes had maintained a solid position, but Michigan hiring Rich Rodrguez threw a wrinkle into things. As did the last minute appeal by Joe Paterno and Penn State.
On signing day, the only Pennsylvania prep to have ever thrown for and rushed for 4,000 yards in high school announced that he would not be making a decision and the fanbases of three major college programs held their breath. The star of the Army All-American Bowl had teased Buckeye fans from the sidelines, but now there were so many what-ifs.
We followed along as Pryor led his basketball team to a state championship and were on the edge of our seats when he said he'd make his official announcement within a week of winning his final game on the hardcourt. Finally, March 19, he signed his name on the line, becoming a Buckeye and ending all suspense.
Pryor had chosen the Buckeyes over Michigan, where he could have played right away, and Penn State which was his father's preferred destination. He had decided to come to a place where he'd likely be facing a first year of mop-up duty and clipboard rocking. Little did he know how quickly he'd be depended on.
After getting his first start against Troy in the fourth game of the season, Pryor went on to lead the Buckeyes to an 8-1 record under his guidance. His only setback, a late fumble against Penn State, was quickly owned up to and added to the list of things he would work to learn from. Along the way, he led the Big Ten in passing efficiency, the first freshman to do so since the late 1970s and when you consider the play of the Ohio State offensive line and the early injury to Wells, he's the primary reason the team is facing down yet another BCS bowl game and a chance to finish in the top five teams in the nation.
You could argue that there were bigger moments, whether on-field or elsewhere, for the Buckeyes in 2008, but when we look back on his career in a few years, the signing of the man Mack Brown believes will lead Tressel to another title has to factor as the top event of this year.
Honorable mention goes out to Beanie's run against LSU and Ray Small's punt return against the Bobcats. The 65 yard run got the Buckeyes off to a quick start and was a beautiful thing to see, but ultimately, what took place in the other 59 minutes of that game work against it. Small's return was amazing, but we'd have to point out the suck that went into it -- meaning that the Buckeyes essentially needed that late score to put away a pretty mediocre Ohio team.