Year in Review: Ohio State's Top Plays of 2019-20

By Dan Hope on March 30, 2020 at 8:35 am
Justin Fields

The past year in Ohio State sports included no shortage of highlight-reel plays that are worth watching again.

As we continue with our Year in Review here at Eleven Warriors, it’s time to take a look back at some of the most impressive and memorable individual plays by the Buckeyes in 2019-20. 

Because football is built for more game-changing plays than most other sports – and we’d have to go back and watch every game across every Ohio State sport to truly rank the best plays across all sports – we’ve chosen to focus primarily on the best football plays from the 2019 season, highlighting 11 of the year’s most spectacular plays from the gridiron below.

First, though, we take a look at a few other plays from the hardwood, ice and mat to highlight some of the best plays of the year for the Ohio State basketball, hockey and wrestling teams.

Highlights Across Ohio State Sports

D.J. Carton throws down one-handed alley-oop vs. Northwestern

D.J. Carton’s Ohio State career didn’t last long, but even though he spent less than one full season with the Buckeyes, he had several highlight-reel plays that showcased why he was such a highly touted recruit out of high school.

The most explosive among them – and perhaps, the most impressive play of the entire Ohio State basketball season – came in his final game as a Buckeye before he left the team. As part of a 17-point performance in a 71-59 win at Northwestern, Carton skied for an alley-oop in which he caught a pass from Duane Washington Jr. above the rim with just one hand and threw it through the cylinder.

E.J. Liddell blocks shot into the crowd vs. Illinois

E.J. Liddell showed off some impressive shot-blocking season in his freshman season for the Ohio State men’s basketball team, especially down the stretch of the year, and perhaps his most impressive came in the Buckeyes’ final home game of the year.

In a standout performance against his home-state school, Liddell blocked a shot attempt by Illinois’ Alan Griffin near the rim so hard that he knocked it all the way out of the court, nearly into the stands.  His teammate Andre Wesson remarked after the game that the block “sounded like a gun went off when he hit it.”

With Liddell set to return to Ohio State next season with three remaining years of eligibility, Buckeye fans will hope to see many more blocks like those in years to come.

Kierstan Bell spinning layup in upset win vs. Louisville

Like Carton, Kierstan Bell opted to enter the transfer portal after just one season at Ohio State, but she too had many highlights in her lone season with the Buckeyes that showed why she was a top recruit out of high school. One of the best came in what was also the Buckeyes’ biggest win of the season on Dec. 5, when they earned a 67-60 upset victory over Louisville, who was ranked as the No. 2 team in women’s college basketball at the time.

With Ohio State clinging to a three-point lead and less than seven minutes to play, Bell leaped up to steal a pass, then drove all the way to the opposite end of the court – spinning her way past a defender along the way – before finishing with a smooth layup.

Tatum Skaggs makes game-winning goal in WCHA championship game

In what can without hyperbole be considered the most significant in Ohio State women’s hockey history, Tatum Skaggs scored the game-winning goal in overtime – in a game that had gone scoreless for nearly 65 minutes – to give the Buckeyes a 1-0 win over Wisconsin in the WCHA Final Faceoff championship game for their first conference title in program history.

The goal, which followed another overtime game-winning goal in the WCHA semifinals against Minnesota, came in impressive fashion. As two defenders closed in on her, Skaggs slid the puck across one defender and was unfazed by the other trying to poke the puck out from behind her as she fired the puck into the right corner of the net for the title-winning shot.

Luke Pletcher takes down Nick Lee to win Big Ten title

While Luke Pletcher dominated the vast majority of his competition en route to a 26-1 record in his senior season at Ohio State, the one wrestler who was able to go toe-to-toe with Pletcher was Penn State’s Nick Lee, who handed Pletcher his only loss of the season in a dual and then took Pletcher to the wire at the Big Ten championships.

With the score tied 4-4 and less than one minute remaining in the rematch, Pletcher took Lee down for two points, which would ultimately be enough for the Buckeyes’ 141-pound senior to hang on for a 6-5 victory and finish his career with a conference title.

Had the NCAA Tournament continued as scheduled, a Pletcher-Lee rubber match would have been a likely final, but Pletcher finished with bragging rights over the Nittany Lion thanks to the takedown above.

Top Football Plays of 2019

11. Dawand Jones leads Master Teague to 73-yard TD vs. Northwestern

On his very first offensive snap as a Buckeye, Dawand Jones showed the massive potential he has to make an impact on Ohio State’s offensive line, particularly as a run blocker.

With Ohio State up 45-3 in the fourth quarter at Northwestern, Jones entered the game at left tackle. Master Teague took a handoff from Chris Chugunov, and Jones – all 6-foot-8 and 360 pounds of him – bulldozed a defensive tackle on an inside block to clear a path, which Teague accelerated through before outrunning the rest of the Wildcats’ defense all the way to the end zone for a 73-yard touchdown.

Teague’s 73-yard run, which put the 225-pound running back’s speed on display, ended up being Ohio State’s longest offensive play of the entire season.

10. Jameson Williams turns on the jets for 61-yard TD vs. Miami

In just the fourth game of his Ohio State career, Jameson Williams showcased the speed that made him one of the top-ranked prospects in the Buckeyes’ recruiting class of 2019.

After catching a pass from Gunnar Hoak on a slant route about 12 yards downfield, Williams turned his sights toward the end zone and ran right past the defensive back in coverage – as well as everyone else on Miami’s defense – for a 61-yard touchdown, which would end up being the longest passing play of the year for the Buckeyes, on just his second collegiate catch.

Williams saw only occasional playing time as a true freshman and finished the year with just six catches, but that play – which came in the fourth quarter of a 76-5 win for Ohio State – showcased his potential as a big-play receiver that will likely lead to a spot in the Buckeyes’ rotation for 2020.

9. Jaelen Gill makes several defenders miss on 32-yard TD vs. Rutgers

Jaelen Gill didn’t play nearly as much as expected in his redshirt freshman season at Ohio State, but in the fourth quarter of a November win against Rutgers – which would ultimately be his final game appearance of the season – he showcased why he still has the potential to emerge as a future impact player for the Buckeyes.

After catching a screen pass from Chugunov, Gill ran past four separate Rutgers defenders – making a couple miss with sharp cuts and another with a spin move – before dragging Scarlet Knights cornerback Tre Avery into the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown, the first touchdown of his Ohio State career.

Gill, who later described that first touchdown as “a big weight lifted off my shoulders,” still has to prove he’s ready to play in big-game situations in order to earn consistent playing time in 2020, but that one play is reason enough to be excited about his potential if he earns a spot in the H-back rotation this year.

8. Justin Fields’ 51-yard touchdown run in debut vs. Florida Atlantic

It didn’t take long for Justin Fields to show just how explosive he could be in his first game as Ohio State’s quarterback.

Less than two minutes into the Buckeyes’ season opener against Florida Atlantic, Fields took off like a rocket from Ohio State’s backfield and put his speed on display as he went untouched to the end zone for a 51-yard touchdown.

Fields only deserves some of the credit for that play, as his offensive line – namely Josh Myers, Wyatt Davis and Thayer Munford – made key blocks to clear the path for Fields. It was an immediate statement from the Buckeyes’ signal-caller, though, that his legs could be a major weapon for Ohio State’s offense.

That ended up being the longest run of the season for Fields, who finished the year with 484 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns, but it would ensure that defenses would take him seriously as a running threat – which helped open up the rest of the offense – all year long.

7. J.K. Dobbins runs for 68-yard TD vs. Clemson

This play, along with all of Ohio State’s other great plays from the Fiesta Bowl, was ultimately overshadowed by how the game ended, but it still belongs right at the top of the highlight reel even in what was a Buckeye career full of highlights for J.K. Dobbins.

Against one of the most athletic defenses in the country, Dobbins ran right past Clemson defensive end Xavier Thomas and exploded through the line of scrimmage, with a big assist from Munford blocking Clemson defensive tackle Tyler Davis out of his path. Dobbins then made Clemson safety K’Von Wallace look foolish in the open field and outran the rest of the Tigers – including Isaiah Simmons, who would go on to run a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine – for a 68-yard touchdown, the longest run of his 2,003-yard season, to give Ohio State an early 10-0 lead.

Dobbins followed that up with a 64-yard run later in the first quarter, and finished his final game as a Buckeye with 221 yards from scrimmage even though he suffered a high ankle sprain late in the first half.

6. Drue Chrisman completes fake punt pass to Luke Farrell vs. Wisconsin

With Ohio State trailing 14-0 and in need of a momentum swing in the second quarter of the Big Ten Championship Game, Ryan Day reached into the bag of tricks and made a gutsy call to attempt a fake punt pass from Ohio State’s own 26-yard line.

Had the play been unsuccessful, Wisconsin would have taken possession in prime position to take a three-score lead. But Ohio State punter Drue Chrisman – who had never thrown a pass in his Buckeye career, but did play quarterback during his freshman year of high school – executed the trick play to perfection, rolling to his right before lobbing a downfield throw to Luke Farrell for a 21-yard gain.

Even though that drive ultimately ended without points, Ryan Day said after the game that he thought that play gave the Buckeyes a needed boost that ultimately led to their 34-21 comeback victory.

“I felt like we needed a spark at that moment,” Day said. “We practiced it during the week. Drue actually throws a pretty good ball. Always want to be aggressive. We felt like we had it. We felt like we needed it at that point. Kind of had to get a spark going. And I thought that gave us a little juice there in the first half when we needed it.”

5. Jeff Okudah makes second interception of quarter from his back vs. Nebraska

Just one week after recording the first interception of his career against Miami (Ohio), Jeff Okudah recorded two interceptions in the first quarter at Nebraska, and the second one was particularly memorable.

It might have been more lucky than good, but it was certainly an impressive display of his ball skills and concentration. After getting tangled up with Nebraska receiver JD Spielman and falling to the ground, Okudah ended up being in perfect position after Nebraska’s Wan’Dale Robinson tipped up an overthrown pass from Adrian Martinez, and he snagged the ball out of the air while lying on his back for an Ohio State takeaway in the red zone.

“I saw it, I tipped it and sometimes you just got to thank the football gods,” Okudah said when asked about that interception after the game.

Ohio State went on to earn a 48-7 win over the Cornhuskers, and Okudah – even though he didn’t have any more interceptions for the rest of the year – went on to be a unanimous All-American in his final season as a Buckeye.

4. Blake Haubeil drills 55-yard field goal before halftime vs. Northwestern

As the final seconds of the first half ticked down with Ohio State at the 38-yard line and already leading 28-3 against Northwestern, Day could have chosen to play it safe, run out the clock and bring the Buckeyes back into the locker room. But having already decided to be aggressive by calling three timeouts with the Wildcats backed up against their own end zone to get the ball back with prime field position, Day instead chose to send out Blake Haubeil to attempt the longest field goal of his Ohio State career.

Haubeil, who had never made a collegiate kick longer than 47 yards before that game, drilled the 55-yard field goal right down the middle of the uprights with room to spare, and Ohio State’s bench erupted in celebration.

“We had to make a decision,” Day said after the game. “And he had made one before (in high school), so we said we’ll give him a shot to make it. And it was good to see the team rally behind him like that. It goes to show you the confidence the team has in him, and also just the chemistry of our team in general. I think it kind of put an exclamation point on the whole half.”

Haubeil’s 55-yard field goal is tied for the second-longest field goal in Ohio State history.

3. Jeremy Ruckert makes one-handed catch in Big Ten Championship Game

Jeremy Ruckert’s potential to be a dangerous weapon in Ohio State’s offense has been hyped ever since he stepped foot on campus two years ago, and with one eye-popping catch in last year’s Big Ten Championship Game, he ensured that hype would continue into 2020.

After getting open in the middle of end zone, Ruckert leaped and extended for a slightly overthrown ball by Fields, plucked it with one hand and secured it with both as he got both feet down for a 16-yard touchdown.

Ruckert had spent time after practice that week working on that specific play, and that extra preparation paid off, enabling him to make Ohio State’s best catch of the year.

That touchdown catch provided the first of 27 unanswered second-half points for the Buckeyes as they came back from a 14-point halftime deficit to win their third straight Big Ten title. That catch would have been near the top of this list regardless of the circumstances of the game, though, because of how skillful and impressive it was.

2. Damon Arnette’s 96-yard interception return TD vs. Indiana

Ohio State scored only one defensive touchdown in 2019, but it was certainly a memorable one.

On the final play of the third quarter of the Buckeyes’ third game of the season against Indiana, Damon Arnette broke in front of a Peyton Ramsey pass at Ohio State’s own 4-yard line and made it all the way to the opposite end zone for a 96-yard interception return – the fourth-longest interception return in Ohio State history – for the first and only touchdown of his collegiate career.

“That’s the biggest play I’ve made in my life,” Arnette said during a press conference the following week.

Arnette’s interception return touchdown was the final dagger of a 51-10 win for the Buckeyes in their first Big Ten game of the season.

1. Justin Fields’ “magical moment” vs. Michigan

Fields had many great throws in his first season at Ohio State, and Garrett Wilson had many great catches in his first season at Ohio State, but none were more spectacular than their touchdown connection in Ann Arbor, which was an easy choice for our top play from the 2019 Ohio State football season.

After suffering a knee injury that took the collective breath away from Ohio State fans everywhere, Fields returned to the game just seven plays later and delivered the defining moment of his first season as a Buckeye. 

Despite being forced to put on a bulkier knee brace after aggravating the MCL injury that he suffered one week earlier against Penn State, Fields looked no worse for wear as he rolled to the left side of the field, set his feet and delivered a perfect strike under pressure to the back left corner of the end zone. On the receiving end, Wilson adeptly turned back to the ball and tapped both feet down in bounds while securing the catch for a 30-yard touchdown.

There are plenty of adjectives we could to describe that play, but Day’s description of the play after the Buckeyes’ 56-27 win was really all we need.

“I thought it was a magical moment. I thought it was a Heisman moment,” Day said. “There was some plays that we designed that played out just the way we thought they would today. That was not one of them. And for him to ad-lib, make a play and then make that throw going to his left, that’s about as good of a throw as I’ve seen in a long time. He put it right in the back of the end zone, and that just goes to show you what’s inside of him. His heart, his character and his competitive toughness is as good as I’ve ever been around.”

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