Skull Session: Ohio State Football Loves to Make Comebacks, Buckeyes Hoops Has a Championship Standard and Tavien St. Clair Looks the Part As a Five-Star Quarterback

By Chase Brown on June 12, 2024 at 5:00 am
J.T. Barrett

Welcome to the Skull Session.

On3 asked, "Who has the best black uniform in college football?" Ohio State responded:

Wear them against Nebraska, please.

Have a good Wednesday.

 CALL IT A COMEBACK. It’s the offseason. When it’s the offseason, Skull Session #content can be hard to find. Sometimes, that means I create the #content from scratch. Today is one of those sometimes. Today, we look at the five most memorable comebacks in Ohio State football history.

1984 - Ohio State digs out of 24-point hole vs. Illinois

On Oct. 13, 1984, the No. 8 Buckeyes welcomed Illinois to Columbus for a battle between the best teams in the Big Ten. Illinois raced out to a 24-0 lead thanks to three touchdown passes from quarterback Jack Trudeau and a field goal from Chris White. 

As hope looked lost for Ohio State, Keith Byars decided to – I’ll paraphrase one of the greatest tweets of all time – run like a “haunted downhill shopping cart” and will the Buckeyes to a win, recording 39 carries, including one attempt where he lost his shoe, for 274 yards and a school-record five touchdown runs (Miyan Williams tied this record in 2022 against Rutgers).

In addition to the running back’s brilliance, Mike Tomzack threw a 33-yard touchdown to Cris Carter, and Rich Spangler drilled a 46-yard kick as Ohio State defeated Illinois, 45-38, in the Shoe.

1988 - Ohio State stuns No. 7 LSU in the final two minutes

The 1988 Ohio State football team went 4-6-1, which is… not good… not good at all. But – one of those four wins was an absolute stunner as the Buckeyes overcame a 13-point deficit with two touchdowns in the final 1:56 to shock LSU in Columbus. Ohio State led 14-3 in the second quarter before surrendering a 30-6 run to the Tigers and trailing 33-20 with 4:29 left in the game.

Then, Greg Frey put the team on his back and led the Buckeyes on a 10-play, 59-yard drive that cut the deficit to 33-27. Following a crucial three-and-out stop from the Silver Bullets, Frey commandeered a game-winning scoring drive, connecting with Bobby Olive on a 20-yard touchdown pass to cap off a miraculous 36-33 comeback win.

1989 - Ohio State overcomes 31-0 hole at Minnesota

It’s hard for me to believe that Ohio State once found itself in a 31-0 hole to Minnesota, but alas, that is what occurred on Oct. 29, 1989. Hosting the Buckeyes in the Metrodome, the Golden Gophers took a 31-0 lead thanks to four touchdowns and one field goal. They also benefited from three (!) Ohio State fumbles, one of which Minnesota returned 85 yards for a score. 

Thankfully, as he managed to do against LSU the season before, Frey climbed aboard The Magic Train and conducted one of the greatest comebacks the sport has ever seen. After a Carlos Snow touchdown cut the Minnesota lead to 31-8 before the intermission, Frey led Ohio State on five scoring drives in the second half, including three that ended in passing touchdowns and two that ended in field goals. Frey’s 15-yard strike to Jeff Graham late in the fourth quarter proved to be the dagger for the Buckeyes, and the team left Minneapolis with a 41-37 win.

2005 - Ohio State rallies late to beat “That Team Up North”

While the comeback itself wasn’t spectacular, Ohio State overcoming a deficit in Ann Arbor deserves recognition here. Trailing 21-12 in the Big House – a place Ohio State was 2-8 in its previous 10 games – the Buckeyes’ backs were against the wall following a host of unforced errors, including a missed extra point, a missed field goal, an 18-yard punt and two lost fumbles.

Good news: The Buckeyes had Troy Smith.

Looking to collect his second win over the Wolverines, Smith led Ohio State on a 67-yard march to the end zone, hitting Anthony Gonzalez for 27 yards, running for another 14 yards and connecting with Santonio Holmes for a 26-yard touchdown. With 6:41 left on the clock, the Buckeyes trailed 21-19. Following an impressive stop for Ohio State’s defense, the offense took possession of the ball with 4:18 remaining. On the final drive, Smith completed 7 of 8 passes for 77 yards to put the Buckeyes on the goal line. Antonio Pittman did the rest, rumbling 3 yards into the end zone to cap off Ohio State’s 25-21 win.

2017 - Joe Thomas Barrett and the Buckeyes surge past Penn State

When Saquon Barkley took the opening kickoff 97 yards to the house, all 12 million members of Buckeye Nation gulped. Three plays later, when Parris Campbell fumbled, all 12 million members of Buckeye Nation repeated the same response. And again when Penn State scored a second time, a third time and a fourth time. Penn State led Ohio State 28-17 at the intermission, and the Nittany Lions looked poised to put the game out of reach in the second half. 

But then J.T. Barrett came alive.

In the final 30 minutes, Barrett led the Buckeyes on four scoring drives, including three touchdowns in the last three possessions (not including the kneel-down). First, Sean Neurnberger connected on a 36-yard field goal to cut the lead to 28-20. Following Penn State’s fifth touchdown, Ohio State went on a 29-3 run thanks to three Barrett touchdown passes to Johnnie Dixon (two) and Marcus Baugh. When the clock reached 0:00, and the Buckeyes had secured their 39-38 win, many 100,000+ fans in Ohio Stadium rushed the field to celebrate the top-10 victory. They also celebrated Barrett, who ended the game 33-of-39 passing for 328 yards and four scores while adding 17 carries and 95 yards as a runner.

Honorable mention: Ohio State's 17-14 win over Notre Dame in 2023. That was cool.

 THE BASKETBUCKS. That section was almost 1,000 words.

Take a breather.

*** wooooooooooosaaaaaaaaaa ***

Ohio State has been one of the top 10 programs in college basketball since the 1997 season. That’s not opinion. That’s KenPom. Thanks to a neat visualization from X user Andrew Weatherman, we can see that – according to KenPom rankings from the past 27 years – the Buckeyes only rank behind Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan State, Gonzaga, Arizona and Villanova across almost three decades of the sport.

While Ohio State did not meet this standard at the end of the Thad Matta era and the entire Chris Holtmann era, new head coach Jake Diebler wants to reinstate championship-level expectations in the program in his first season.

“I’ve seen where this program has been,” Diebler said on Monday. “The standard of this program is just that – that’s competing for championships. That’s the way the program has been, and that’s the way it will be moving forward.”

This is the way.

 LIFE MOVES PRETTY FAST. Remember when Terrelle Pryor’s succession of used cars, including his infamous Nissan 350Z, drew attention and became the focus of an NCAA investigation following the events of “Tattoogate”? 

The college football world has changed a lot since then.

In 2011, local car dealers operated in the shadows. Thirteen years later, those same salespersons are integral to landing star college athletes.

From Christopher Kamrani and Brian Hamilton of The Athletic:

On Jan. 19, two days after he became the most coveted football player in the NCAA’s transfer portal, and mere hours after he welcomed Ohio State coaches for a recruiting visit, Caleb Downs announced his change-of-address plans. The freshman safety who’d earned second-team All-America honors at Alabama committed to the Buckeyes. Not long after, Downs and his father began relocating to Columbus.

Getting there was simple enough. Getting around was another matter. Some wheels needed to be put in motion.

“I get a call from someone on the coaching staff and they said, ‘Hey, I’m here with Caleb and his dad now. Are you looking to add somebody else to your team?’” says Rick Ricart, the CEO and owner of Ricart Automotive Group in Columbus. “Would you be willing to do a car deal for him?’”

For decades, these were shifty conversations. Local car dealerships had long been conduits for the whispered inducements coaches or boosters promised talented players. When discovered, scandal erupted. Repercussions were often stark. Then came the seismic summer of 2021, when changes to Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) rules allowed college athletes to earn money without fear of NCAA sanctions.

Car dealers nationwide quickly exchanged leases and keys for players boasting about their new ride on social media or even starring in commercials. The scheming, overzealous outsider morphed into the connective tissue for landing a star. A practice parked in the shadows was almost literally driven into the light. “All of a sudden, it was like, ‘What are the rules here?’” Ricart says now. “There are no rules anymore.”

Even before Ohio State coaches reached out to Ricart last winter, fans flocked to his direct messages, begging him to help woo Downs. The player ultimately received a Land Rover from a different dealership, orchestrated via The Foundation, Ohio State’s NIL collective, with Downs agreeing to be an ambassador for multiple charity partners. Ricart at least tangentially fulfilled everyone’s wishes, though: He’s on the collective’s 24-person board.

Besides, business was still good. After Ohio State landed prized five-star receiver Jeremiah Smith in late December, Ricart zeroed in on a prospect who could be the program’s next great wideout. Two days before Downs was pictured in front of his new Land Rover, Ricart and Smith stood in front of the Ohio State football complex. Behind them was Smith’s new ride: a black 2024 Dodge Durango 392 SUV.

Man, what a world.

This article reminds me... The NCAA needs to reinstate the 2010 Ohio State football team’s record and statistics. It also needs to reinstate the accomplishments of the Tattoo 5 – Pryor, DeVier Posey, Solomon Thomas, Mike Adams and Daniel “Boom” Herron.

 AN ABSOLUTE STUD. Folks, Tavien St. Clair looks the part as a five-star quarterback in the 2025 class. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound athlete from Bellefontaine, Ohio, performed at Ohio State's third prospect camp, and he looked like an absolute stud.

With 2026 five-star quarterback Dia Bell and 2026 four-star quarterback Brady Palmer around him, St. Clair shined Tuesday afternoon, completing throw after throw to a host of pass-catchers, including 2026 four-star wide receiver Brody Keefe and 2028 wide receiver Eric McFarland III, who holds an offer from the Buckeyes despite being an incoming high school freshman in 2024.

St. Clair will return to Ohio State on Wednesday for the Buckeyes' 7-on-7 camp. He will also perform later this summer at Elite 11, where he will compete with LSU commit Bryce Underwood, USC commit Julian Lewis and several other quarterbacks in the 2025 class.

I have no doubts that he will be an absolute stud at both events.

This kid has the juice.

 SONG OF THE DAY. “Wild World” - Yusuf and Cat Stevens.

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