100 Teams in 100 Days: In 2008, Ohio State Wins a Share of the Big Ten for the Fourth Straight Year and Terrelle Pryor Makes His Debut

By Matt Gutridge on August 26, 2016 at 11:40 am
The 2008 Ohio State University football team.
Ohio State University Archives

Following consecutive losses in the BCS Championship Game, Ohio State struggled to find respect on the national stage.

8 days and counting.

A Week 3 showdown in Los Angeles was circled as a benchmark game both for where the Buckeye program stood and where it headed. 

During the offseason, Jim Tressel locked down a commitment from a talented quarterback from Jeannette, Pennsylvania. After an awkward delay with his decision, Terrelle Pryor eventually elected to take his talents to Columbus.

Pryor's decision to play for the Buckeyes was the first step of what eventually became of him, Tressel and Ohio State football.

The 2008 Buckeyes
Record 10–3
B1G Record 7–1, 1st
Coach Jim Tressel (8th year, 83–19)
Captains Todd Boeckman, Malcolm Jenkins,
James Laurainitis, Brian Robiskie

Games of Note

September 13th • USC • L.A. Memorial Coliseum
Ohio State scored first and should have left the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum immediately. Ohio State played without Beanie Wells, who left the season opener against Youngstown State with an injured foot during the third quarter. With Wells shelved, the Trojans had nothing to fear from Ohio State's offense.

Ohio State did lead 3-0 near the end of the first quarter, but Southern Cal closed the game out on a 35-point run. The Buckeyes had a chance to keep it close in the second, but a touchdown was called back due to a holding call and OSU never threatened again.

“We played against a great team tonight,” Tressel said. “We were never able to take control on offense or defense.”

Tressel's team racked up 177 yards of offense in the first half, but trailed 21-3 at the break. In the second half, Ray Maualuga and the Trojans' defense held the Scarlet and Gray to 30 yards and zero points. With time running out in the first half Maualuga jumped a Brian Hartline route and took the interception 48 yards for his first touchdown.

“I turned around, saw the ball, took it,” Maualuga said. “I was hoping the receiver wouldn't catch me. It looked like I was Marcus Allen, with my Heisman skills and 4.2 speed.”

Mark Sanchez threw for 172 yards and four touchdowns and Joe McKnight ran for 105 yards and averaged 8.8 yards per carry for the Trojans.

For the third time in three years Ohio State lost a big-time nationally hyped game in a big-time embarrassing manner. The only positive was the glimmer of hope a young and inexperienced No. 2 showed at quarterback.

2008 Schedule
SEP. 13 NO. 1 USC L.A. COLISEUM L, 3–35
      10–3, 359–181

October 4th • #18 Wisconsin • Camp Randall Stadium
Night games in Madison are always difficult. The challenge is increased when Camp Randall is the setting for a freshman quarterback making his first career road start. The Badgers entered on an 11-game winning streak at night and had not lost at home since November 2005.

Knowing the situation he put his novice signal caller under, Tressel leaned on a still injured Wells to carry the load. The play of the dynamic duo in the backfield made the difference in this road night game compared to the one three weeks earlier against USC.

Wells finished the game with 22 carries for 168 yards and a touchdown, and Pryor rushed 15 times for only 20 yards. However, 11 of those yards were critical.

Trailing 17-13 with under two minutes to play, Pryor made the play of the game. Ohio State made a late substitution that confused Wisconsin's defense. With the Badgers out of position, Pryor took the snap and ran an option toward the left sideline. The defender stayed with Wells and the freshman quarterback kept the ball and crossed the goal line with 1:08 on the clock.

"Guys really don't know who to key on, me or Terrelle," Wells said. "I like that about our offense, having two guys out there who can really run the ball."

Wisconsin had time to get in position for a game-tying field goal or winning touchdown, but Malcolm Jenkins picked off Allan Evridge and the Buckeyes left Madison with an exciting 20-17 victory.

"At times we did some good things, but he's elusive, he presents a challenge," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said of Pryor. "In the end on the last play we weren't good enough."

OHIO  W6 6–0
USC L6 9–12–1
TROY W1 1–0
WISCONSIN W2 58–18–5
PURDUE W2 41–14–2
ILLINOIS W1 61–30–4
MICHIGAN W5 42–57–6
TEXAS L1 1–2

October 18th • #20 Michigan State • Ohio Stadium
"It's just like high school," said Pryor, after No. 12 Ohio State defeated the 20th-ranked.

Pryor completed 7-of-11 passes for 116 yards and a score and rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown. When the freshman wasn't picking MSU apart, he handed off to the superhuman who wore No. 28. Beanie finished with 31 carries for 149 yards and two touchdowns.

"Pryor played an excellent game and Wells was dominant," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "They came together today and had zero turnovers."

Michigan State only had one play on Ohio State's side of the field in the first half. The 3rd-and-5 on the Buckeyes' 49 was in the second quarter and resulted in an 11-yard sack. Tressel's defense Harrassed MSU all afternoon.

The Buckeyes' forced the Spartans into five turnovers and star linebacker James Laurinaitis had a team-high 11 tackles. Thaddeus Gibson returned a fumble 69 yards for a touchdown 19 seconds into the fourth quarter. The Buckeyes' forced the Spartans into five turnovers and held starter Brian Hoyer to five completions and 27 yards passing. 

The Scarlet and Gray's domination wasn't only on defense, as the team led 28-0 at halftime and went on to a 45-7 victory.

"I didn't expect to get beat like that," Michigan State running back and Dayton native Javon Ringer said.

October 25th • #3 Penn State • Ohio Stadium
Ohio State entered this contest with seven straight wins over Penn State in Ohio Stadium. You had to go all the way back to 1980 to find the last time the Nittany Lions beat the Buckeyes in Columbus. Additionally, Joe Paterno's squad had never defeated Ohio State in The Shoe as a member of the Big Ten. Over those seven games, Penn State scored in single digits six times and 10 points once.

An Ohio Stadium crowd of 105,711 was in for a defensive battle on this 48-degree cloudy night. The teams combined for seven straight punts before Kevin Kelly kicked a 31-yard field goal to give PSU a 3-0 lead with 1:33 left in the half.

Pryor's 33-yard pass to Robiskie served as a key play in getting Aaron Pettrey in a position to boot a 41-yard field goal as time expired. His kick was good and the game was tied 3-3 at the break.

The Buckeyes' first possession of the second half stalled at the Nittany Lions' 19, but Pettrey made another field goal to give Ohio State a 6-3 lead.

The most important drive of the game came after Kelly missed a 45-yard missed field goal. The Buckeyes started on their own 28 and eventually had a 3rd-and-1 at the 50 with a three-point lead.

It appeared Tressel called for Pryor to sneak up the middle, but when the quarterback felt resistance he saw open field to the right of the line. As Pryor bounced outside, Mark Rubin flailed his left hand and knocked the ball loose. Navorro Bowman recovered the ball for the visitors at Ohio State's 38.

Instead of creating a play that could have been a game-changer for Ohio State, it turned out to be the turning point for Penn State.

"I just didn't want to let him get the first down," Rubin said. "I tired to square up and push him back. I'm not going to lie: I just happened to get my hand on the ball and was able to bounce it out."

"I can't explain this," Pryor said after game. "I just didn't hold the ball. I saw the end zone. It was there and the ball just fell out. I thought I was on my way to a touchdown but I just lost the ball. As soon as I fumbled it, I knew they would score."

With momentum and a short field, second-string quarterback Pat Devlin guided PSU inside the 10 and plunged in on 3rd-and-goal from the 1-yard line. The Nittany Lions kicked a field goal on their next possession and led 13-6 with 1:07 remaining in the game. 

With little time left and starting on his own 20, Pryor had his team at the Penn State 43-yard line with 36 seconds left. Needing to gain yards quickly, Pryor threw deep only to be intercepted by Lydell Sargeant. Joe Paterno defeated Ohio State for the first time in Columbus as a member of the Big Ten.  

"I've never faced adversity like this," Pryor said. "When you turn the ball over twice, it's on you. I gave them the ball and put pressure on the defense again. I feel the loss is on me."

November 22nd • Michigan • Ohio Stadium
On a cold, partly cloudy 28-degree late November Saturday, The Game had a new feel. Rich Rodriguez made his debut on the Michigan sidelines and brought his red and green arm bands with him to Columbus. 

Ohio State led 14-0 early in the second quarter after a Wells 59-yard touchdown run and Hartline caught a 53-yard touchdown pass from Pryor. The Wolverines made it 14-7 at halftime when they scored at the 2:51 mark in the second quarter.

The Buckeyes put on a clinic in the second half. When the final whistle blew, Tressel's team finished with 416 total yards to Michigan's 198. More impressive was the 42-7 margin of victory showing on the scoreboard. This was biggest rout since Woody Hayes won 50-14 forty years prior in 1968.

Wells ended the day with 134 yards and a touchdown. The Wolverine killer racked up 412 rushing yards and four touchdowns in three rivalry games. Perhaps more impressive is that he totaled 356 yards and three touchdowns In 2007 and 2008. 

There was another Wolverine killer on the Ohio State sideline as Tressel won his fifth straight against Michigan and improved to 7–1 all-time. 

"As we get older, we'll look back on our career and realize to be a part of the first team to win five times in a row is something that is very special," Laurinaitis said. "To be able to say that you're a part of this team is something that I'll remember for the rest of my life."

January 5th • #5 Texas • Fiesta Bowl
Looking to end the bowl drought and change the national perspective that Ohio State choked on the big stage, the Buckeyes took on No. 5 Texas in the Fiesta Bowl.

Mack Brown's team was talented and Colt McCoy had a few more games under his belt than he did when faced the Buckeyes in 2006.

A recap of the Fiesta Bowl from the 2015 Ohio State Team Guide:

Ohio State scored 15 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, including a Todd Boeckman-to-Terrelle Pryor touchdown pass, but it wasn’t enough to shake off Texas. Quarterback Colt McCoy hit Quan Cosby with a 26-yard scoring pass for the winning score with 16 seconds left.

Texas trailed 6-3 at the half after being held to minus-9 yards rushing and
giving up 140 to the Buckeyes, 96 to junior running back Chris “Beanie” Wells, who missed most of the fourth quarter after he was concussed.

McCoy set records vs. Ohio State with a 41-for-58 showing for 414 yards and two touchdowns. The offensive MVP found Cosby with a 7-yard touchdown pass for a 17-6 lead. Ohio State scored the next 15 points and took a 21-17 lead on Dan Herron’s 15-yard run with 2:05 remaining.

The Longhorns then covered 78 yards in 11 plays. Cosby broke free at the 15-yard line over the middle and had nothing between him and the end zone.

Quarterback Todd Boeckman, a senior who lost his starting spot to Pryor after two games, gave the Buckeyes a lift when they needed it. He completed 5 of 11 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown to Pryor, who lined up at wide receiver.

When Herron scored easily from 15 yards out with 2:05 left in the game, many wondered if it left too much time on the clock for the Longhorns. Unlike the 1998 Rose Bowl, the defense could not keep the talented opposing quarterback from completing the dramatic come-from-behind victory.

This marked the third straight bowl loss for Tressel, moving his postseason record to 4–4. 

2008 Recap

  • Beanie Wells ran for 111 yards and a score in a 43-0 beating of Youngstown State. The powerful back's stats weren't the talk of the town, instead it was the foot injury he suffered in the third quarter. No. 2 Ohio State wasn't the same team without No. 28 on the field.  
  • Ohio University led 7-6 at halftime and owned a 14-6 lead near the end of the third quarter. OSU scored three touchdowns in the final 18 minutes to escape with a 26-14 victory.  
  • Beanie Wells was unable to play against USC and Terrelle Pryor was called on in relief as USC embarrassed Ohio State 35-3 in Los Angeles.
  • Pryor made his first start as a Buckeye in the 28-10 defeat of Troy. The freshman quarterback tossed four touchdown passes and threw for 139 yards.
  • Brian Robiskie caught eight passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns in the 34-21 win over Minnesota. Pryor ran for 97 yards and two touchdowns, completed 8-of-13 passes and caught a 31-yard touchdown pass. He also threw a TD pass.  
  • Madison, Wisconsin was the setting for a dramatic come from behind victory for the 14th-ranked Buckeyes. Pryor rushed in from 11 yards out with only 1:08 on the clock as Ohio State scored 10 points in the fourth quarter for a 20-17 win over the Badgers.
  • Etienne Sabino returned a Malcolm Jenkins blocked punt 20 yards and the defense stifled Purdue in an ugly 16-3 victory.
  • Beanie Wells rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns as the Buckeyes defeated Michigan State 45-7. In 2007 and 2008, Wells combined for 361 yards and three touchdowns versus the Spartans. Ohio State held Michigan State to 52 yards rushing.
  • No. 3 Penn State scored the game's last 10 points. Ohio State led 6-3 when Terrelle Pryor fumbled on 3rd-and-1 early in the fourth quarter. The turnover was the turning point and led to PSU's game-changing touchdown.  
  • Brian Robiskie and Beanie Wells scored twice, and Pryor threw for 197 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-10 defeat of Northwestern in Evanston.
  • On a windy day in Champaign, Ohio State ran past Illinois. Beanie Wells rushed for 143 yards and Pryor added 110 as the 10th-ranked Buckeyes won 30-20. A highlight of the game came when Wells hurdled Illinois safety Donsay Hardeman.
  • Ohio State only led 14-7 at halftime, but 28 points in the second half gave the Buckeyes their largest margin of victory over Michigan since 1968. The 42-7 win was a rude welcoming to Rich Rodriguez in his debut in the rivalry.
  • Boom Herron scored with 2:05 remaining in the Fiesta Bowl to give the Buckeyes a 21-17 lead. That left too much time on the clock as Texas' Colt McCoy hit Quan Cosby for the game-winning 26-yard touchdown pass with 16 seconds left.
  • Malcolm Jenkins and James Laurinaitis earned All-American honors. This marked Laurinaitis' third honor. 
  • Malcolm Jenkins, Beanie Wells, James Laurinaitis, Brian Robiskie, Donald Washington, Brian Hartline and Marcus Freeman were selected in the NFL Draft. 
  • Ohio State started the season ranked No. 2, fell to 14th, but finished ninth.

The 2008 Ohio State football season started off on the wrong foot. Literally. Chris Wells' foot injury in the opening game of the season set the wheels in motion for Terrelle Pryor to take over the reins at quarterback. 

With the team struggling offensively after the first three games, it was obvious that Pryor's running ability was going to be a key asset for the team. With a healthy Wells, coupled with the receiving skills of Brian Hartline and Brian Robiskie the Ohio State offense was able to make big plays with Pryor behind center.

The change at quarterback worked as the Buckeyes won a share of their fourth straight Big Ten title and defeated Michigan for the fifth consecutive year.

Beanie Wells was named team MVP for the second consecutive year and James Laurinaitis was named an All-American for the third time.

Laurinaitis became the eighth Buckeye to be a three-time All-American. 

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