Strange Times: Ohio State Narrowly Topped Navy in the 2009 Opener As Brian Rolle Saved the Day for Jim Tressel

By Andrew Ellis on May 19, 2020 at 10:10 am
Brian Rolle intercepted a potential game-tying two-point conversion late in the fourth.
Ohio State Athletics

God bless the United States Naval Academy.

The service academies are incredible places with some outstanding people who help to protect America. One thing that's slightly less great when it comes to these institutions? Going up against them on the gridiron in the fall. We saw a great Oklahoma team barely squeak by Army in 2018 and last year it took two overtimes for the Wolverines to top the Black Knights in Ann Arbor. 

It's fun to point and laugh as Michigan struggles against a team that throws the football maybe two or three times per game. But Jim Tressel and the Buckeyes had their own scare back in 2009 when the Naval Academy came to town.

  1 2 3 4 F
NAVY 7 0 7 13 27
OHIO STATE 10 10 0 11 31

Ohio State came into the season ranked No. 6 in the country, and everyone was really looking forward to the week-two matchup against third-ranked Southern California. Terrelle Pryor was heading into his sophomore year and would be fully in charge of the offense with Todd Boeckman no longer in the picture.

Dan Herron, Brandon Saine, Devier Posey, and Dane Sanzenbacher were the other stars on Tressel's offense. The defense was led by the likes of Ross Homan, Brian Rolle, Cameron Heyward, and Kurt Coleman. The Buckeyes were coming off a 10-3 season that ended with a heartbreaking loss against Texas in the Fiesta Bowl. 

I'm totally on board for the love of the Army/Navy game, but playing against triple-option teams just isn't something I can get behind. You really don't learn anything about your own defense since you're not going to face another similar foe, the option game is boring to watch, and I wouldn't wish getting cut-blocked on my worst enemy. 

The Midshipmen had a new starting quarterback as sophomore Ricky Dobbs took over. All he did against the Buckeyes was score four touchdowns while nearly pulling off the unthinkable on the road. Dobbs would go on to rush for over 1,200 yards and 27 touchdowns. The 27 scores set a new single-season record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback.

The game started off with Terrelle Pryor connecting with Dane Sanzenbacher to give the Buckeyes an early lead. Dobbs would then answer to tie things up. Ohio State actually got up by a score of 29-14 in the final quarter thanks to a Boom Herron touchdown, but the defense then collapsed in giving up 13-straight points; including an 85-yard touchdown pass (pass!).

Dobbs' fourth touchdown of the game came with just over two minutes remaining and brought the Midshipmen within two. Then, on what could have been the game-tying conversion, Ohio State's 5-foot-10 linebacker came away with the play of the game.

Brian Rolle's interception return extended the lead and allowed the Buckeyes to run out the clock and put an end to the tough opener. Pryor went 14 of 21 for 174 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He added another 30 and a score with his legs. Herron was Ohio State's leading rusher with 72 yards and a score. Dane Sanzenbacher caught two passes for 57 yards and a touchdown. Kurt Coleman had nine tackles and forced a pair of turnovers.

The strangest moment of the game might have been when the ultra-conservative Jim Tressel elected to pass up an easy field goal and got a little greedy on 4th and 2 from the Navy 15. Boom Herron was stuffed, the Midshipmen got the ball back, and the very next play would be the 85-yard scoring strike to help give Ken Niumatalolo a big shot of momentum.

Navy went on to go 10-4 on the season and picked up a major road win over the No. 14 Fighting Irish and a Texas Bowl victory against Missouri. Ohio State fell to the Trojans the following last week and would also lose on the road against Purdue. The season ended on a high note with wins over Penn State, Iowa, Michigan, and then against No. 7 Oregon in Pasadena. 

Obviously there's a very real chance that things get shaken up a bit this year, but Notre Dame is scheduled to open the 2020 season against Navy in Dublin, Ireland. It's also going to be interesting watching Oklahoma travel to West Point on Sept. 26. 

Fortunately, you won't find any service academies on Ohio State's upcoming schedules.

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