Earle Bruce's seventh Ohio State team had excellent depth at linebacker and skill positions but inexperience roamed in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
Pepper Johnson, Larry Kolic, Byron Lee and Chris Spielman made up the strong linebacking corps. On offense, Keith Byars, Cris Carter and Mike Lanese set out to make the life easier for junior quarterback Jim Karsatos.
Byars Broken Bone
Just 12 days before the start of the season, Byars broke a bone in his right foot during a non-contact practice drill. The injury sidelined the Heisman Trophy hopeful until Week 6 against Purdue. The loss of Byars that close to the start of the season created a major hurdle for the 1985 team.
|The 1985 Buckeyes|
|B1G Record||5–3, 4th|
|Coach||Earle Bruce (7th year, 65–19)|
Keith Byars, Thomas Johnson,
Games of Note
September 14th • Pittsburgh • Ohio Stadium
Ohio Stadium's first-ever night game doubled as the 1985 season opener, a historic matchup for Ohio State and Pittsburgh. The 8:09 kickoff featured 59-degree weather under clear skies.
The Buckeye offensive line struggled to make holes for the team's running game and Pittsburgh used a steady stream of blitzes to hold the Buckeyes to 48 rushing yards. Despite the struggles, Ohio State still led 3-0 at the half.
The Panthers missed two field goals in the third quarter. Both of the attempts were from 31 yards out and proved critical to the outcome of the game.
Pittsburgh scored the game's first touchdown with 13:36 remaining to take a 7-3 lead. The 88,518 in the stadium remained less than confident if the struggling offense could overcome the four-point deficit.
At the 9:16 mark, the Buckeyes had the ball on their own 36-yard line after a Panthers punt. Karsatos directed the team inside the 10 in eight plays before Bruce dialed up three straight runs. Ohio State then faced 4th-and-goal from the 1 yard-line. Needing four points and time running short, Bruce made the decision to go for the touchdown. Karsatos faked left, then moved right and found Carter in the right side of the end zone for the game-winning score.
William White sealed the victory when he snatched John Congemi's pass away from Chuck Scales, an interception Bruce called "The play of the game." The Buckeyes won the first night game in Ohio Stadium 10-7.
September 21st • Colorado • Folsom Field
The ineffectiveness of Ohio State's offensive line stole headlines ahead of the No. 7 Buckeyes' first trip to Boulder. The 38 rushing yards against Pittsburgh was a statistic fans were not used to seeing.
Against the Buffaloes, however, the line's play noticeably improved. The offense gained 162 rushing yards and junior John Wooldridge racked up 119 yards by himself to go with a touchdown. Karsatos completed 18-of-26 passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns. However, the Ohio State defense stole the show.
Two interceptions and two fumble recoveries led to four different scores for Ohio State. Greg Rogan and White each came down with a pick, while Sonny Gordon and Lee recovered the fumbles. The Buckeyes held Bill McCartney's wishbone offense to 251 total yards and 13 points. After Colorado scored the game's first touchdown, Ohio State put up 36 straight points in the victory.
Following the game, Bruce gave credit to his assistant coaches and staff for the win. Bruce missed many practices due to the death of his father, Earle Bruce Sr.
"I haven't been thinking too much of this game," Bruce admitted.
Next Ohio State battled Washington State. The Buckeyes racked up 497 total yards and 48 points in the victory, with the bulk of the scoring coming in the second quarter. Wooldridge broke the century mark for the second straight game and finished with 103 yards and a touchdown.
Ohio State then visited Illinois for its conference opener and the Illini took a quick 14-0 lead. Ohio State responded with 28 points but Jack Trudeau and Illinois tied the game and eventually won with a 38-yard field goal as time expired.
|SEP. 14||PITTSBURGH||OHIO STADIUM||W, 10–7|
|SEP. 21||COLORADO||FOLSOM FIELD||W, 36–13|
|SEP. 28||WASHINGTON ST.||OHIO STADIUM||W, 48–32|
|OCT. 5||ILLINOIS||MEMORIAL STADIUM||L, 28–31|
|OCT. 12||INDIANA||OHIO STADIUM||W, 48–7|
|OCT. 19||PURDUE||OHIO STADIUM||W, 41–27|
|OCT. 26||NO. 20 MINN.||METRODOME||W, 23–19|
|NOV. 2||NO. 1 IOWA||OHIO STADIUM||W, 22–13|
|NOV. 9||NORTHWESTERN||DYCHE STADIUM||W, 35–17|
|NOV. 16||WISCONSIN||OHIO STADIUM||L, 7–12|
|NOV. 23||NO. 6 MICHIGAN||MICHIGAN STADIUM||L, 17–27|
|DEC. 28||NO. 9 BYU||CITRUS BOWL||W, 10–7|
October 26th • #20 Minnesota • Metrodome
The week before the Minnesota game, Byars returned to action against Purdue. He rushed for 106 yards and two fourth quarter touchdowns to help Ohio State secure a 41-27 win. The Boilermakers' Jim Everett completed 35-of-55 passes for 497 yards and two touchdowns to go with two interceptions. At the time, it was the second-best passing game in Purdue history.
For the second consecutive season, No. 9 Ohio State visited Lou Holtz and the Golden Gophers in the Metrodome. Minnesota (5–1) kicked two field goals to lead 6-0 early in the second quarter.
Trailing early, the Buckeyes found themselves in a familiar position and bounced back. Byars scored from two yards out to put Ohio State up 7-6. Rich Spangler then extended the lead with a 38-yard field goal.
The advantage didn't last as Minnesota's quarterback, Rickey Foggie, scored on a 7-yard run with five seconds remaining in the half. Minnesota missed the point after attempt but still led the Buckeyes 12-10 at the half.
Another Foggie touchdown run put the Gophers up 19-10 and the Metrodome crowd of 64,455 tasted an upset. Karsatos responded and directed Ohio State's offense on a 90-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Ed Taggart. During the drive, Byars suffered and injury and did not return.
The defense then helped the cause when White intercepted Foggie. Ohio State took over on its own 47 but had to operate without Byars and Wooldridge. Freshman Vince Workman came through with a 16-yard touchdown run to put the Buckeyes ahead 23-19 with 10:36 left.
Down four, Minnesota faced 4th-and-1 from the Ohio State 12 with under a minute left in the game. Foggie went down with an injury one play earlier, leaving Holtz to rely on Alan Holt to run the game's most critical play.
Before the ball was snapped, Ohio State's Terry White told his teammates "This is our season! This is our season! If we can't stop them now, what good is it for us to be out here?"
Holt handed off to Valdez Baylor, but Johnson and Spielman met him at the line for a critical stop. The Buckeyes ran out the last 48 seconds and won 23-19.
November 2nd • #1 Iowa • Ohio Stadium
No. 8 Ohio State hosted No. 1 Iowa on a nationally televised game that had Big Ten title implications. The Buckeyes owned the nation's longest home winning streak but were without Byars due to his re-injured right foot.
The Hawkeyes broke their 16-game losing streak to Ohio State in 1983. This time, Hayden Fry's team looked to break its 11-game losing streak in Ohio Stadium. For those keeping track, 1961 was the last time Iowa won in Columbus.
Bruce gave Workman the nod as the starting tailback with Byars out and Wooldridge nursing sore ribs. The freshman came through with 31 yards and a touchdown, but fullback George Cooper came through on the big stage. The bruising back didn't score but converted his 17 carries into 104 much-needed yards. On a day with heavy rain and wind, rushing yards were at a premium.
Ohio State became the first team in 1985 to score on the Hawkeyes in the opening quarter. On the Buckeyes' first possession, Karsatos directed the team inside Iowa's red zone where Spangler converted a 28-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead. The last play of the first quarter resulted in Gordon blocking Gary Kostrubala's punt through the back of the end zone.
Wooldridge entered the game in the second quarter and made his presence known immediately. He took his first carry of the game 57 yards for a touchdown to put Ohio State up 12-0. Spangler added a field goal and the Buckeyes led 15-0. Chuck Long and Iowa fought back and scored a touchdown late in the quarter to cut the lead to 15-7 at halftime.
Neither team scored in the third quarter, but early in the final period, Workman took a pitchout four yards and into the end zone to extend the lead to 22-7. Iowa scored again, but Ohio State's defense did not allow Long to beat it. The senior quarterback completed half of his passes for 169 yards but threw four costly interceptions.
Spielman had an outstanding game on national television. The Massillon native finished with 19 tackles, two interceptions, and broke up a pass. Johnson also had a magnificent performance with 19 tackles and a tackle for loss. In addition, Spielman made a key stop on 4th-and-1 in the third quarter to ensure the 22-13 victory.
Following the loss Iowa right tackle Mike Haight said: "Their two linebackers were awesome, Chris Spielman and that guy, Pepper (Johnson). It seemed like they had a crystal ball and knew where Chuck was going to pass."
After the poor performance, Long talked about Ohio State's defense.
"They played soft all the way down the field," he said. "I'll probably be sick (about losing) tomorrow, but the sun will come up. It was a long day for us, it really was. We had guys open deep and I just missed them."
The last time an opponent played in Ohio Stadium ranked No. 1 was in 1968 when the Buckeyes defeated Purdue 13-0.
November 23rd • Michigan • Michigan Stadium
Following the inspired victory over No. 1 Iowa, Ohio State moved up to No. 4 and took care of Northwestern 35-17.
Now ranked third, the Buckeyes hosted Wisconsin (4–5) in the final home game of the season. Ohio State lost three fumbles, all recovered by the Badgers' Michael Reid. Wisconsin's game-winning touchdown came after a fumble at the Buckeyes' 22-yard line.
The 12-7 defeat put thoughts of Pasadena in jeopardy. Ohio State needed to beat No. 6 Michigan and hope Iowa lost to Minnesota to go to the Rose Bowl.
Ann Arbor greeted the No. 12 Buckeyes with cool 40-degree weather and 15-20 mph winds.
After the Wolverines kicked a field goal in the first quarter, Ohio State responded with 10 straight points. From there, Michigan took over. The Wolverines scored 17 unanswered and held Ohio State to six plays from scrimmage in the third quarter.
Cris Carter's 36-yard touchdown catch on 4th-and-15 made the score 20-17, but Jim Harbaugh's 77-yard pass to John Kolesar put the game out of reach. Michigan won 27-17 and sent the Buckeyes to Orlando to play BYU in the Citrus Bowl.
Michigan held Byars to just four yards in the second half. The injured All-American finished the game with 12 carries for 35 yards and a touchdown. Karsatos ended the day with 179 yards, a touchdown, an interception and 17 completions.
Bruce reflected on the loss with the media: "We made a lot of mistakes on offense that gave them good field position. Michigan made the big plays when they needed them."
The Wolverines now led the series 45–32–5.
December 28th • #9 BYU • Citrus Bowl
Ohio State rode a two-game losing streak when it faced No. 9 BYU in the Citrus Bowl. On the contrary, the Cougars (11–1) boasted a five-game winning streak and outscored its opponents 195-55 during that stretch.
This is the game Carter made a spectacular one-handed grab. He finished with five catches for 71 yards.
Details of the 1985 Citrus Bowl from the 2015 Ohio State Team Guide:
Three years later and on the opposite coast, the Buckeyes again defeated Brigham Young. But this time the game was in doubt until the final seconds.
Surprisingly, it was the defenses and not the offenses that sparkled.
Ohio State held the high octane Cougars to 349 yards, limiting quarterback Robbie Bosco to 261 yards passing—about half his average. And each time Bosco threatened to bring his team back, the Buckeyes thwarted him with
an interception, four in all.
All four of those interceptions came in the second half. The first two were by Larry Kolic. Kolic, the Buckeyes’ middle guard, picked off his first on the second play of the third quarter and returned it 14 yards for a touchdown and a 10-7 OSU lead. That was the last score by either team.
In the fourth quarter, cornerback William White and safety Terry White each had interceptions in the end zone. The latter came with three seconds left.
Ohio State snapped its four-game bowl losing streak and improved to 2–0 against BYU with the 10-7 victory.
- Keith Byars broke his right foot 12 days before the first game of the season.
- No. 9 Ohio State defeated Pittsburgh 10-7 in the first night game in Ohio Stadium.
- The Buckeyes beat Bill McCartney's Buffaloes 36-13 in Boulder.
- Chris White made a 38-yard field goal as time expired to give Illinois a 31-28 victory.
- Byars scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to secure a 41-27 win over Purdue.
- A key 4th-and-1 stop helped Ohio State defeat Minnesota 23-19 in the Metrodome.
- Pepper Johnson and Chris Spielman combined for 38 tackles to help the Buckeyes defeat No. 1 Iowa 22-13.
- Wisconsin only needed 12 points to knock off No. 3 Ohio State in Ohio Stadium.
- Jim Harbaugh's 77-yard touchdown pass in the final quarter secured a 27-17 victory for the Wolverines. Bruce dropped to 4–3 against Michigan.
- The Buckeyes beat BYU 10-7 in their first-ever trip to Citrus Bowl.
- Ohio State started the season ranked ninth and climbed as high as No. 3 in the polls. However, the Buckeyes finished the season No. 14.
- Pepper Johnson was named an All-American.
- Keith Byars, Pepper Johnson, Byron Lee and Larry Kolic were selected in the NFL Draft.
The 1985 season featured the first night game in Ohio Stadium's 63-year history. However, the lights did not shine bright on Keith Byars. His broken right foot only allowed him to play in four games, in which he tallied 213 yards and four touchdowns on 55 carries.
Byars finished his career with the school record for most rushing yards in a single game (274) and yards in a season (1,764). Only Archie Griffin and Tim Spencer sat ahead of him on Ohio State's career rushing list.
This was also Jim Tressel's third and final year as an assistant coach at Ohio State.