Here in the Holy Land, we feel it's our job, nay, mission, to make sure you get yourselves in the proper frame of mind as we approach kickoff to The Greatest Rivalry In Sports.
Welcome to "Your Daily Hate". For the next five days, we're giving you a blast from past games that have not only been iconic moments for Ohio State football, but were also especially painful for Michigan fans to swallow. It's bad enough to lose to your arch rival, but to lose it in such an awful way – or with so much at stake for one of the teams – well, that makes the victory all the sweeter.
And their misery all the more glorious. Today, I give you The Catch and The Catch. Like I'll explain in a couple days, I wasn't born into this rivalry, I was adopted in to it. I didn't move to Columbus until I was in high school, and my first iconic OSU-Michigan moment was the 1984 game.
It was a game Ohio State had to win to ensure their first Rose Bowl appearance since the 1979 season, and that team was loaded. Guys like Keith Byars and freshmen named Cris Carter and Chris Spielman were the headliners, but the game turned on one of the best catches in this rivalry's history.
Early in the fourth quarter, with the Bucks holding a narrow 7-6 lead, OSU faced a third and long near midfield. QB Mike Tomczak threw over the middle, senior flanker Mike Lanese, who had fumbled a punt return earlier in the game that lead to a Michigan field goal, made one of the more ridiculous catches you'll see:
That was the biggest play of the game for OSU. Michigan had slowly taken over the tempo and momentum of the game, and were it not for a missed FG would be leading the game. Another stop there, and it could'e very well given the Wolverines the juice to score again and put the game away. But Lanese's catch kept the drive alive, OSU would go down the field to score, and would add another late TD to put the game away.
It was my first time being a part of an OSU win over Michigan in Columbus, and a few weeks later it was my first time watching my team in the Rose Bowl. I was hooked for life.
Fast forward 21 years later. In 2005, Jim Tressel was 3-1 against Michigan and looking for more. Ohio State had junior Troy Smith as their QB, and he was just coming into his own as one of OSU's all time greats. A Buckeye win coupled with a Penn State loss would send OSU to their first Rose Bowl since the 1996 season. If both teams won, OSU would be going to a BCS bowl, but a loss would mean a mid December game for OSU.
It looked bleak in the middle of the fourth quarter, as OSU needed two touchdowns to win. It looked like a tall task, as the offense had sputtered, for the most part, since the first quarter, but they finally got untracked, and Troy Smith became a legend on that day. Smith ran for 14 yards on third down while engineering a Houdini-like escape from a fierce Michigan pass rush, and then connected with Santonio Holmes on the next play for a TD to close the gap to 21-19. The defense held, and OSU got the ball back with four minutes left at their own 12.
The Buckeyes marched down to the Michigan 31 with 47 seconds left. On first down, Smith once again avoided the rush, found Anthony Gonzalez open downfield, and then...a legend was officially born:
Two plays later, Antonio Pittman went in from the three, Ohio State won 25-21, and would go on to demolish Notre Dame and Charlie Weis' decided schematic advantage in the Fiesta Bowl.
21 years, two catches, and two generations of Michigan fans demolished by, essentially, one throw.
Go Bucks. Beat that Team Up North.