Ohio State entered 1986 with many players hurt or on the mend from injuries. This left Earle Bruce without a set lineup upon the conclusion of spring practice.
Even with the uncertain roster, the Buckeyes' offense had a senior quarterback in Jim Karsatos in addition to a backfield of Vince Workman, John Wooldridge and George Cooper. Add in standout wide receiver Cris Carter and tight end Ed Taggart and the offense was not short on talent.
Chris Spielman, Eric Kumerow and Sonny Gordon anchored the defense. Even with the talent, Bruce and the fans were wary of the injury bug that prevented Keith Byars from playing a full season one year earlier.
|The 1986 Buckeyes|
|B1G Record||7–1, 1st|
|Coach||Earle Bruce (8th year, 75–22)|
|CaptainS||Sonny Gordon, Jim Karsatos|
Games of Note
August 27th • #5 Alabama • Giants Stadium
No. 9 Ohio State lost to No. 5 Alabama in an ugly season opener, 16-10.
The Buckeyes drove inside the Crimson Tide's 30-yard line seven times but left many points off the board due to failed field goals. Freshman Pat O'Morrow missed two attempts and a bad snap foiled prevented a third. In a close game, the misses prevented Ohio State from grabbing a huge win to start the season.
Plenty of other plays led to Ohio State's loss as well. the Buckeyes committed three turnovers, which included Cooper's fumble on the Alabama 10-yard line in the third quarter.
Trailing by six with 55 seconds remaining, Karsatos and the offense had to go 79 yards for a game-winning touchdown. After four plays the Buckeyes advanced to the Alabama 48 with a mere 8 seconds left. On the potential last play of the game, Karsatos dropped back and threw toward Carter and even though the ball fell short, officials whistled Derrick Thomas for interference.
Given a second chance – and now on the 33 – Karsatos dropped back for an untimed down again looked for Carter. This time, the star receiver caught, but he Thomas tackled him at the 18. However, there was a flag on the play and the officials got Thomas yet again for interference.
Given a third chance, Karsatos dropped back and again threw for Carter. The third time proved to be the charm for Alabama as Britton Cooper and Chris Goode knocked down the pass. The Buckeyes lost their first season opener since 1978.
Workman led the team with 38 rushing yards and Carter recorded 65 yards on three receptions. Karsatos finished with 202 passing yards and two interceptions. Spielman tallied a game-high 16 tackles and two tackles for loss.
After the game, Bruce knew who to blame for the loss: "We have to do something about our kicking game. You can't miss field goals and have a bad snap."
On a historical note, this was the earliest season opener in Ohio State's modern history, and it was the first road opener since a 1975 trip to East Lansing. For those wondering, the earliest game of a season was against Ohio Wesleyan on May 3, 1890.
|AUG. 27||NO. 5 ALABAMA||GIANTS||L, 10–16|
|SEP. 13||NO. 17 WASH.||HUSKY STADIUM||L, 7–40|
|SEP. 20||COLORADO||OHIO STADIUM||W, 13–10|
|SEP. 27||UTAH||OHIO STADIUM||W, 64–6|
|OCT. 4||ILLINOIS||OHIO STADIUM||W, 14–0|
|OCT. 11||INDIANA||MEMORIAL STADIUM||W, 24–22|
|OCT. 18||PURDUE||ROSS-ADE||W, 39–11|
|OCT. 25||MINNESOTA||OHIO STADIUM||W, 33–0|
|NOV. 1||NO. 11 IOWA||KINNICK STADIUM||W, 31–10|
|NOV. 8||NORTHWESTERN||OHIO STADIUM||W, 30–9|
|NOV. 15||WISCONSIN||CAMP RANDALL||W, 30–17|
|NOV. 22||NO. 6 MICHIGAN||OHIO STADIUM||L, 24-26|
|JAN. 1||NO. 8 TEXAS A&M||COTTON BOWL||W, 28–12|
September 13th • #17 Washington • Husky Stadium
A total of 61,071 fans filled Husky stadium to watch No. 10 Ohio State take on No. 17 Washington in Week 1. Neither team scored in the first quarter on this rainy Saturday.
The second quarter represented a Husky onslaught. Washington put up 24 points on Ohio State's lauded defense and never looked back. The Buckeyes played a sloppy game as all three of their fumbles led to Washington points. The Huskies also scored off of a blocked Tom Tupa punt during the 40-7 whooping.
To put the 33-point loss and the 0–2 start in perspective, the last time Ohio State started a season with a pair of losses was 1894. For those of you who weren't alive, those losses came against Akron and Wittenberg. That season also doubled as the final time the Scarlet and Gray played its first two games on the road.
The 40-7 loss was Ohio State's largest margin of defeat since Purdue's 41-6 victory in 1967.
Spielman – who finished with 22 tackles – reflected on the loss: "I'm embarrassed about the way we got beat. I've never been beaten like that in my life."
The 1986 season remains the most recent time Ohio State began its season with two losses.
In Week 3, the newly unranked Buckeyes hosted Colorado. The offense struggled again and only put up 13 points. After leading 10-0 at halftime, Ohio State needed a pass interference call and an O'Morrow field goal to win. With 25 seconds left, the kicker split the uprights to give the Buckeyes the 13-10 victory.
William White and Gordon each had an interception, and Spielman had a game-high 19 tackles.
Going back to the last three games of the 1985 season, Ohio State's offense averaged just more than 10 points per game in the last six contests.
November 1st • #11 Iowa • Kinnick Stadium
No. 17 Ohio State (6–2) began to hit its stride when it traveled to Iowa City to take on Hayden Fry and the Hawkeyes. Iowa (6–1) was favored to beat the Buckeyes in front of the 67,640 in Kinnick Stadium.
Kerry Burt intercepted Jim Karsatos early on and sprinted 17 yards to the end zone for a pick-six. With 12:19 remaining in the first quarter, Iowa led 7-0.
With just over 12 minutes left before halftime, Ohio State faced 3rd-and-7 on its own 28 when Iowa brought a blitz. That left man coverage on Carter and Karsatos took advantage. Seventy-two yards later, the Buckeyes tied the game.
Spielman and the defense held the Hawkeyes to a three-and-out which led Gary Kostrubla to shank a 24-yard punt. With great field position, it only took four plays until Cooper ran in from the 9 to give Ohio State a 14-7 lead with 10:46 left until intermission.
After a couple of stalled drives, Iowa's Richard Bass fumbled at his own 31. Greg Rogan grabbed the loose ball and ran 31 yards for a touchdown. The Buckeyes led 21-7 with 5:58 until the half.
In the 31-10 victory, Karsatos finished with 10 completions, 195 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Carter again represented Karsatos' top target and came down with six receptions, 121 yards and a touchdown. To no surprise, Spielman recorded a game-high 18 tackles, 12 of which were solo.
What the partisan fans didn't know was that Ohio State's players came in motivated because of Columbus' media coverage.
"Some of you people expected us to be blown out," Carter said after the game. "Our hometown paper wrote that the score would be 31-14 Iowa winning. That got the guys fired up. We knew it was going to be a dogfight."
Whatever the motivation, the Buckeyes had won seven straight and began moving up the rankings.
November 22nd • #6 Michigan • Ohio Stadium
The No. 7 Buckeyes entered this game with a 7–0 conference record and a guaranteed share of the Big Ten title. A Rose Bowl berth came with a victory against No. 6 Michigan. A win by the Wolverines sent them to Pasadena.
To give Ohio State a little extra motivation, Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh offered a guaranteed victory for the Wolverines.
The Ohio Stadium record crowd of 90,674 was ecstatic when Carter finished the game's opening drive with a 4-yard touchdown catch. On the Buckeyes' second possession, Karsatos audibled to a pitch and Workman ran in from 46 yards to give the Buckeyes a 14-3 first quarter lead.
At halftime Michigan's Jamie Morris had 59 yards rushing, but that number drastically changed in the second half. The Wolverines' received the opening kick of the third quarter and put together an 83-yard, 14-play drive that Morris capped off with a 4-yard touchdown run to make the score 14-13.
Ohio State immediately answered with a Matt Frantz 27-yard field goal and extended the lead to four. The scoring barrage continued and Michigan took its first lead of the game on the very next possession. A 52-yard Morris romp set-up his eight-yard touchdown run. The Wolverines now led 19-17.
Michigan scored on its third straight possession when Wilcher ran in from the 7-yard line and pushed the score to 26-17.
Karsatos' interception on the first play of the ensuing drive left many to believe the game could get out of hand. Michigan took over at the 36, but Ohio State avoided when its defense forced a Wolverine field goal. Darryl Lee blocked the attempt and the score remained 26-17 with 11 minutes left.
Ohio State regained the momentum when Karsatos connected with Carter for his second touchdown of the game. With just over 9:00 on the clock the Scarlet and Gray trailed 26-24.
After the teams exchanged punts Michigan had the ball on Ohio State's 44. Wilcher took a handoff but William White forced him to fumble. Gordon recovered and the Buckeyes had the ball. The rest of the story from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Karsatos, starting at Ohio State's 37, moved the Buckeyes down to Michigan's 28.
There, it was fourth down and two yards to go with 1:06 on the clock. Bruce decided to shun a possible first down. He went for the field goal.
"He (Bruce) asked me if I wanted to kick it," said Frantz, who was 14 of 17 coming into the game.
"I said I did. I was comfortable. Everything was fine."
Until the swing of the leg.
Frantz also missed from 43 yards out in the second quarter. As a child, he dreamed of beating Michigan with a field goal. That wish remained a dream.
Morris finished the game with 29 carries for 210 yards and two touchdowns. He gained 151 yards and scored each of his touchdowns in the second half.
Spielman's 29 tackles tied Tom Cousineau's single game record.
The loss dropped Bruce's record against Bo Schembechler and Michigan to 4–4.
January 1st • #8 Texas A&M • Cotton Bowl
Ohio State became the first Big Ten team to play in the Cotton Bowl and made it a successful one. The defense provided big plays in the Big D and the No. 11 Buckeyes defeated the eighth-ranked Aggies of Texas A&M.
At the start of the third quarter, Ohio State led 7-6. That's when Spielman made the defense's first exceptional play. Kevin Murray – the player of the year in the Southwest Conference – threw a pass that Spielman intercepted and raced 24 yards for a touchdown.
Later in the quarter, Workman worked his way in from three yards out to stretch the lead to 21-6. The Aggies' Roger Vick scored with just under 10 minutes remaining, but the Buckeyes stopped the 2-point conversion and kept their two-score lead intact at 21-12.
Texas A&M had the ball with under three minutes remaining when Ohio State's defense made its second impressive play. This time, Michael Kee picked off a Murray pass and returned it 49 yards for the game's final score. His pick-six was the longest ever at the Cotton Bowl.
In the 28-12 loss, Ohio State held Murray to 12-of-31 passing for 143 yards and five interceptions. The interceptions broke Joe Montana's previous record of four that he threw against Houston in 1979.
The Buckeyes won consecutive bowl games, but it wasn't for another six years until their next post season victory.
- No. 9 Ohio State lost to No. 5 Alabama 16-10. The Aug. 27 game was the earliest start to a season in the Buckeyes' modern history.
- No. 17 Washington embarrassed Ohio State 40-7 in Seattle. It was the worst defeat in 29 years.
- Pat O'Morrow kicked a field goal with 25 seconds left in the game to beat Colorado 13-10.
- George Cooper scored four times in the only game ever played between the Buckeyes and Utah.
- The Scarlet and Gray earned victory number 50 in the series against Illinois. Tom Tupa's 75-yard punt was the longest in school history.
- Ohio State's 24-22 win over Indiana improved its record to 30–0–1 against the Hoosiers since 1952.
- The Buckeyes used the doubts of the local media as motivation to defeat No. 11 Iowa 31-10.
- Ohio State beat Northwestern for the 13th straight time with a 30-9.
- Ohio State snapped its two-game losing streak to Wisconsin with a 30-17 victory.
- Jamie Morris rushed for 210 yards and two touchdowns in Michigan's 26-24 win. Matt Frantz missed two 40+ yard field goals. The final miss came in the last minute of the game.
- The Buckeyes beat Texas A&M 28-12 in the Cotton Bowl. This was the first time a Big Ten team played in the Cotton Bowl.
- Ohio State started the season ranked ninth, but finished the season No. 7.
- Chris Carter and Chris Spielman earned All-American honors.
- Sonny Gordon, Jamie Holland, Scott Leach and Jim Karsatos were selected in the NFL Draft.
- Cris Carter was selected in the NFL's Supplemental Draft.
The 1986 season started with consecutive losses, but the team rallied and won nine consecutive games. Highlights of the season included wins over No. 11 Iowa and No. 8 Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
Cris Carter set an Ohio State single-season school record with 1,127 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. In three years, he was the program's career leader with 168 receptions and 27 touchdowns. Carter meant to return for his senior season, but signed a contract with an agent and forfeited his eligibility.
Chris Spielman finished the season with team-high 205 tackles and nine tackles for loss. His 105 solo tackles were the most ever for a Buckeye defender in a season. Speilman entered his senior season ranked third on Ohio State's all-time solo and total tackles list.
Urban Meyer also completed his first year as a graduate assistant in 1986.