As we continue counting down the days until September and the college football season begin, the World Cup has been a welcome addition to what is otherwise the dullest time of the year on the sports calendar.
Even a non-soccer fan can appreciate the spectacular finishes that this year’s World Cup has provided, from Germany’s game-winning goal against Sweden to Belgium’s buzzer-beating counterattack against Japan. This year’s tournament has certainly had a flair for the dramatic, with late-game theatre at a rate typically only seen in the NCAA Tournament and of course, during football season.
If your passion is Ohio State football, however, no amount of association football will fully satisfy your craving for American football, which means you might be spending some of your downtime this summer watching some of the great games of Buckeyes past.
And when we’re talking about memorable finishes, Ohio State has certainly had more than its fair share of those in recent years.
So on this 4th of July here at Eleven Warriors, we take a look at some of the Ohio State football games over the past 10 years that have finished with the most late-game fireworks.
For the purposes of this list, only games that were won by Ohio State and that were decided by plays that happened in the waning minutes of the game were included. So while there were certainly games that came down to the wire that were memorable for the wrong reasons (such as Michigan State’s 34-24 Big Ten Championship win in 2013) and games that were memorable even though they weren’t close (such as Ohio State’s 42-20 national championship game win over Oregon), the following list focuses on the games where the Buckeyes came through in the clutch to win games they easily could have lost.
Ohio State 27, Iowa 24 (OT) – Nov. 14, 2009, Ohio Stadium
If you’re an Ohio State football fan, your current memory of playing Iowa is probably a bad memory – a haunting memory that might not fade away anytime soon – after the Buckeyes’ 55-24 loss in Iowa City last November that remains almost inexplicable. That said, the Buckeyes have also survived their share of scares from the Hawkeyes, with the most memorable such survival in recent history coming in 2009.
With both teams holding 5-1 Big Ten records entering their second-to-last games of the regular season, a Rose Bowl berth was on the line when Iowa made the trip to Ohio Stadium in 2009 – and the Hawkeyes gave the Buckeyes all they could handle.
Ohio State nearly broke the game open early in the fourth quarter, when the Buckeyes scored two touchdowns in less than two minutes – with a Ross Homan interception setting up the second touchdown, a 49-yard run by Brandon Saine – but Derrell Johnson-Koulianos returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. After Devin Barclay missed a 47-yard field goal, Iowa scored a game-tying touchdown with just 2:42 remaining to send the game to overtime.
Barclay redeemed himself in overtime, however, making a game-winning 39-yard field goal after an interception by Anderson Russell to punch the Buckeyes’ ticket to Pasadena.
Ohio State 33, Wisconsin 29 – Oct. 29, 2011, Ohio Stadium
The 2011 season wasn’t one to remember for Ohio State and its fans, as interim head coach Luke Fickell and the Buckeyes went 6-7 – Ohio State’s only losing season since 1988 – while reeling from the undignified end of the Jim Tressel era. The season did have one game to remember, though, when then-true freshman quarterback Braxton Miller led the Buckeyes to an upset win over Russell Wilson and Wisconsin under the lights at Ohio Stadium.
Ohio State took a 26-14 lead over the No. 15-ranked Badgers with just 4:39 left to play in the game after Miller ran for a 44-yard touchdown, but Wilson responded back with a pair of touchdown passes to Jared Abbrederis – with a 3-and-out by the Ohio State offense in between – to put the Badgers back ahead, 29-26, with just 1:18 left to play in the game.
That set the stage, though, for the most iconic play of Miller’s career. With less than 30 seconds remaining in the contest, Miller scrambled away from multiple defenders toward the right sideline, then threw back across his body and somehow managed to throw a perfect pass to Devin Smith in the middle of the end zone, which Smith caught for what would be the game-winning 40-yard touchdown, sending the Shoe into a frenzy.
Ohio State 29, Purdue 22 (OT) – Oct. 20, 2012, Ohio Stadium
Like Iowa, Purdue has built a reputation for beating Ohio State in games that it shouldn’t, or at least giving the Buckeyes a scare. After winning 26-23 in West Lafayette during the Buckeyes’ down year in 2011, the Boilermakers nearly scored another win against a much better, now coached by Urban Meyer and undefeated Buckeyes team in 2012 – until backup quarterback Kenny Guiton saved the day.
Already trailing 20-14 late in the third quarter, things appeared to go from bad to worse from Ohio State when Miller was knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury after a 37-yard run. Guiton’s first series in the game ended with a missed field goal, and the Buckeyes’ deficit expanded to eight points after an Andrew Norwell illegal block in the end zone gave Purdue a safety. When Guiton threw an interception to Purdue safety Landon Feichter on Ohio State’s next possession, the Buckeyes’ hopes of winning the game appeared to be all but dashed.
When the Buckeyes got the ball back with less than a minute to go, however, Guiton stepped up, connecting with Smith for a 39-yard gain on the first play of the drive, setting the Buckeyes up just outside the end zone. With just three seconds left in the game, Guiton capped the drive by completing a 2-yard touchdown pass to Chris Fields, followed by a two-point conversion pass to Jeff Heuerman, to knot the game at 22 apiece and send the game to overtime.
Carlos Hyde rushed for a 1-yard touchdown on the Buckeyes’ initial possession in overtime, and Ohio State’s defense held Caleb TerBush and the Boilermakers without a first down on their subsequent possession to complete the comeback victory, keeping the Buckeyes’ record unblemished in what would ultimately turn out to be a 12-0 season.
Ohio State 42, Michigan 41 – Nov. 30, 2013, Michigan Stadium
There weren’t many defensive plays made in 2013’s 110th edition of The Game in Ann Arbor, but when the game ultimately came down to one play, it was Tyvis Powell and Ohio State’s defense who delivered.
For most of the 2013 regular-season finale, Ohio State and Michigan’s offenses both marched up and down the field with ease, as Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner threw for 451 yards and four touchdowns and the Buckeyes ran for 393 yards and four touchdowns, with Hyde (226 yards, 1 TD) and Miller (153 yards, 3 TDs) leading the way.
That continued all the way into the final minutes of the game, as the Buckeyes took a 42-35 lead with just 2:20 to play, but their defense couldn’t keep the Wolverines from getting back to the end zone, as Gardner quickly led Michigan on an 11-play, 84-yard drive capped by a 2-yard touchdown pass to Devin Funchess. With just 32 seconds remaining on the game clock, however, and the undefeated Buckeyes having far more to lose than the 7-4 Wolverines, Michigan coach Brady Hoke made a bold call: going for two in an attempt to win the game instead of settling for overtime.
With as badly as Ohio State’s defense had struggled all day, allowing the Wolverines to score six touchdowns on 603 total yards, Buckeyes fans had reason to be concerned. But Ohio State defensive backs coach Kerry Coombs correctly anticipated the play that Michigan would run, and Powell executed his assignment perfectly, stepping in front of Gardner’s pass for an interception to preserve a one-point victory.
Ohio State 31, Penn State 24 (2OT) – Oct. 25, 2014, Beaver Stadium
Ohio State’s 2014 national championship run nearly came to an end well before it ever began on a late October night in State College, Pa., where Penn State – another team with a reputation for playing spoiler to Ohio State – gave the Buckeyes all they could handle and nearly sent them home with an upset loss.
While the Buckeyes dominated the first half of action against the Nittany Lions, taking a 17-0 lead into the halftime break, the Nittany Lions turned the tables in the second half. Started by a 40-yard Anthony Zettel interception return, and capped by a Sam Ficken field goal with just nine seconds to play in regulation, Penn State scored all 17 points of the final 30 minutes to send the game to overtime.
Penn State scored on the first possession of the first overtime, but J.T. Barrett and the Buckeyes responded with back-to-back touchdown drives of their own, both capped by Barrett running into the end zone, to retake control of the game. Then, with the Nittany Lions needing another touchdown of their own to keep the game alive, Joey Bosa made the most iconic play of his Ohio State career by driving Penn State running back Akeel Lynch straight backward into Nittany Lions quarterback Christian Hackenberg, taking both players down on a 4th-and-6 sack to bring the game to an end.
Ohio State 42, Alabama 35 – Jan. 1, 2015, Mercedes-Benz Superdome (Sugar Bowl)
Unlike the rest of the games on this list, the deciding play in Ohio State’s College Football Playoff semifinal win over Alabama occurred with more than two minutes left to play in regulation. This list simply wouldn’t be complete, though, without Ezekiel Elliott’s 85-yard run through the heart of the south.
While Ohio State took a 34-21 lead in the third quarter after a 47-yard touchdown pass from Cardale Jones to Devin Smith and a 41-yard interception return touchdown by Steve Miller, Alabama responded right back with a touchdown drive of its own to cut the lead to six. The Crimson Tide remained in the game deep into the fourth quarter as the Buckeyes were forced to punt on each of their next three possessions.
But with less than four minutes to play and the Buckeyes still clinging to a 34-28 lead, Ezekiel Elliott found a hole on the left side of the line and took off, sprinting away from the entire Alabama defense for one of the most iconic plays in Ohio State history.
Jones followed up the touchdown by completing a two-point conversion pass to Michael Thomas, extending the Buckeyes’ advantage to 14 points and all but sealing victory as Ohio State punched its ticket to the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
Ohio State 30, Michigan 27 (2OT) – Nov. 26, 2016, Ohio Stadium
For all the classic rivalry games between Ohio State and Michigan over more than a century, few editions of The Game have ever been more memorable than the 2016 clash between the Buckeyes and Wolverines at Ohio Stadium, a double-overtime contest with an ending sequence that will likely be discussed for decades to come.
Barrett and the Ohio State offense struggled for the vast majority of the game, with the Buckeyes needing a 23-yard field goal from Tyler Durbin – who had missed a 21-yard field goal earlier in the fourth quarter – in the final seconds of regulation just to send the game to overtime.
Once the game got to overtime, the Buckeyes quickly scored a go-ahead touchdown, with Barrett following up an 18-yard Curtis Samuel run with a 7-yard scoring run. Michigan, however, responded back with a touchdown of its own and a field goal on the first possession of the second overtime, putting the Buckeyes back in a spot where they needed to score.
Facing 4th-and-1 at the 16-yard line, Ohio State decided to go for it rather than attempt a game-tying field goal, and Barrett was ruled to just barely cross the first-down marker on an official’s ruling that is still debated to this day. One play later, though, the Buckeyes were celebrating with their home crowd after Samuel turned a play call of “29 Lead” into the “Brooklyn Dagger” with a 15-yard, game-winning touchdown.
Ohio State 39, Penn State 38 – Oct. 28, 2017, Ohio Stadium
The most recent addition to Ohio State’s history of unforgettable games came last October against Penn State, when the Buckeyes scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns to overcome a 15-point deficit and steal a victory from the jaws of defeat in their most highly anticipated game of the 2017 regular season.
Penn State was dominant in the early goings of the game, scoring 21 of the game’s first 24 points and taking a 28-17 lead into halftime. While the Buckeyes scored a field goal on their opening possession of the second half, Penn State responded back with another touchdown to extend its lead to 35-20.
When Barrett lost a fumble with the Buckeyes still trailing by that score on their first possession of the fourth quarter, it appeared as though as it wasn’t going to be Ohio State’s night. Denzel Ward turned the tide of the game, though, by blocking a punt on Penn State’s next possession, setting up a 38-yard touchdown pass from Barrett to Johnnie Dixon two plays later.
Although Penn State re-extended its lead with a field goal on its subsequent possession, putting the Buckeyes back down 11 with less than six minutes to play, Ohio State never gave up. Barrett, who completed every single pass he attempted in the fourth quarter on a night where he went 33-of-39 for 328 yards, led the Buckeyes on another drive capped by a touchdown pass to Dixon, this time from 10 yards.
Ohio State’s defense did what it needed to do on its next possession, forcing the Nittany Lions to go 3-and-out, highlighted by another iconic double-tackle against Penn State – this time, Buckeyes defensive end Sam Hubbard getting to Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley simultaneously, taking down Barkley as soon as he received a handoff for a 7-yard loss.
Upon getting the ball back, Barrett led the Buckeyes down the field again, capping off a third consecutive touchdown drive with a 16-yard pass to Marcus Baugh – on a play called “817 Y-Seam Look Back” – that would prove to be the game-winner after Ohio State’s defense held the Nittany Lions without a first down once again.
In just under two months, Ohio State will begin another football season that if history is any indication, will likely include at least one game with a thrilling finish along the way. For now, though, Buckeyes fans can look back with fond memories at the many down-to-the-wire games in recent seasons in which Ohio State has found a way to win.