100 Teams in 100 Days: In 2015, a Talented Ohio State Team Tries to Repeat as National Champions

By Matt Gutridge on September 2, 2016 at 11:40 am
The 2015 Ohio State University football team.
Ohio State University Archives

Urban Meyer's fourth Ohio State team was loaded on offense and defense with NFL-ready talent. The belief was the Buckeyes were a lock to play in the College Football Playoff in the 2015 season.

1 day until Ohio State football.

There was one question heading into the season opener at Virginia Tech that Urban Meyer refused to answer. Who would be the starting quarterback for Ohio State?

Would it be J.T. Barrett, who lost his job due to an injury against Michigan? Or, would it be Cardale Jones, the man who led the Buckeyes to victories in the Big Ten Championship game, Sugar Bowl and College Football Playoff National Championship?

The 2015 Buckeyes
Record 12–1
B1G Record 7–1, 1st
Coach Urban Meyer (4th year, 50–4)
Captains Jacoby Boren, Taylor Decker,
Braxton Miller, Joshua Perry,
Tyvis Powell

Games of Note

September 7th • Virginia Tech • Lane Stadium
The answer to that question came at the 13:39 mark of the first quarter against the Hokies when Cardale Jones broke the huddle. The redshirt junior quarterback rushed for six yards on the first snap. Seven plays later, Jones hit Curtis Samuel on a 24-yard touchdown pass for an early 7-0 lead. 

Following a Virginia Tech punt, Ezekiel Elliott ran up the middle for an 80-yard touchdown to push the lead to 14-0 barely eight minutes into the game.

The rout appeared to be on until Jones threw an interception and Elliott muffed a punt. Both plays set up Hokie touchdowns. After the hot start, Ohio State trailed 17-14 at halftime. 

Braxton Miller made his debut at wide receiver in the season-opener in Blacksburg. He scored twice in the 42-24 victory and did so in spectacular fashion.

Miller's first score came on a 54-yard catch on the opening drive of the third quarter. The former quarterback toed the sideline and raced to the end zone. His second score sent SportsCenter into an Ohio State haze for the next week. Miller took a direct snap to the left and made a spin move that left several Hokie defenders grasping at air. Fifty-three yards later, Miller put the Buckeyes up 28-17.

"I really would have preferred that third quarterback be over competing for a quarterback job rather than out there as an athlete," Frank Beamer said. "I thought he was pretty special."

Elliott finished with 122 rushing yards and the 80-yard touchdown as the Buckeyes enacted revenge for their lone loss from the year before.

2015 Schedule
SEP. 12 HAWAI'I W, 38–0
SEP. 19 N. ILLINOIS W, 20–13
SEP. 26 W. MICHIGAN W, 38–12
OCT. 3 INDIANA W, 34–27
OCT. 10 MARYLAND W, 49–28
OCT. 17 PENN STATE W, 38–10
OCT. 24 RUTGERS W, 49–7
NOV. 14 ILLINOIS W, 28-3
NOV. 21 NO. 9 MICH. ST. L, 14-17
NOV. 28 NO. 10 MICHIGAN W, 42–13
JAN. 1 NO. 8 NOTRE DAME W, 44–28
    12–1, 464-196

October 3rd • Indiana • Memorial Stadium
No. 1 Ohio State trailed the host Hoosiers 10-6 at halftime. The Buckeyes played a sloppy game, committing three turnovers and eight penalties. 

With the team struggling, the Buckeyes turned to Elliott after halftime. The star junior responded with three touchdown runs of 55 yards or more in the second half. Elliott's 75-yard run early in the fourth quarter gave Ohio State a comfortable 34-20 lead.

He finished the game with 274 yards rushing and three touchdowns. This marked his 10th straight game of at least 100 yards on the ground.

Indiana quarterback Zander Diamont took the first snap on the ensuing drive after Elliott's 75-yard score 79 yards on a keeper to make things interesting and cut the lead in half. 

With 3:44 on the clock the Hoosiers started the last drive of the game at their own 43-yard line. Seven plays later, Indiana faced 1st-and-goal at Ohio State's 7-yard line. Devine Redding rushed for a one-yard gain on first down. An incomplete pass to Jordan Fuchs followed and Ohio State stopped Diamont for a one-yard gain on third down.

Facing fourth down with nine seconds left, Diamont dropped the snap before throwing towards Ricky Jones for the possible game-tying touchdown. However, Ohio State's Eli Apple was in position and knocked the ball down to secure the win and help the Buckeyes escape. 

"We're turning the ball over at an alarming rate, and that's obviously the difference in the game and sometimes that's going to come back and bite you," Meyer said. "We've got to fix that."

This marked the 21st straight win for Ohio State over Indiana. The last time the Hoosiers won a game in the series came in 1988.

HAWAI'I W1 1–0
INDIANA W21 72–12–5
ILLINOIS W8 68–30–4
MICHIGAN W4 48–58–6

November 21st • #9 Michigan State • Ohio Stadium
On a windy and rainy Senior Night, No. 3 Ohio State hosted the eighth-ranked Spartans. Not only did the Buckeyes have to contend with a formidable foe and inclement weather, but Elliott missed a few days of practice with a serious illness in the days leading up to the game.

The terrible trifecta resulted in Ohio State's worst offensive performance of the season. The Buckeyes ended the game with 132 total yards, six-three-and-outs and only five first downs. 

Elliott had a season-low 33 yards on 12 carries and Barrett only had 46 yards passing and 44 more on the ground.

Despite the difficulties, Meyer's team had a 14-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Spartans tied the game after a 13-play, 75-yard drive that was extended when Joey Bosa jumped offside on 4th-and-8. The 5-yard penalty enabled the Spartans to convert and eventually score. 

The end of the game from The Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Michigan State kicker Michael Geiger might have just ended Ohio State's hopes of repeating as National Champions.

Geiger hit a 41-yard field goal as time expired to lead the Spartans to 17-14 win over the Buckeyes on Saturday in Ohio Stadium.

After he made the game-winning kick, the Ohio native turned and raced down the field waving his arms in a whirlwind manner as if he were playing an air guitar.

Tyler O'Connor started in place of Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, who missed the game with an injured shoulder. The switch at quarterback proved fortuitous as the playing conditions favored a mobile quarterback.

The loss snapped Ohio State's 23-game winning streak and put its championship aspirations in serious danger.

November 28th • #10 Michigan • Michigan Stadium
Ohio State's championship dreams relied on defeating Michigan and Penn State beating Michigan State later that afternoon. The Buckeyes earned victories against the Wolverines in 11 of their last 12 meetings, but the home fans in Michigan Stadium had renewed faith in their team with Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines. Before the game, Meyer elected to move offensive coordinator Ed Warinner to the press box alongside quarterbacks coach Tim Beck. Warinner spent the first 11 games of the season coaching from the sideline.

The moved proved to be the right call.

The 10th-ranked Wolverines were no match for Meyer's group. Ohio State put up 28 points in the second half to embarrass Michigan 42-13 in Ann Arbor. The home team took pride in its fourth ranked rush defense and the Buckeyes gashed it for 369 yards and five touchdowns. 

Elliott ran for 214 yards and two touchdowns and became the second player – after Archie Griffin – in Ohio State history to have multiple seasons of 1,500 yards rushing. He also surpassed Eddie George for No. 2 on the all-time career rushing list. How was Elliott able to have such a big game?

"The biggest thing is they were getting tired and they weren't getting lined up," Elliott said.

The Wolverines also provided their explanation. 

"We couldn't make tackles, especially on No. 15," defensive tackle Chris Wormley said. "A guy like that takes more than one person to tackle him."

Bosa also had a big game as he made an interception and knocked Jake Rudock out of the game on a sack with 12 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. He finished with a sack, forced fumble and an interception.

Meyer's largest margin of victory in the rivalry improved his record against Michigan to 4–0. 

January 1st • #8 Notre Dame • Fiesta Bowl
This was not the venue No. 7 Ohio State's players envisioned playing in at the start of the season. Although disappointed in not getting invited to the College Football Playoff, the Buckeyes used the Fiesta Bowl to show the college football world their dominance. 

The 2016 Fiesta Bowl from CBS Sports:

Ohio State rolled past the Fighting Irish (10-3), quick-hitting its way to one scoring drive after another and 496 total yards.

Elliott, who's leaving school early for the NFL, scored on three short runs first half and left Notre Dame defenders flailing as he raced past them for a 47-yard score to open the second.

J.T. Barrett gave the Buckeyes some balance, throwing for 211 yards and a score with 96 yards rushing in the highest-scoring game against Notre Dame's defense this season.

Ohio State's seniors finished 50-4, tying the FBS record set by Boise State's 2011 class for most wins in a four-year span.


Elliott showed off his speed to open the second half, blurring through a hole for his 47-yard touchdown to match the Fiesta Bowl record set by Arizona State's Woody Green against Missouri in 1972.

Both teams lost their best defensive players early in the game. Notre Dame's Jaylon Smith suffered a serious knee injury in the first quarter. A little later in the stanza, officials ejected Bosa for using the top of his helmet when he ran through Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer.

With Bosa in the game, the Irish could not sustain a drive. Following his ejection, the Buckeyes' defensive line failed to apply the consistent pressure that disrupted Notre Dame's offense.

Even without Bosa, Ohio State showed its superiority in the 44-28 victory. This was the Buckeyes' fourth straight win against the Irish and improved its series record to 4–2.

2015 Recap

  • No 1. Ohio State overcame a 17-14 halftime deficit and outscored Virginia Tech 28-7 in the second half in the opening game of the season. Braxton Miller's spin move for a touchdown was a highlight of the season.
  • The Buckeyes scored in every quarter in an unimpressive 38-0 shutout of Hawai'i. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 101 yards and three touchdowns.
  • Northern Illinois entered halftime tied 10-10 with No. 1 Ohio State. Darron Lee's 41-yard interception return for a touchdown was the difference in the 20-13 victory.
  • Adolphus Washington had a 20-yard pick-six in late in the first half as the Buckeyes defeated Western Michigan 38-12.
  • Ezekiel Elliott recorded three second-half touchdowns as Ohio State overcame a 10-6 halftime deficit to defeat host Indiana 34-27. The Hoosiers' Zander Diamont ran for a 79-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
  • Cardale Jones completed 21-of-28 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns in the 49-28 win over Maryland.
  • Ohio State exploded for 21 points in the second quarter and went on to defeat Penn State 38-10 in a blacked out Ohio Stadium. Ezekiel Elliott (153) and J.T. Barrett (102) both rushed for over 100 yards and combined for three touchdown runs.
  • Michael Thomas had five receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown in the 49-7 win at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights scored with 13 seconds left in the game to the delight of their cannon operators.
  • Illinois rushed 25 times for 20 yards as the visiting Buckeyes won 28-3. Elliott had 181 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
  • On a miserably cold, windy and rainy evening in Columbus, Michigan State's Michael Geiger made a 41-yard field goal as time expired to defeat the Buckeyes 17-14. 
  • The Buckeyes only led 14-10 at halftime in Ann Arbor before putting up 28 second half points to defeat Jim Harbaugh's team 42-13. Elliott and Barrett combined for 353 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. Ohio State is now 11–1 in the last 12 contests against Michigan. 
  • Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 149 yards and three touchdowns as Ohio State defeated No. 8 Notre Dame 44-28 in the Fiesta Bowl. The Irish offense was stonewalled until Joey Bosa was ejected for targeting.
  • Vonn Bell, Joey Bosa, Taylor Decker and Adolphus Washington were named All-Americans. This was Bosa's second honor.
  • Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Eli Apple, Taylor Decker, Darron Lee, Michael Thomas, Vonn Bell, Adolphus Washington, Braxton Miller, Nick Vannett, Cardale Jones and Joshua Perry were selected in the NFL Draft.
  • Ohio State started the season ranked No. 1, fell to 8th, but finished fourth.

Urban Meyer is 50–4 in four seasons at Ohio State. No other coach in the program's history reached 50 wins faster or started with a better winning percentage. The 2015 team did not achieve its goal of winning a national title. Although the team finished a very respectable 12–1 with wins over Michigan and Notre Dame, the season did not meet expectations.  With 12 NFL Draft picks on the roster – including five first round selections – the team was loaded with talent. 

Unfortunately, the season was turned upside down due to a determined opponent, horrible playing conditions and a freak illness. One loss took Ohio State out of playoff contention and dashed the hopes of the Buckeyes winning back-to-back national titles for the first time in program history. 

With so many veteran and talented players leaving, the 2016 Buckeyes are going to have many new faces surrounding J.T. Barrett. Although the team will be young, expect the pups to bite and surprise opponents with their tenacity and talent.

Author's Note

Thank you to the everyone who made this series part of their daily routine. Reading your words and contributions in the comment section always brightened my day. Thank you to Jason, Eric and the other editors who polished my words to make them shine for 100 straight days.

It is with sadness that I will be laying down my pen, but there is gladness as we welcome the 2016 season.

God Bless and Go Bucks,

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