100 Teams in 100 Days: In 2010, Jim Tressel Gets the SEC Monkey Off His Back in His Final Season

By Matt Gutridge on August 28, 2016 at 11:40 am
The 2010 Ohio State University football team.
Ohio State University Archives

Ohio State's 2010 season never happened, at least according to the NCAA.

6 days and counting.

Before the fallout of "Tattoo-gate," expectations for the 2010 season were for the Buckeyes to compete for the national title. Nine starters returned on offense and seven returned on defense.

Terrelle Pryor entered his third year as the starting quarterback after setting an Ohio State record with 338 total yards in his team's Rose Bowl victory against Oregon. He had DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher to throw to and Daniel "Boom" Herron and Brandon Saine in the backfield. 

Senior Cameron Heyward passed on the NFL Draft and returned to Columbus. Nathan Williams and a young John Simon roamed the defensive line. Ross Homan and Brian Rolle secured the linebacker corps, and Devon Torrence and Chimdi Chekwa provided experience to the secondary.

The 2010 Buckeyes
Record 12–1
B1G Record 7–1, 1st
Coach Jim Tressel (10th year, 106–22)
Captains Bryant Browning, Cameron Heyward,
Ross Homan, Brian Rolle,
Brandon Saine, Dane Sanzenbacher

Games of Note

September 11th • Miami • Ohio Stadium
No. 2 Ohio State trailed the second-ranked Hurricanes 10-3 early in the game but used a 23-point explosion in the second quarter to take a 26-17 lead into halftime.

Miami received the second half kickoff and drove inside the Buckeyes' 10-yard line after Travis Benjamin's 19-yard catch and Damien Berry's 42-yard run over the left side. On 3rd-and-goal from the 9, Jacory Harris tried a pass to the middle of the field, but Heyward picked it off and rumbled 80 yards down the field. The big defensive lineman tried to score, but tired out and was caught from behind at the 15. Two plays later, Pryor rushed in from the 13 to extend the lead to 33-17.

"I was trying to take it to the house," Heyward said. "They caught me. That shows they didn't give up, and shows I'm not that fast."

Fast is how you would describe Miami's Lamar Miller and Benjamin. Miller scored the game's first touchdown when he returned Devin Barclay's kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown at the 5:45 mark of the first quarter. Benjamin returned a punt 79 yards for a score late in the second quarter. 

This was the first time in Ohio State football history that an opponent returned a punt and kickoff return for a touchdown in the same game. A positive for the Buckeyes' special teams was that Barclay tied a school record with five field goals in the 36-24 victory.

In the battle between Heisman hopefuls Harris and Pryor, Ohio State's quarterback came out the winner. Harris threw four interceptions while Pryor tallied 346 total yards (113 rushing) during the rainy contest.

2010 Schedule
OCT. 16 NO. 18 WISC. CAMP RANDALL L, 18–31
      12–1, 504–186

October 16th • #18 Wisconsin • Camp Randall Stadium
Prior to their trip to Madison, the Buckeyes received enough votes to become the No. 1 team in the country. The Badgers' 81,194 fans were amped for the evening kickoff. 

No. 18 Wisconsin jumped to a 7-0 lead when David Gilreath returned the opening kick 97 yards for a touchdown. Following Ohio State's first drive in which it lost 11 yards in three plays, the Badgers fed John Clay five times. The back accounted for 49 of the drive's 58 yards including a 14-yard touchdown run.

The Buckeyes' second drive also stalled and Wisconsin again used its running game to drive 89 yards in 19 plays to go up 21-0. A made field goal by Barclay made the halftime deficit 21-3.

Ohio State took control early in the second quarter as Herron scored two touchdowns to pull his team to within 21-18. That was as close as the visitors would get. Bret Bielema's team scored the game's last 10 points and defeated Ohio State for the first time in his career. Clay became the first player to rush for over 100 yards against the Buckeyes in 29 games.

To say this was a big win for Wisconsin would be an understatement. 

"I know this isn't a bowl game or the national championship game, but I just started crying, man; to just be in a situation like that where nobody expects you to win," Badgers' safety Aaron Henry said. "Nobody really expected us to go out there and win. It's an unbelievable feeling. I wish this night could last forever."

MIAMI W3 3–1
OHIO W7 7–0
ILLINOIS W3 63–30–4
INDIANA W16 67–12–5
WISCONSIN L1 59–19–5
PURDUE W1 42–15–2
IOWA W4 46–14–3
MICHIGAN W7 44–57–6

November 20th • #21 Iowa • Kinnick Stadium
In 2009 it took a Barclay overtime field goal for Ohio State to get past Iowa. In 2010, it was a 4th-and-10 conversion in the fourth quarter that kept Ohio State's sixth straight Big Ten title hopes alive. 

Whipping 15 miles per hour winds flew through the 40-degree air, under clear skies in Iowa City. The defenses controlled the first half as the Hawkeyes took a 7-3 lead into the locker room. Ricky Stanzi's 19-yard pass to Marvin McNutt was the lone touchdown during the first 30 minutes.

The Buckeyes received the second half kick and Pryor promptly gave his team a 10-7 lead. The quarterback either passed or ran the ball on nine of the 12 plays during the 77-yard drive that ended when Reid Fragel caught a 5-yard pass for a touchdown.

Iowa responded later in the third quarter as Mike Meyer made a 31-yard field goal to tie the game at 10. On Ohio State's ensuing possession, Pryor threw an interception on 3rd-and-10 from his own 20. The Hawkeyes' Shaun Prater picked it off and returned it to the Buckeyes' 27. It took two runs from Marcus Coker – 26 yards and 1 yard – to give Kirk Ferentz's team a 17-10 lead with 11:53 remaining in the game.

Following a Barclay 48-yard field goal and a 3-and-out by Iowa, Pryor had the ball on his own 24 with 6:05 on the clock and down four. The drive was in danger of stalling when the Buckeyes faced 4th-and-10 from the 50. Tressel elected to go for the first and Pryor came through with a 14-yard scramble for the first down. Three plays later, he threw a strike to Sanzenbacher for 24 yards to put the ball on the 2-yard line. Pryor handed to Herron twice, who scored to give his team a 20-17 lead with 1:47 left.

"Yeah, I was mad. But, I mean, we had a 4th-and-10 to get to or we were going to lose another game. I hate losing with a passion," Pryor said when asked about the key conversion.

"It was huge and gave us that momentum," Tressel said of Pryor's fourth-down run. "I was afraid he was messing around and wasn't going to get the first, but he made it."

Stanzi had time to make a comeback, but after he threw two incompletions Ohio State sacked him on third down for an 11-yard loss. Needing 21 yards on fourth down, Stanzi hooked up with McNutt, but the completion was only for 19 yards.

Ohio State won for the 12th time in 13 attempts against Iowa.

November 27th • Michigan • Ohio Stadium
A win over Michigan in the 107th version of The Game would give No. 8 Ohio State a share of a sixth straight Big Ten title. To the surprise of the 105,491 in Ohio Stadium, the first quarter ended in a scoreless tie. 

A recap of the scoring from ESPN:

Terrelle Pryor had TD passes covering 7 yards to Dane Sanzenbacher and 33 yards to DeVier Posey and Dan "Boom" Herron finished with 175 yards on 22 carries. Herron also tied a record for longest run from scrimmage in 88-year-old Ohio Stadium when he went 89 yards in the third quarter. He actually raced 98 yards untouched, but the touchdown was called back because Sanzenbacher held a defender as Herron was heading into the end zone.

Pryor completed 18 of 27 passes for 220 yards with one interception. Up 24-7 at the half, most of the drama was drained from the game as Tressel elected to stick to the ground game while improving to 9-1 against the Wolverines.

The Buckeyes wore replica uniforms of the 1942 championship team that had bronze stars on the helmet in honor of Chuck Csuri. The team responded by with the second largest margin of victory in The Game since 1968. The 42-7 win in 2008 was the largest in that time span and both were against Rich Rodriguez. 

"I'm ticked. What do you want me to do? Hold hands with all the Buckeye fans and sing 'Kumbaya'?" Rodriguez said Michigan's seventh straight loss to Ohio State.

January 4th • #8 Arkansas • Sugar Bowl
No. 6 Ohio State looked to end its 0–9 drought in bowl games against SEC teams. Talk going into the game focused on Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett and his NFL-ready arm in addition to Ohio State's SEC woes.

A game summary from the 2011 Ohio State Team Guide:

On its first possession, Ohio State marched 74 yards in eight plays to grab a quick 7-0 lead. Pryor capped the drive with a 37-yard running play. He fumbled at the end and Sanzenbacher recovered it in the end zone for the score. Corey “Philly” Brown had a big 13-yard reception on third down to keep the drive alive.

The Buckeyes went 68 yards in seven plays for a touchdown on their second possession for a 14-7 lead at the 7:17 mark of the first quarter. A 31-yard completion to Sanzenbacher set Ohio State up on the Arkansas 21 and Dan “Boom” Herron rushed twice to cover the remaining yards to pay dirt for his 12th consecutive game with a score. Herron finished the game with 87 yards on 24 carries.

After Arkansas failed on a fourth and 1 play from the Ohio State 30 when Cameron Heyward batted away a Mallett pass at the line of scrimmage, Ohio State drove 70 yards for its third score of the game. Pryor fired a perfect pass to a well-defensed Sanzenbacher, but the senior from Toledo made the catch for a 15- yard touchdown and a 21-7 Ohio State lead. A big play in the drive was a 42-yard completion from Pryor to Reid Fragel down to the Arkansas 28. Sanzenbacher totaled three catches in the game for 59 yards.

Just inside of two minutes to play in the half, Ohio State struck again. Pryor found DeVier Posey with a 43-yard touchdown pass play. Posey made a marvelous catch, turning 180 degrees to pull the ball in over his left shoulder to extend the lead to 28- 7. Pryor’s impressive stat line included 115 yards on 15 carries and 221 more yards through the air on 14 of 25 passing. 

In the fourth quarter, Arkansas dropped Herron in the end zone for a safety to make the score 31-23 with 11:52 on the clock. Arkansas kicked a field goal following the free kick and tightened Ohio State's lead to 31-26.

The Buckeyes got a couple of first downs but faced 4th-and-1 at their own 37. Tressel loosened up his sweater vest and gave the ball to Herron to pick up the first down. The back fumbled and the recovery by the Zach Boren was behind the line of scrimmage, giving Arkansas phenomenal field position with 5:56 to go.

On first down, officials whistled Arkansas for holding. Following the penalty, Mallett threw two incompletions and completed a 4-yard screen pass. With his team looking at a 4th-and-16 with under five minutes to play, Bobby Petrino elected to punt. Dylan Breeding angle the punt out of bounds at the Buckeyes' 4-yard line.

Ohio State took over with 4:33 remaining deep in its own territory. Herron's 17-yard run on first down gave the Buckeyes breathing room. Pryor picked up another first down using his legs, but the drive stalled at the OSU 38 and Ben Buchanan was sent out to punt. Arkansas' Colton Miles-Nash blocked the punt and the Razorbacks had the ball at the Ohio State 18-yard line with 1:09 on the clock.

With the SEC curse threatening to rear its ugly head again, Solomon Thomas intercepted Mallett's second down pass to end the streak. 

Ohio State 31, Arkansas 26.

2010 Recap  

  • Brandon Saine rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns, Terrelle Pryor threw for 247 yards and three touchdowns in the 45-7 win over Marshall.  
  • No. 2 Ohio State defeated Miami 36-24 in a rematch of the 2002 national championship game. Cameron Heyward's 80-yard interception return was a highlight of the game.
  • Terrelle Pryor set a school record by completing 16 straight passes during a 43-7 beating of Ohio University. 
  • Ohio State piled up 73 points on Eastern Michigan and Dane Sanzenbacher tied a record with four receiving touchdowns. The 73 points were the most since the 1950 team scored 83 against Iowa.
  • Illinois played the Buckeyes tough on a windy day in Champaign, but Tressel's team fought for a 24-13 victory.
  • Terrelle Pryor threw for a career-high 334 yards and Brian Rolle and Devon Torrence each had interceptions in the 38-10 defeat of Indiana. This was Jim Tressel's 100th win at Ohio State and he was the fastest to reach the milestone.
  • The Buckeyes just earned the No. 1 ranking and promptly lost it in a night game at Madison. No. 18 Wisconsin upset OSU 31-18.
  • The loss dropped Ohio State to No. 11 and the team dismantled Purdue 49-0. 
  • Minnesota hosted the Buckeyes at TCF Bank for the first time. In just one half, Pryor threw for 222 yards and two touchdowns, and Boom Herron rushed for 114 and a score as Ohio State christened the new stadium with a 52-10 win.
  • The ninth-ranked Buckeyes trailed Penn State by 11 points but scored 35 straight in a 38-14 victory. Boom Herron rushed for a career-high 190 yards. 
  • A critical 4th-and-10 conversion late in the fourth quarter led to the game-winning touchdown as the Buckeyes defeated No. 20 Iowa 20-17 in Kinnick Stadium.
  • No. 8 Ohio State won a share of its sixth straight Big Ten title by defeating Michigan 37-7. This was the last appearance of Rich Rodriguez and Jim Tressel in The Game.
  • After being cleared by the NCAA to play, Terrelle Pryor was named the Sugar Bowl MVP after he tallied 336 yards of total offense in No. 6 Ohio State's 31-26 victory over Arkansas.
  • Mike Brewster and Chimdi Chekwa earned All-American honors.
  • Cameron Heyward, Chimdi Chekwa, Jermale Hines, Brian Rolle and Ross Homan were selected in the NFL Draft. 
  • Terrelle Pryor was selected in the NFL Supplemental Draft.
  • Ohio State started the season ranked No. 2, fell to 11th, but finished fifth.

The players in the 2010 senior class finished their careers with 44 career victories, which tied them as the winningest class in school history.

"Tattoo-gate" cost Jim Tressel his job and Terrelle Pryor his final season at Ohio State. The NCAA sanctions vacated all wins from the 2010 season and left the lone loss to Wisconsin on the record books. As those of you who have followed my work in the past, I include the 2010 season and stats in the record book. NCAA sanctions be damned.

Tressel ended his 10-year Ohio State career with seven Big Ten titles, five BCS Bowl victories and a national championship. He was the fastest to reach 100 wins in the program's history and was 9–1 against Michigan.

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