Ohio State introduced James Patrick Tressel as its 22nd head coach on Jan. 18, 2001.
Born in Mentor, Ohio, Tressel played quarterback at Baldwin-Wallace and served on Earle Bruce's Ohio State staff from 1983-1985, an unknown to many fans. Tressel coached 15 years at Youngstown State and won four Division I-AA championships with the Penguins.
On the day Ohio State hired him, Tressel made sure fans who didn't know him knew what he stood for. During halftime of the Ohio State-Michigan basketball game, Tressel addressed the Value City Arena crowd and promised them that they would be "proud of their team team in the classroom, in the community and most especially, in 310 days in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the football field."
Not a bad way to etch your name in Ohio State football lore.
|The 2001 Buckeyes|
|B1G Record||5–3, 3rd|
|Coach||Jim Tressel (1st year, 7–5)|
Steve Bellisari, Mike Collins,
Joe Cooper, James Martin
Games of Note
September 8th • Akron • Ohio Stadium
The Jim Tressel era began with the Buckeyes ranked 22nd and hosting Akron in a newly renovated Ohio Stadium. A record crowd of 102,602 packed The Shoe on this partly cloudy 77-degree early September Saturday to watch Tressel lead his charges onto the field wearing his now iconic sweater vest.
Ohio State scored the game's first 21 points and led 21-7 at halftime. Jonathan Wells scored twice and Jamar Martin caught a 10-yard touchdown pass.
Late in the third quarter, Chris Vance reeled in a 61-yard touchdown reception to extend the lead to 28-7. The Zips' Ricky Coble intercepted backup Scott McMullen and returned it 87 yards for the final score of the game, 28-14.
The Buckeyes were sloppy in Tressel's debut as they fumbled five times – lost two – in addition to McMullen's interception.
"Obviously, when you have some turnovers it bothers you. I didn't think we would come out here and be flawless," Tressel said after his first win as Ohio State head coach. "I think perhaps if I could have a couple calls back I would, but I'm going to learn as well as the guys are."
Wells had a game-high 119 yards and Steve Bellisari completed 15-of-24 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Jenkins caught six passes for 106 yards, both game-highs, and Joe Cooper led the team with 10 tackles.
|SEP. 8||AKRON||OHIO STADIUM||W, 28–14|
|SEP. 22||NO. 14 UCLA||ROSE BOWL||L, 6–13|
|SEP. 29||INDIANA||MEMORIAL||W, 27–14|
|OCT. 6||NO. 14 N'WESTERN||OHIO STADIUM||W, 38–20|
|OCT. 13||WISCONSIN||OHIO STADIUM||L, 17–20|
|OCT. 20||SAN DIEGO STATE||OHIO STADIUM||W, 27–12|
|OCT. 27||PENN STATE||BEAVER STADIUM||L, 27–29|
|NOV. 3||MINNESOTA||METRODOME||W, 31–28|
|NOV. 10||PURDUE||OHIO STADIUM||W, 35–9|
|NOV. 17||NO. 12 ILLINOIS||OHIO STADIUM||L, 22–34|
|NOV. 24||NO. 11 MICHIGAN||MICHIGAN STADIUM||W, 26-20|
|JAN. 1||NO. 14 S. CAROLINA||OUTBACK BOWL||L, 28–31|
September 22nd • #14 UCLA • Rose Bowl
A defensive battle ensued at the Rose Bowl between No. 14 UCLA and the 21st-ranked Buckeyes.
The teams combined for just 19 points, with all but three coming in the first half. UCLA scored at the 7:27 mark when Ryan Smith caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Cory Paus.
Following an unsuccessful drive, Andy Groom boomed a 61-yard punt that Ohio State downed at the Bruins' 10. The Buckeye defense held and forced the home team to punt from its own 18. Nate Fikse tried to get the punt off, but Mike Doss raced in and blocked it. Ricky Bryant recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. Mike Nugent missed the extra point and the Buckeyes trailed 7-6.
Early in the second quarter, Nugent missed a 28-yard field goal. In two games, the man who is arguably Ohio State's greatest kicker ever was 0-2 on field goals and missed an extra point.
The Buckeyes' defense not only created the team's only points but shut down Heisman Trophy candidate DeShaun Foster. Ohio State held the running back to 66 yards on 29 carries. The opportunistic defensive unit forced seven fumbles and recovered four. Unfortunately, Ohio State's offense never could capitalize.
Angelo Chattams forced Craig Bragg to fumble a punt return and the Buckeyes took over at the Bruins' 38-yard line. With 6:06 left in the game Ohio State trailed 13-6 and had a great opportunity. Following runs by Wells and Bellisari, the Buckeyes faced 3rd-and-7. Bellisari looked for Jenkins on third and fourth down but did not complete either pass.
Bellisari only completed 5-of-23 pass attempts for 45 yards and two interceptions. With the passing game being non-existent, Bob Toledo's defense focused on stopping the run game. The Bruins limited Wells to 47 yards, the offense gained only 146 total yards and did not score a point.
"A bunch of us made mistakes, coaches and players. We played well defensively and had many chances to win this games," said Tressel. "We were out of sorts in the first half and improved in the second but not enough."
October 27th • Penn State • Beaver Stadium
For the first time since 1912 – when there weren't polls – both Ohio State and Penn State were unranked when they met. The Buckeyes (4–2) lost a heartbreaker to Wisconsin two weeks earlier when Mark Neuser kicked a game-winning field goal with 2:10 left in the game.
Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions entered 1–4, ending their losing streak against Northwestern the week before. Paterno matched Bear Bryant's all-time wins record at 323 with the victory. Ohio State stood in the way of Paterno claiming the top spot.
His chances of breaking Bryant's record appeared slim early as the Buckeyes led 13-9 at halftime and extended the lead to 27-9 within the first three minutes of the third quarter. Wells scored on a 65-yard touchdown run and Derek Ross returned an interception 45 yards for a score.
Other big plays for Ohio State were Jenkins' touchdown catches of 66 and 68 yards and the defense recording 18 tackles-for-loss. At that point, the school record was 19 tackles-for-loss against PSU in 1999.
Despite all of the big plays and suffocating defense, Paterno's team scored 20 unanswered points and kept the Buckeyes from scoring during the final 27 minutes of the game. With 2:55 left on the clock, Nugent had his 34-yard field goal blocked by Bryan Scott and the Nittany Lions held on to give Paterno his 324th victory.
Wells rushed for a game-high 143 yards rushing in the loss and Larry Johnson led Penn State with 68 yards.
November 17th • #12 Illinois • Ohio Stadium
No. 12 Illinois faced No. 25 Ohio State in Columbus on this sunny and pleasant 56 degree mid-November Saturday. Surprisingly, the Buckeyes entered the game in first place of the conference and in control of their destiny for the Big Ten title.
Ron Turner's Illini team led 21-10 at halftime until touchdowns from Jenkins and Wells gave Ohio State a 22-21 lead after a pair of 2-point conversion attempts failed. Early in the final period, Carey Davis rushed in from a yard out to give Illinois the lead once again. Just over five minutes later, Ty Myers returned an interception five yards for a touchdown to seal the 34-22 win for the Illini.
In the loss, Wells rushed for a season-best 192 yards and Scott McMullen made his first career start. Craig Krenzel played for the first time and threw for 164 yards and two touchdowns. McMullen and Krenzel played because police arrested Bellisari the day before the game for driving drunk.
"Going into the game we knew we were going to play both. When Craig did get an opportunity he came in and did some things," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "We got a little bit of rhythm going. We started to mount a little bit of a comeback there in the third quarter especially. I thought that was the way we should go."
Heading into Michigan Week, Tressel had a decision to make with regards to his starting quarterback who made a serious error in judgment.
|SAN DIEGO STATE||W1||1–0|
November 24th • #11 Michigan • Michigan Stadium
At last the Michigan game arrived, the day Tressel promised Ohio State fans they would be most proud of their team. Concern mounted, however, because the fan base knew that the Buckeyes relied on a backup quarterback who had never started a collegiate game.
However, those fears quickly turned to cheers as unranked Ohio State led 23-0 over the 11th-ranked Wolverines at halftime. After know what happened the previous 13 seasons against Michigan, even a 23-point lead did not put fans at ease.
Wells rushed for 122 yards and three touchdowns in the first half but could not play in the second because of cramps. Ohio State also lost tackle Shane Olivea to a broken ankle. With two key offensive players on the sidelines, Michigan held the Buckeyes scoreless in the third quarter and the majority of the fourth.
Lloyd Carr's Wolverines scrapped back and scored three touchdowns to cut the lead to 26-20. With 2:26 left, Michigan lined up for an onside kick. With Ohio State fans on the edge of their seats, Chris Vance saved the day and recovered the kick.
The Buckeyes' defense forced five turnovers, including Mike Doss' two interceptions.
"I'm proud of these kids. They played tremendously proud," Tressel said. "I didn't promise this win. I promised you'd be proud of this team."
Tressel lived up to his promise on both counts and delivered Ohio State's first victory in Ann Arbor since 1987. The win also kept the Wolverines from claiming the Big Ten title.
January 1st • #14 South Carolina • The Outback Bowl
No. 22 Ohio State and No. 14 South Carolina met in The Outback Bowl for the second time in as many years.
Tressel allowed Bellisari to start and play the majority of his final game as a Buckeye.
From the 2015 Ohio State Team Guide:
With the score tied and virtually no time left, South Carolina kicker Daniel Weaver kicked a 42-yard field goal as the clock expired to propel No. 14 South Carolina to 31-28 victory over No. 22 Ohio State. The kick, which barely made it over the crossbar, spoiled a valiant comeback effort by the Buckeyes who had rallied from a 28-0 third quarter deficit.
Quarterback Steve Bellisari engineered the OSU comeback, completing
21 of 35 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns.
Phil Petty, the game’s MVP, threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns,
and Andrew Pinnock scored twice for South Carolina. Bellisari ran for a
2-yard score to close the third quarter, then hit Darrell Sanders with a 16-yard TD pass with 10:18 to go that cut the lead in half. Jonathan Wells’ 1-yard run made it 28-21 with 5:02 to go.
Ohio State got the ball back on its 11 with 3:56 to play. Bellisari went 6-of-6 for 86 yards, tying the game on Sanders’ 9-yard catch. Cie Grant gave the Buckeyes a chance for victory at the end, intercepting Petty with 1:12 left.
Following Grant's interception, Ohio State had the ball on its own 18. On first down, Wells rushed for a yard. Bellisari threw deep down the sideline on second down, only to be intercepted by Sheldon Brown.
The Gamecock defender then returned the ball 37 yards to the Buckeyes' 29-yard line and set up the game-winning field goal.
- Jim Tressel is hired as Ohio State's 22nd head coach.
- No. 22 Ohio State defeated Akron in Tressel's debut as head coach. The Youngstown native introduced his sweater vest style to The Shoe.
- The San Diego State game on Sept. 15 was postponed due to the terrorist attacks four days earlier.
- Mike Doss had seven tackles, recovered a fumble and blocked a punt that was recovered for a touchdown in the 13-6 loss to No. 12 UCLA.
- The Buckeyes' defense limited Antwaan Randle El to 248 all-purpose yards and Doss blocked his second punt in as many weeks in the 27-14 victory over Indiana.
- Jonathan Wells rushed for 179 yards and two touchdowns as OSU defeated Northwestern for the 22nd straight time.
- Mark Neuser kicked two field goals in the fourth quarter and the Buckeyes lost their first Big Ten game of the season 20-17 to Wisconsin.
- Ohio State played the postponed game against San Diego State and won 27-12.
- Penn State scored 20 unanswered points to defeat the Buckeyes 29-27 and give Joe Paterno his record breaking 324th career win.
- Mike Nugent booted a 35-yard field goal with 4:17 to play to give his team a 31-28 victory over Minnesota.
- A record crowd of 104,189 turned out at Ohio Stadium to watch the Buckeyes destroy Purdue 35-9.
- Police arrested Steve Bellisari for drunk driving and he did not play against Illinois. The Illini won 34-22, ending Ohio State's chances for a Big Ten title.
- Craig Krenzel made his first collegiate start and defeated Michigan in Ann Arbor 26-20. Jonathan Wells rushed for 122 yards and three touchdowns in the Buckeyes' first victory in Ann Arbor since 1987.
- After scoring 28 points to tie the game, Bellisari threw an ill-advised pass that led to South Carolina's game-winning field goal as time expired.
- LeCharles Bentley and Mike Doss earned All-American honors. This was the Doss' second honor.
- LeCharles Bentley, Derek Ross, Jonathan Wells, Darnell Sanders, Jamar Martin, Courtland Bullard, Tyson Walter and Steve Bellisari were selected in the NFL Draft.
- Ohio State started the season ranked No. 22, rose one spot but eventually finished unranked.
Jim Tressel finished his first season with a 7–5 record but delivered on his promise. No matter what happened during the season, fans counted the days since Tressel threw out the number 310. The tragedies on Sept. 11 put the season –and life – in perspective, but it did not diminish the joy felt by Ohio State and its fans on Nov. 24, 2001.
In only one year, Tressel already made his mark on the program.