No, Ohio State didn’t win a national championship under John Cooper, and we won’t even get into his Michigan and bowl game records. But for a six-year stretch during the mid- to late-1990’s, it wasn’t exactly boring. 5 of those 6 seasons saw double-digit wins and Buckeye Nation was witness to a boatload of talent. And the team that got the ball rolling was the 1993 squad.
stayed around campus almost en masse during the summer, working out together and establishing the chemistry that is so vital to championship clubs. After an easy opening win over Rice, that camaraderie began to pay dividends the next Saturday night as Ohio State upset #12 Washington 21-12 in front of one of the most electric crowds ever to fill Ohio Stadium. The victory served notice to a national television audience that there was something special brewing in Columbus, and the offense, spearheaded by the quarter back tandem of sophomore Bobby Hoying and senior Bret Powers, kicked it into high gear the next two games as the Buckeyes pummeled Pitt 63-28 and hammered Northwestern 51-3.
The Maize and Blue had obviously been the biggest thorn in John Cooper’s side in this his sixth season, but the Orange and Blue of Illinois weren’t far behind. “Coop” had yet to beat the Illini in five tries, and with those games coming in the first or second week of Big Ten play during his tenure Ohio State was always behind the eight-ball in the conference before the race even got interesting. The Buckeyes jumped to a 17-3 halftime lead in the ’93 game with Illinois, but with a typically brutal Champaign wind whipping through Memorial Stadium Coop shackled the Buckeye offense and turned to his defense to hold the fort. The Illini closed to 17-12 and actually took an 18-17 lead but the go-ahead TD was called back, and Tim Williams added a late field goal to give the Buckeyes a 20-12 win and their first win over Illinois since 1987. And ironically, Ohio State moved up to #5 in the AP poll after the win, the highest they had been ranked since being #5 during week two of 1987.
The Buckeyes and their next opponent, Michigan State, were both off to their best starts since 1979. OSU was 5-0 while the Spartans were 3-1, their only loss coming to unbeaten Notre Dame. While the Bucks were hanging on to beat Illinois, MSU had taken down the Wolverines 17-7, putting an end to TBGUN’s 22-game Big 10 winning streak and boosting themselves into the Top 25.
plays, with Bobby Hoying hitting Joey Galloway with passes of 19, 20 and finally 22 yards for the first touchdown of the afternoon. The opening drive scoring streak was now at six, Galloway had caught at least one TD pass in every game and the Bucks led 7-0. The game was two minutes old but Galloway had already caught more passes than he did the whole game at Illinois, while Hoying had thrown more passes on the drive (4 total) than the entire second half at Champaign.
OSU’s defense forced Michigan State to kick on their initial series, but Galloway fumbled the punt after being hit by Steve Wasylk and the Spartans recovered at the Buckeye 31. After defensive linemen Randall Brown (-5) and Jason Simmons (-10) had tackles-for-loss, MSU was out of field goal range, but on third down quarterback Jim Miller dialed up Napoleon Outlaw for 16 to OSU’s 30. From there Bill Stoyanovich, whose brother Pete was kicking for the Miami Dolphins, booted a 47-yard field goal to get the Green and White on the board at 7-3. It would be Stoyanovich’s lone bright spot of the first half, as three more field goal attempts would be off the mark by halftime.
Ohio State answered right back. With Bobby Hoying back under center, the Buckeyes moved 70 yards in 12 plays. A 14-yard Hoying-to-Buster Tillman pass converted a 3rd-and-7 situation to put the ball at the Buckeye 43. Following an MSU offside penalty, it was runningback-by-committee as Jeff Cothran gained 3, Raymont Harris picked up 3, Butler By’not’e added 8 and Harris came back for 4 more to put OSU at the Spartan 20. Hoying found Harris out of the backfield on the next play for a 14-yard pass play to set the Bucks up 1st-and-goal at the six. Things took a drastic turn as Hoying fell down for a loss of 8 while setting up to throw, but he righted the ship quickly, going to- guess who?- Joey Galloway for a 14-yard touchdown pass, the junior split ends’ third of the afternoon. With 2:47 to go in the half it was 21-10, Ohio State, and although Jim Miller completed 7 of 8 passes to move the Spartans from their own 16 to the Buckeye 3, Stoyanovich blew a 20-yard field goal attempt to leave OSU up 11 at the half.
Neither team was able to crack the scoreboard in the third period. MSU’s freshman linebacker Reggie Garnett intercepted a Hoying pass on Ohio State’s first possession after the break to give his team the pigskin at their own 37. The Spartans marched into Buckeye territory but faced a 3rd-and-2 call at OSU’s 30. Steve Holman was only able to get one yard, and with Stoyanovich having a less-than-banner day kicking, George Perles decided to go for it. Holman hit the line again but was stuffed for no gain and the Bucks took over. Frustration began to mount for MSU, and Kirk Herbstreit, who was in his first year as sideline reporter for the Ohio State Football Radio Network, took note of it. Just one play after Kirk told announcers Terry Smith and Jeff Logan to keep an eye on Korey Stringer and Spartan D-lineman Juan Hammonds, Hammonds jumped offsides and leveled Korey, drawing the 5-yard offside flag and another 15 for a personal foul. The ball moved from the Buckeye 40 to the Spartan 40, and on the very next play as Raymont Harris gained 9, Hammonds got into another scrape with OSU guard Jason Winrow. Although no flag was thrown, the officials sent both teams off to “cool down”, leaving Logan and Herbstreit, guys who had played 15 years apart, to agree on the air that the Spartans had been playing this way for years.
Nothing would come of the drive for Ohio State and the game moved to the fourth quarter with the Bucks still up 21-10, although MSU was in the midst of a 71-yard, 14-play march that Stoyanovich would cap by finally converting a field goal. His 21-yard effort just 4 seconds into the final period narrowed the Buckeye lead to 21-13, but he would miss for the fourth time from 39 yards out later in the quarter to cap off a 2-for-6 day.
With under 8 minutes to go, the Bucks had the ball and looked to kill some clock, but a 3rd-and-3 pass to tight end Cedric Saunders actually lost a yard, and when punter Scott Terna could only manage a 14-yard boot, Michigan State had the ball at OSU’s 38. On first down, Miller threw deep down the middle to fullback Scott Greene, who caught the pass at the 10 and dragged Buckeye DB’s Walter Taylor and Chico Nelson into the endzone with him. The Green and White went for 2 and got it as Miller hit Mill Coleman in the southwest corner for the conversion to tie the game at 21 with 5:37 to go. The Buckeyes had not trailed at any point in 1993, and this was only the second time they had been tied (Northwestern was even at 3-3 before getting routed 51-3). With the offense struggling in these days before overtime, the Homecoming crowd was nervous. To compound the problem, the Buckeyes had committed a personal foul on the Coleman 2-point play so MSU would kick off from midfield. Would they try an onside kick? George Perles elected to kick deep, and with the touchback the Buckeyes were 80 yards from paydirt. John Cooper decided to go with Bret Powers at QB for the biggest drive of the year.
On 3rd-and-1 from their own 29, Raymont Harris powered for 10. Another 3rd-and-1 arose two plays later, and fullback Jeff Cothran, who had already fumbled twice in this game, atoned with a 3-yard run. With the ball now in MSU territory, the Buckeyes faced yet another 3rd-and-1 call and got it once more as Harris bulled for 2. From the Spartan 38, freshman flanker Terry Glenn dropped a Powers pass, and on second down Bret threw the ball out of bounds when no one was open. Again it was third down, but Joey Galloway, who had been quiet in the second half after a white hot first 30 minutes, came up huge. Out of the left slot, Galloway cut towards the Buckeye sideline, gathered in a Powers pass and dragged both feet inbounds. The play was good for 17 yards and a first down at MSU’s 21. From there it was time for Raymont Harris, and on the next play the big tailback gained 11 while bowling over Spartan DB Steve Waslyk. After Waslyk was helped off, Harris gained 3 to put the ball at the 7. Harris’ number was called once more and Raymont bulled up the middle and into the endzone to give Ohio State the lead. Tim Williams added the point after and with 1:06 to play the Bucks led 28-21.
Now it was time for How-Not-To-Manage-The-Clock 101. With two timeouts left, MSU set sail from their own 16. An inbounds pass play gained 6. Timeout? Nope. Jim Miller hit tailback Duane Goulbourne for 3, but it too was inbounds. Timeout? Nah. On 3rd-and-1, Miller found Nigea Carter for 5 and a first down at the Spartan 30, but although the play ended with :26 seconds to go, Perles didn’t call time until the officials had wound the clock and it was down to :13. Up in the radio booth Jeff Logan, never known to mince words, eloquently summed up what everyone in the crowd was thinking- “George Perles, you’re losing it, man!” Carter hauled in a 16-yard aerial from Miller with :06 to go, but on the final play Miller’s heave towards Carter was knocked down by Walter Taylor to end it. The Buckeyes had overcome 5 turnovers and a career passing day by Jim Miller to emerge victorious 28-21 and were now 6-0 on the season.
Joey Galloway’s career day of 9 receptions, 186 yards and 3 touchdowns would garner him Big-10 Co-Offensive Player Of The Week honors, and with # 4 Florida losing to Auburn and # 2 Alabama tying Tennessee, OSU would jump to # 3 in the polls.
Things were looking sweet for the ’93 Buckeyes, especially after running their record to 8-0 by dominating Penn State 24-6 in the snow two weeks later. But the Bucks needed a Marlon Kerner block of a Wisconsin field goal on the last play of the game to salvage a 14-14 tie which pretty much doomed their national title chances. And although a win in the home finale with Indiana garnered OSU a share of the Big Ten title, their chance to win it outright- and claim the Rose Bowl trip- went down the drain in Ann Arbor with a humiliating 28-0 loss.
It was a bitter ending to an otherwise great season, but on a rainy Homecoming Saturday, in front of their ’68 peers, the Buckeyes showed their mettle by converting four different third-down plays to beat Michigan State. After Illinois had tied the ’68 team at 24-all, a backup quarterback (Ron Maciejowski) had led the winning drive which was capped by a touchdown from a bruising runner (Jim Otis). Now, 25 years later, with the game tied, Bret Powers and Raymont Harris had done their brethren proud. And the next morning, at Homecoming Weekend’s traditional Captain’s Breakfast, John Cooper was able to mingle with those brethren for the first time while being undefeated. “It’s fun when you’re winning,” said Cooper. “It isn’t any fun when you have to face those captains after you lose. It was an enjoyable morning this year.”