Although a string of 9–3 seasons started to become the norm, expectations remained high for Ohio State in 1983. Earle Bruce had 14 starters back and talented players ready to replace the departed seniors.
Now a junior, quarterback Mike Tomczak had a year under his belt as a starter. His safety nets Tim Spencer and Gary Williams graduated, but John Frank and a young guy named Keith Byars readied to step into the fold.
|The 1983 Buckeyes|
|B1G Record||6–3, 4th|
|Coach||Earle Bruce (5th year, 47–13)|
John Frank, Garcia Lane,
Bill Roberts, Rowland Tatum
Games of Note
September 17th • #2 Oklahoma • Memorial Stadium
Following a 31-6 dismantling of the Oregon Ducks in the season opener, No. 6 Ohio State (1–0) headed to Norman, Oklahoma. Although the players on this team did not participate in the 1977 heartbreaking loss to the Sooners, Bruce did not want a repeat.
Barry Switzer's second-ranked Sooners sported a vaunted running game powered by Marcus Dupree. If the Buckeyes were going to win the game, they needed to shut down the Oklahoma rushing attack. Unrelenting heat, stifling Scarlet and Gray defense and an unfortunate injury helped Ohio State do just that.
The temperature rose to 93 degrees at kickoff on this sunny Saturday. The Astroturf increased the heat and raised the field temperature to a reported 135 degrees.
The high temps could have been a disaster for Frank. Questions about the availability of the talented tight end swirled before kickoff due to Yom Kippur. Frank fasted for two days prior to the game, but decided to play instead of honoring the holiday. His decision benefited the Buckeyes in a big way — he finished with 108 yards on seven receptions and two crucial touchdown catches.
Byars and Kelvin Lindsey combined for 132 yards on the ground. Byars also caught three passes for 75 yards, including a long of 51.
Oklahoma's wishbone attack never got on track. Their star running back, Dupree, had 30 yards when he left in the second quarter with a knee injury. Although the Buckeyes' defense forced him to fumble and kept him bottled up, he said this after the game: "I was one man from breaking a couple of those. I know I was only one man away on that fumble. I think I could have been in there, it might have made a difference."
Ohio State scored first and never looked back. Frank and Tomczak connected for the game's first two touchdowns and the Buckeyes led 14-7 at halftime. Roman Bates ran in from the 2-yard line to put Ohio State up 21-7 halfway through the third quarter. Rich Spangler kicked a field goal in the fourth to seal the Buckeyes' 24-14 victory.
Bruce had high praise for his team: "It was the best game I've seen Ohio State play since I've been coaching them. We've had a couple of big wins over Michigan, but I think as a team, we played better than we ever have, especially early in the season."
Bruce held a different opinion in seven days.
|SEP. 10||OREGON||OHIO STADIUM||W, 31–6|
|SEP. 17||NO. 2 OKLAHOMA||MEMORIAL STADIUM||W, 24–14|
|SEP. 24||NO. 7 IOWA||KINNICK STADIUM||L, 14–20|
|OCT. 1||MINNESOTA||OHIO STADIUM||W, 69–18|
|OCT. 8||PURDUE||OHIO STADIUM||W, 33–22|
|OCT. 15||NO. 19 ILLINOIS||MEMORIAL STADIUM||L, 13–17|
|OCT. 22||MICHIGAN STATE||OHIO STADIUM||W, 21–11|
|OCT. 29||WISCONSIN||OHIO STADIUM||W, 45–27|
|NOV. 5||INDIANA||MEMORIAL STADIUM||W, 56–17|
|NOV. 12||NORTHWESTERN||OHIO STADIUM||W, 55–7|
|NOV. 19||NO. 8 MICHIGAN||MICHIGAN STADIUM||L, 21–24|
|JAN. 2||NO. 15 PITT||FIESTA BOWL||W, 28–23|
September 24th • #7 Iowa • Kinnick Stadium
It is always difficult for a team to get up for its next opponent after defeating highly ranked team like No. 2 Oklahoma on the road. Fortunately for the No. 3 Buckeyes, No. 7 Iowa sat next on the schedule. They had to travel to Iowa City, though, a definite advantage for the Hawkeyes.
The drama from the Big Ten over the past two seasons add more intrigued to this top-10 matchup. Many believed that if the Buckeyes played Iowa in 1981 and 1982, Ohio State would have competed in the Rose Bowl. Stuck listening to the talk, Hawkeye players came ready to put it to bed against the Buckeyes.
The Iowa players also wanted to end their team's 16-game losing streak to the Buckeyes in front of a Kinnick Stadium crowd of 66,175. The Hawkeyes won the toss and drove the ball down to Ohio State's 8-yard line. The drive stalled, but a 25-yard field goal gave the home team a 3-0 lead.
Ohio State moved the ball into Iowa territory on its first drive, but Rich Spangler missed a 41-yard field goal attempt.
The Buckeyes' next possession ended differently. Byars took the first play over left tackle for 46 yards before being stopped at the Iowa 8-yard line. Three plays later, Byars ran left again for the touchdown. He finished the first half with 98 yards, but did not return to the game because of strained knee ligaments. Ohio State led 7-3 at the half.
Without Byars, the Buckeyes went three-and-out on the opening drive of the third quarter. Chuck Long finished off Iowa's ensuing 50-yard drive with a 16-yard scoring strike to Mike Hufford. The Hawkeyes kicked a field goal and ended the quarter with a 13-7 advantage.
Tomczak and the Ohio State offense could not sustain a drive on their next two possessions. On 3rd-and-6 from his own 27, Long made the play of the game. In the face of a blitz, he hit a streaking Dave Moritz for a 73-yard touchdown pass. Ohio State countered with a Tomczak to Vaughn Broadnax touchdown pass, but the comeback ended there. The Buckeyes' nine-game winning streak was over.
"Our guys weren't playing for one game out there today," Iowa coach Hayden Fry said after the game. "They were playing for the last two years, too."
Ohio State got back in the win column the next week with a 69-18 mauling of Minnesota. In Week 5, Garcia Lane became the first Buckeye to return two punts for a touchdown in the same game. His record returns helped Ohio State beat Purdue 33-22.
October 15th • #19 Illinois • Memorial Stadium
Nearly a month after Iowa ended its 16-game losing streak to against the Buckeyes, No. 19 Illinois hoped to end its 15-game skid against Bruce's team.
Now ranked No. 6 in the AP Poll, Ohio State's day started poorly. An Illini defender drilled Tomczak, knocking him out of the game for a snap. He returned for third down, but probably should have stayed on the sideline. David Edwards intercepted Tomczak's next throw and returned it for a touchdown.
Tomczak threw another interception near the end of the first quarter that led to an Illinois field goal. He did not return to the game due to concussion like symptoms and the Buckeyes went to the locker room trailing 10-3.
Illinois received the second half kick, but Kelvin Bell ended the drive when he intercepted Jack Trudeau and returned it to the 30-yard line.
With the offense struggling without Tomczak, Bruce called upon Jim Karsatos. An illegal procedure penalty knocked the offense back up five yards before Karsatos' first snap. When he finally made that snap, though, Karsatos handed to Byars who raced up the middle for a 35-yard score to tie the game at 10.
On Illinois' next possession, Rowland Tatum hit Trudeau for a 15-yard loss. Trudeau fumbled during the play and Henry Brown recovered for the Scarlet and Gray. Six plays later, the Buckeyes had their first lead on a 43-yard field goal.
With Ohio State up 13-10 and under two minutes remaining, Bruce decided to go for it on 4th-and-4 from the Illini 19-yard line. He called for Karsatos to bootleg left, but Illinois stopped the backup quarterback two yards short of the marker.
Given new life, Trudeau took advantage. He drove Illinois 83 yards in 37 seconds to give his team a 17-13 win. Byars finished the day with 168 rushing yards, but the last minute touchdown diminished his efforts.
November 19th • #8 Michigan • Michigan Stadium
Following the Illinois loss, Ohio State defeated Michigan State, Wisconsin, Indiana and Northwestern by a combined score of 177-62. During halftime of the Wisconsin game, Woody Hayes dotted the I in Script Ohio.
Now ranked 10th in the country, the Buckeyes headed to Ann Arbor to play No. 8 Michigan.
The temperature at game time resided in the upper 50s on an unseasonably warm November Saturday. Ohio State won the toss and elected to receive. The Buckeyes could not sustain the drive and had to punt. Michigan proceeded to drive to Ohio State's 8, but had to settle for a 26-yard field goal.
After stopping Ohio State's offense again, the Wolverines countered with a 33-yard touchdown pass just over the fingertips of Shaun Gayle. After one period, Michigan led 10-0.
Early in the second quarter, Tomczak had Ohio State at the Michigan 5. He handed to Byars on first down, but the running back fumbled at the line. The Wolverines recovered, which ended Ohio State's scoring opportunity.
After a three-and-out, Michigan had a poor punt that went 17 yards. Ohio State took advantage of starting at the Wolverines' 26-yard line and quickly scored. Byars made up for the earlier fumble and broke through from the 1. The half ended with the Buckeyes down 10-7.
Ohio State took the lead at the midpoint of the third quarter when Byars took a pitch from Tomczak 18 yards for the go-ahead score. The 14-10 lead didn't hold. Late in the third quarter Michigan intercepted Tomczak at the Buckeyes' 28. The Wolverines scored eight plays later to retake the lead at 17-14.
Ohio State drove into Michigan territory on its ensuing drive. The Buckeyes were on Michigan's 38-yard line when Bruce made a questionable play call, Lachey Right. Details from The Columbus Dispatch:
While quarterback Mike Tomczak didn't take the snap, as planned, and center Joe Dooley put the ball back on the ground, also as planned, offensive guard Jim Lachey apparently couldn't get through the bodies to pick it up, run for the end zone and complete the prescribed chain of events. Consequently, Michigan defensive tackle Mike Hammerstein picked it up instead, and a drive that seemed likely to put OSU ahead was thwarted at the Michigan 38.
Ten plays later the Wolverines extended their lead to 24-14 with less than seven minutes to play. Ohio State scored again, but did not get any closer. The questionable play call and four turnovers contributed to the 24-21 loss.
Byars finished the game with 115 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Those gave him 19 touchdowns on the year and the 114 total points set a new Big Ten record.
January 2nd • #15 Pittsburgh • Fiesta Bowl
No. 14 Ohio State (8–3) faced No. 15 Pittsburgh (8–2–1) for the first time since 1954. The Buckeyes won 12 of their last 14 meetings against the Panthers, but this one came in the Fiesta Bowl.
From the 2015 Ohio State Team Guide:
Ohio State and Pitt combined for 897 yards and scored 30 of their 51 points in the final 15 minutes of play to keep everyone in their seats.
Trailing 23-21 after a 37-yard field goal by Snuffy Everett had given Pitt its first lead with 2:39 to play, Ohio State marched 89 yards for the winning score.
Split end Thad Jemison scored the game winner, hauling in a 39-
yard pass from Mike Tomczak with 39 seconds left on the clock.
Still it wasn’t over. Pitt had one more at bat and quarterback John Congemi marched the Panthers to the Ohio 24 before being injured. He watched helplessly as sub Chris Jelic failed in his two tries to produce the winning score before time ran out.
Keith Byars scored two touchdowns for the Buckeyes, one on a 99-yard kick return. [Thad] Jemison, who tied a Fiesta Bowl record with eight catches, was the game’s MVP.
Ohio State won its first Fiesta Bowl and took a 14–4–1 series lead over Pittsburgh.
- No. 7 Ohio State defeated Oregon 31-6 to take a 6–0 series advantage.
- The Buckeyes traveled to Norman and beat No. 2 Oklahoma 24-14.
- No. 7 Iowa ended its 16-game losing streak to Ohio State with a 20-14 victory in Iowa City.
- Garcia Lane returned two punt returns in the 33-22 win over Purdue.
- Woody Hayes dotted the I at halftime of the Wisconsin game. The Buckeyes won 45-27.
- Ohio State outscored Indiana and Northwestern 101-44.
- Michigan forced four turnovers and a questionable play call by Bruce led to a 24-21 loss. Ohio State fell to 31–44–5 against the Wolverines.
- The Buckeyes defeated Pitt 28-23 to win its first Fiesta Bowl.
- Ohio State started the season ranked seventh and climbed up to No. 3. However, the Buckeyes finished the season No. 9.
- Nobody was named an All-American for the third time in four years.
- William Roberts, John Frank, Rowland Tatum, Shaun Gayle, Joe Dooley, Thad Jemison and Garcia Lane were selected in the NFL Draft.
The 1983 Buckeyes had an impressive Week 2 victory over No. 2 Oklahoma and defeated No. 15 Pittsburgh to win it first Fiesta Bowl. Ohio State finished 9–3 after Iowa and Illinois snapped long losing streaks against it, and Michigan benefited from four turnovers.
This marked the fourth straight season the Buckeyes did not play in the Rose Bowl. The last time Ohio State had a Rose Bowl drought this long came from 1957 to 1968.