Decade in Review: The Best Individual Ohio State Football Game Performances of the 2010s

By Jake Anderson on January 14, 2020 at 11:05 am
Ezekiel Elliott against Alabama

After assembling Ohio State's All-Decade football team, we've moved on to ranking the Buckeyes' best individual performances of the 2010s.

Decade in Review: The 2010s

This ranking is looking at the best, single-game, individual performances by Ohio State football players of the past decade. While a player's career/legacy is not necessarily considered, it is obvious that some players' legacies would not be the same if not for these performances. 

We've compiled the ranking of our top ten along with five honorable mentions. Without further ado, here are the best individual performances of the 2010s. 

Honorable Mentions

  • Ezekiel Elliott's 246-yard, four-touchdown game against Oregon in the 2015 CFP National Championship Game. 
  • Devin Smith's 147-yard, three-touchdown outing against Wisconsin in the 2014 Big Ten Championship Game.
  • Dwayne Haskins and J.K. Dobbins become the program's first pair to record 400 passing yards and 200 rushing yards in a single game against Maryland in 2018. 
  • Kenny Guiton throws six touchdowns in the first half against Florida A&M in 2013. 
  • Braxton Miller passes for 211 yards, runs for 149 yards in a three-point win against Indiana in 2012. 

10. Dwayne Haskins Breaks Single Game Passing Record in the Big Ten Championship Game (2018)

After dismantling Michigan the previous week, Ohio State earned a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game for the third straight year. The Buckeyes, still vying for a chance for a College Football Playoff berth, had a chance to add another ranked win to its résumé against No. 21 Northwestern. 

At this time, Dwayne Haskins had already established himself as one of the most prolific passers in Big Ten history. The redshirt sophomore had already broken the conference's records for most passing yards and passing touchdowns in a single season, but his best game was still in front of him. 

Against the Wildcats, Haskins threw for 499 yards, breaking his own school record, and five touchdowns while completing 83% of his passes. He led the Bucks to their second-straight Big Ten championship and, just a couple weeks later, a Rose Bowl victory in Urban Meyer's final game. 

Haskins ended his lone year as a collegiate starter with 4,831 passing yards, 50 passing touchdowns, and a completion percentage of 70%. 

9. Chris Olave Breaks Out Against Michigan (2018)

As a true freshman, Chris Olave was hardly a household name. The three-star recruit was the lowest-rated receiver in his class but consistently earned snaps in his freshman year. Despite playing the most snaps of any true freshman on offense, Olave had little to show for it, catching just five balls for 70 yards through 11 games. 

That is, until Michigan came to Columbus. 

The freshman had the definition of a breakout game against the Buckeyes' rivals, catching a touchdown on Ohio State's first possessions of the game with a crossing route. Three possessions later, he beat press coverage down the sideline and snagged another score. 

Perhaps most importantly, however, was a play Olave made on special teams. After going into halftime with a five-point lead and scoring just three points in its next two possessions, Ohio State was anything but in control of the game. As the defense forced another punt, Olave broke through the line, blocking the kick. The ball fell into Sevyn Banks' hands, who ran it in for six points. 

The Buckeyes controlled the game the rest of the way, leading by as many as 30 points and winning 62-39.

8. Ryan Shazier Records Decade-High 20 Tackles Against Indiana (2013)

Junior Ryan Shazier had already led the team in tackles in 2012, Urban Meyer's first season at Ohio State. Now in 2013, with a full year under the new coaching staff and scheme, he became one of the best linebackers in the country with his speed and instincts. 

Shazier's play at weakside linebacker gave him the perfect opportunity to fly sideline-to-sideline and make plays all over the field. His 20 tackle (16 solo) performance is the best of the decade and his five tackles behind the line of scrimmage are tied as the best outing of the 2010s. 

Shazier's 144 tackles in 2013 is the best single-season mark of the decade. 

7. Cardale Jones Introduces Himself (2014)

Everyone knows the story. Even people outside of the great state of Ohio. 

The Buckeyes had a two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year gearing up for his senior season. His season was over before it began. 

A true freshman picked up the slack, winning ten of his first eleven games before being injured in the waning moments of the twelfth. Then came No. 12. 

A third-string quarterback to begin the season, Cardale Jones was thrust into the national spotlight as the starting quarterback of one of the most prominent programs in the nation. He would be making his first career start with the pressure (and hope) of the inaugural College Football Playoff looming in the distance. 

Jones, with the help of one of the most dominant defensive displays in recent memory and an unstoppable force at running back, led the Buckeyes to an unbelievable 59-0 victory over No. 13 Wisconsin. The true sophomore threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns with a completion percentage of 70.6%. His passer rating of 255.8 is the decade's fourth-highest mark among Buckeyes. 

Ohio State would go on to make the College Football Playoff as the No. 4 seed, with its 59-0 blowout being a major reason why. The Buckeyes would go on to defeat No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oregon en route to its first national championship since 2002. 

6. John Simon Keeps the Bucks Undefeated (2012)

In the penultimate game of Urban Meyer's debut season at Ohio State, the undefeated Buckeyes were in a dogfight with the Badgers. Senior defensive lineman John Simon was the star of his unit, leading the team in sacks and was second in tackles for loss through eleven games. Led by himself and Ryan Shazier, the Bucks had allowed under 23 points per game in 2012. 

Moving between different positions, Simon weathered the storm, sacking Wisconsin quarterback Curt Phillips three times in the second half and four times overall, which is tied for the best mark of the decade. He also recorded six total tackles and a pass deflection.  

The Buckeyes beat the Badgers 21-14 in overtime and finished 12-0 in the bowl-ban season. 

5. Chase Young Wreaks Havoc Against the Badgers (2019)

There's just something about those Badgers. 

Chase Young, a likely top-three pick in this year's NFL Draft, already had 9.5 sacks in eight weeks and was on pace to break Ohio State's single-season sack record. Vernon Gholston's record would be all but broken after Young took the field that Saturday. 

The junior defensive end finished the game with six tackles (five for loss), four sacks, and two forced fumbles against one of the best offensive lines in the country. His effort tied the decade's record for most tackles for loss and sacks in a single game. Both of Young's forced fumbles came in the second half, helping the home team pull away from a pesky Wisconsin squad. 

It was a simply dominant performance from the first defensive Heisman finalist since 2012. 

4. Carlos Hyde Stomps on the Wolverines (2013)

El Guapo came into his senior season with 1,677 rushing yards. Most were not sure of what to expect of him; he started at running back his junior season but failed to lead his team in rushing yards and did not break the 1,000-yard mark. 

Through eleven games, Carlos Hyde had already surpassed the four-digit benchmark and was looking for more against Michigan. In one of the most contested Ohio State-Michigan games in recent history, the senior tailback had arguably the best game of his Buckeye career, gaining 226 yards and the go-ahead touchdown while averaging 8.4 yards per carry. 

Hyde nearly doubled his career rushing total in his senior year, gaining 1,521 yards on the ground for a total of 3,198 rushing yards. 

3. Noah Brown's Four Touchdowns in Norman (2016)

A former four-star recruit, Noah Brown had never really found a role with the Buckeyes. In his first two seasons (he missed his entire sophomore year with a leg injury), he had just one reception for nine yards. 

All it took was one night for Brown to become the most beloved man in the state of Ohio. 

Against Oklahoma, the 6-foot-2 wide receiver came down with an astonishing four touchdown receptions, tying the single-game school record. The touchdowns varied in difficulty, ranging from "open and easy" to "literally catching the ball blindly while being tackled and using the defender's back to secure it". 

Brown ended his redshirt sophomore campaign with 402 yards (second on the team) and seven touchdowns. 

2. J.T. Barrett Leads Comeback Against Penn State (2017)

The Big Ten's career leader in nearly every major statistical category was down early. J.T. Barrett, who needs little introduction, inherited an early deficit that was not overcome until the final two minutes of the fourth quarter. 

The senior quarterback had the best game of his career in one of the biggest games of his career. Barrett threw for 328 yards, four touchdowns, and completed nearly 85% of his passes while running for an additional 95 yards. In the fourth quarter, he was 14/14 for 157 yards and three touchdowns, the most consecutive completed passes in school history. 

Ohio State's comeback victory helped the program win the Big Ten for the first time since 2014. 

1. Ezekiel Elliott Tears Through the Heart of the South (2015)

After Cardale Jones' national introduction in the Big Ten Championship Game, a date with Alabama had finally arrived. As critics and Big-12 fans argued about the Buckeyes' résumé, Ezekiel Elliott was able to put all of the doubters to rest. 

In the biggest game of his career, Elliott ran for 226 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 11.3 yards per carry. He was going up against a defense that had not allowed a 100-yard rusher all season long. Elliott surpassed that mark in the second quarter. 

The true sophomore had an incredible outing and numerous important runs, but none of them come close to his famed 85-yard scamper that put the game out of reach.

Elliott's performance against Alabama was the second in a fantastic three-game run (Wisconsin, Alabama, Oregon). Over that stretch, he averaged 232 yards per game on 9.2 yards per carry and scored eight touchdowns. 

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