It was the second week of the 2005 season when Vince Young and the Longhorns came to town.
During this strange time we're currently living in, we've started to look at some of Ohio State's stranger games that stand out for one reason or another. Last week, we looked back at the 2011 Illinois game which saw the Buckeyes complete exactly one forward pass. The 2005 showdown with the Longhorns was an entirely different kind of strange.
Mack Brown had the Horns ranked No. 2 in the country behind only USC, and the Buckeyes checked in at No. 4. Needless to say, it was a contest that the college football world had long been looking forward to, and it absolutely lived up to the hype.
I remember several things about this one. It was the first Ohio State game I ever attended, and I quickly learned that cell phones didn't do so well at the Shoe. There was a point in time – probably 10 minutes before kickoff – that I was unable to contact my aunt and uncle to pick up my tickets. Luckily, we crossed paths outside the stadium and made it in with little time to spare.
Troy Smith was suspended for the Alamo Bowl and week one of the 2005 season. He returned for the Texas game and Jim Tressel elected to split snaps between Smith and Justin Zwick. The handling of the quarterback situation was a big question mark all offseason, and it didn't work out too well early on.
Neither was particularly impressive against the Horns as they combined to go 14 of 26 for 163 yards. Smith connected with Santonio Holmes for the team's lone touchdown and led the offense to five scoring drives compared to Zwick's one. The Buckeyes had a chance to take the lead late in the game, but a Zwick fumble and Texas recovery pretty much sealed the deal. Smith was then named the starter moving forward. The rest, as they say, is history.
Jim Tressel's teams were typically known for their strong defensive play, superb special teams, and discipline/lack of mistakes. Ohio State's mistakes proved to be the difference in this one, however. The Zwick fumble was the only turnover (compared to three from Texas), but dropped passes, missed tackles, and a horrendous late hit were simply too much to overcome for the home team.
There were five minutes left in the third quarter when Zwick hit Ryan Hamby right in the numbers for what should have been an eight-yard touchdown. Instead, a field goal extended the lead to six. On special teams, defensive back Antonio Smith missed a tackle in the end zone that should have been a safety. And a late hit by linebacker Chad Hoobler gave the Horns the ball near the 50-yard line and allowed them to add some points before the half.
***WARNING: STILL HARD TO WATCH***
The 2005 season saw Vince Young's rise to stardom as the redshirt junior would eventually go down as one of college football's all-time greats. His season stats included over 4,000 total yards, 38 touchdowns, and he capped things off with a legendary performance in what is still perhaps the best game any of us have ever seen.
A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter, and the Buckeye defense did a respectable job against Young. The Heisman finalist threw for 270 yards, rushed for another 76, and tossed a pair of touchdown passes. Ohio State forced two interceptions and mostly held him in check compared to what he'd accomplish thereafter.
With just over two minutes left to play, Young connected with Limas Sweed for a 24-yard touchdown as the sophomore beat Ashton Youboty and Nate Salley to make a nice grab in the end zone. The score gave the Horns a 23-22 lead and they'd add to it when Troy Smith took a late safety. The feeling when leaving the stadium – along with the drive back to Athens – was something I'll never forget.
Ted Ginn Jr. was a sophomore in 2005 and he was ineffective on that fateful September evening. Ginn caught two passes for just nine yards but did have 82 yards on three kick returns. Santonio Holmes had four receptions for 73 yards and a score. A.J. Hawk was phenomenal on the night. The senior recorded an interception, two sacks, 12 tackles (including three for loss), a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
The Buckeyes went 10-2 on the season and finished No. 4 in the AP. Jim Tressel's two losses came against Texas and at Penn State. Ohio State would go on to handle Notre Dame with relative ease in the Fiesta Bowl by a score of 34-20. Mack Brown's team went undefeated and captured the title with the Rose Bowl win over Pete Carroll and an ultra-talented Trojans team.
Ohio State's heartbreaker against the Horns was far from the typical Jim Tressel game. The uncertainty under center, mistakes, and missed tackles were too much to overcome when facing one of college football's best players of all time. It did, however, lead to Troy Smith's takeover and he would go on to return the favor a year later in Austin.