Four Underappreciated Single-Season Performances in Ohio State Football Annals

By Chris Lauderback on April 9, 2020 at 8:35 am
Dane Sanzenbacher's 948 receiving yards in 2010 stands as the 10th-most in a single-season in OSU lore.

Archie Griffin. Eddie George. Ezekiel Elliott. 

Cris Carter. Terry Glenn. David Boston. 

Chris Spielman. AJ Hawk. James Laurinaitis. 

When you think of legendary seasons turned in by elite Ohio State players, the names above are some of the first to pop up at their respective positions. 

The rich tradition of excellence manufactured in Ohio Stadium is certainly something to be celebrated. That said, it is important to remember that below the surface of the truly elite names and performances, you'll find some remarkable individual efforts within single-seasons that don't seem to get quite enough shine because it is so easy to get lost in the shuffle. 

With that, I took a look at the last 40 years of Ohio State football history, searching for what I felt to be underappreciated individual performances in a single-season. The four efforts I chose are as follows: 


You typically don't want to be the guy called upon to replace a legend but that's exactly what Pepe Pearson had to do after Eddie George won the 1995 Heisman Trophy and took his talents to the NFL. 

A junior entering the 1996 season, Pearson proved up to the task churning out 1,484 rushing yards, a mark that still stands as the 11th-best single-season total in school history.

Pearson scored touchdowns in the first nine games, including eight over the first three, on the way to 17 for the season. That total stands as the 7th-most over the last 40 seasons of Buckeye football.  

He scored 102 points on the season – 54 more than the next position player (Dimitrious Stanley), and totaled 1,024 more rushing yards than Ohio State's second-leading rusher (Joe Montgomery). 

The Euclid native rushed for over 100 yards in 10 of 12 games and averaged 123.7 per game which serves as the 9th-highest per game average by an Ohio State rusher over the last four decades.

With Pearson leading the ground game, Ohio State went 11-1, won the Big Ten title (despite losing to Michigan), captured its first Rose Bowl victory since 1973 and finished the season No. 2 in the polls. 


Coming off a junior season in which he caught 36 balls for 570 yards and six touchdowns, Dane Sanzenbacher took a giant leap as a senior in 2010. 

Helping Ohio State to a 12-1 record capped by a 37-7 win over Michigan and a 31-26 victory over SEC foe Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, Sanzenbacher quietly turned in a prolific season. 

He led the team with 55 receptions, paced the Big Ten with 11 receiving touchdowns, and his 948 receiving yards still stand as the 10th-most in a single-season in the history of Ohio State football. 

He lit up Eastern Michigan for 108 yards and four touchdowns and turned in a host of clutch catches in Ohio State's biggest games. 

In Ohio State's lone loss, a 31-18 roadie in Madison, Sanzenbacher caught six balls for 94 yards among Terrelle Pryor's 14 total completions 156 passing yards. 

In a 38-14 win over Penn State he turned a 17-14 lead into a 24-14 cushion, snagging a deflected ball intended for DeVier Posey for a 58-yard fourth quarter score. 

A few weeks later versus Iowa, he reeled in six catches for 102 yards when no other OSU receiver went for more than 32 yards. His outing included a clutch 24-yard reception to the Iowa 2, setting up a Boom Herron touchdown two plays later giving the Buckeyes a 20-17 lead with 1:47 left to play. Game over. 

The next week in The Game, he hauled in a 7-yard touchdown giving Ohio State a 10-0 lead. Sanzenbacher also converted a 3rd-and-5 and a 3rd-and-11 with receptions of 39 and 25 yards respectively, on two scoring drives. 

Finally, in the Sugar Bowl, he capped his career with 59 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The first came as he alertly hopped on a Pryor fumble in the end zone giving Ohio State a 7-0 lead. The second occurred a quarter later via a 15-yard touchdown grab putting the Buckeyes in front 20-7. 


Young fans remember Tim Spencer as a running backs coach but in the early 80's, he was a shifty tailback for Earle Bruce's squad. 

Spencer entered the 1982 season as a second-year starter on the heels of an '81 campaign that saw him rush for 1,217 yards and 12 touchdowns. 

He would build on those numbers quite nicely rushing for 1,538 yards, good for the 9th-most by a Buckeye over the last 40 seasons. Spencer did so averaging 128.2 rushing yards per outing which stands as the 6th-highest mark over the last four decades.

At the time, he became just the second Ohio State rusher to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in back-to-back seasons (Archie, of course, being the other). 

His 14 rushing touchdowns and 273 attempts led the conference while he racked up team MVP and Holiday Bowl MVP honors. 

The St. Clairsville product gained steam as the season wore on, rushing for over 100 yards in each of Ohio State's final seven games – all victories. 

His streak included 187 yards in a 49-25 win over Indiana in Bloomington, a career-high 190 yards in a victory over Northwestern, 124 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-14 decision over Michigan, and finally, a 167-yard outburst over Steve Young and BYU in a 47-17 victory in the Holiday Bowl.  


I wanted to include a defender among my foursome and Lorenzo Styles immediately came to mind as a guy I wanted to vet. 

Styles, replacing the also underappreciated Steve Tovar, amassed 117 tackles from his middle linebacker spot for the 1993 Buckeyes setting the stage for a monster '94 campaign. 

Of course, the 1994 season was largely forgettable as the Buckeyes limped to 9-4 record in year seven under John Cooper. In fact, the most memorable facet of that season for most fans occurred on defense but it wasn't Styles. 

A pair of defensive ends named Matt Finkes and Mike Vrabel each logged 20 tackles for loss and combined for 23 sacks. 

Lost in the shuffle was Styles turning in 132 total tackles which stands as the second-most in a single-season dating back to 1988. (Ryan Shazier had 143 in 2013 and Chris Spielman had 156 in 1987.)

Styles had 50 more tackles than Ohio State's second-leading tackler, Marlon Kerner, and he also logged 10 tackles for loss in a first-team All-Big Ten performance. 

He tallied 12 tackles in a season-opening win over Fresno State, had 13 in a loss to Washington, and back-to-back 15-tackle outings against Illinois and Northwestern, giving him four double-digit tackles performances over the first six games.

Styles also went for 10 tackles each in wins over Wisconsin and Michigan State before capping the regular season with a dozen tackles including two for loss in a 22-6 romp over Michigan. 

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