Ten years ago Buckeyes fans were in a nearly identical situation as they are now: in the Fiesta Bowl facing Notre Dame. Like their 2015 counterparts, the 2005 Buckeyes had hopes for a national championship run, but were forced to settle for a Fiesta Bowl birth instead. Ohio State came out victorious 34-20, and what follows are 16 thoughts (ranked in no particular order) that crossed my mind while re-watching and researching this epic Buckeyes' victory.
1. The 2006 Fiesta Bowl may have been Ted Ginn Jr.'s greatest game as a Buckeye.
Teddy Ginn accounted for 27 total touchdowns in his electrifying three years as a Buckeye. With a sub 4.3 forty, getting the ball in Ginn's hands became the starting point of many a big play for the Ohio State offense, and the 2006 Fiesta Bowl was no exception.
Ohio State needed an answer. Notre Dame has just driven 72 yards to take a quick seven point lead, in just two minutes of play. After a key first down completion to wide receiver Santonio Holmes, Ohio state decided to take a shot deep to Ginn. What followed was one of the most wide open touchdowns I have ever seen.
Sure, sometimes there is a complete break in coverage that allows a wide receiver to be completely alone in the secondary, but seldom do you see a corner seemingly attempting to cover the receiver the whole play so far away from the point of the catch. Ginn literally just sprinted straight past this Fighting Irish defense that I'm assuming was hell bent on preventing exactly this type of play from happening. In all likelihood the corner covering Ginn thought he would have safety help over the top, but I like to pretend that Ginn was simply that much faster than any mortal Notre Dame lined up across from him.
Ginn's second touchdown was more exciting than his first. Ohio State used to get quite creative in getting Ginn the ball (the Shot-Ginn formation for example) and this nifty reverse coach Jim Tressel dialed up below was no exception.
Sure, Ginn flying past his leading lineman was entertaining, as was Ginn cutting back and making three Notre Dame defenders fall all over themselves. My favorite part of the play? When announcer Brent Musburger claims that Ginn is gone around the Notre Dame 35 when in reality Ginn still had three Fighting Irish to avoid. Whether it was one of the most confident broadcasting calls of all time, or simply a case of Ginn saving Musburger's ass, what a play.
Personally I vividly remembered these two touchdowns, but overall I simply recalled this game as another big Teddy Ginn game...not the biggest Teddy Ginn game ever. That's right, with 242 total yards Ginn set his personal career high for total yardage, and his two touchdowns were his second highest total ever.
The only other game that could really be seen as Ginn's best would be his 2004 showcase against Michigan State. In that game Ginn returned a punt for a touchdown, ran in a reverse for a touchdown, and busted a slant for a game winning touchdown, good for Ginn's only three touchdown game of his career. Not bad for a guy who came to school as a cornerback.
2. This was essentially the last game of Troy Smith as a running quarterback
A common criticism towards mobile quarterbacks is that they scramble to run, not to throw. The idea is that when quarterbacks are scrambling they need to keep their eyes downfield and only use their legs as a last priority. This benefits the offense by both creating more explosive plays, and also protecting the quarterback by exposing him to less hits.
In Troy Smith's Sophomore and Junior years he averaged over 11 rushing attempts a game. This does include sacks, but regardless, this total dipped to just 5.5 rush attempts per game as a Senior. Obviously this worked out for Smith (he won a little something called the Heisman Trophy), but Smith's 13 carries for 66 yards against Notre Dame marked both the most rush attempts and rush yards he would gain for the rest of his collegiate career.
3. Antonio Pittman ended his Buckeyes season in style
By all accounts Antonio Pittman had a great Ohio State career. With back to back seasons with over 1,200 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns over that same span, Pittman definitely has the stats to back up this assertion.
Unfortunately for Pittman, he came just after Maurice Clarett had helped carry Ohio State to a national title, and just before the much hyped Chris Wells made his name running over (and above) anyone that got in his way on the gridiron.
Pittman left Ohio State on a nice note, to the tune of a 60 yard touchdown run to clinch the game for the Buckeyes. Good thing too: Pittman had been bottled up for just 76 rushing yards on his previous 20 carries.
4. Darius Walker killed the Buckeyes
127 total yards and three touchdowns is good enough for "killed" in my book. When an offense totes a third team All-American in Brady Quinn behind center, sometimes you let guys who have futures in banking and broadcasting beat you instead.
5. A.J. Hawk was dating Brady Quinn's sister
What a tough situation. Both your brother and your boyfriend are in the Fiesta Bowl, and you have to pick which one to root for...or so the world thought. Hats off to whoever constructed this American Horror Story worthy piece of clothing, as Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn's sister (now known as Laura Hawk) went with the dark blue Fighting Irish on the right side of her body, and the scarlet and gray on the left (I assume she did this so the Ohio State half covered her heart).
6. A.J. Hawk completely dominated his girlfriend's brother
I can't even imagine the kinds of things that Hawk must have been yelling across the line to Brady Quinn. If there's one thing guys hate, it's other guys talking about your sister, and when the guy who happens to be dating your sister is one of the best linebackers in college football? That's trouble.
Hawk dominated both his personal match-up with Quinn (two sacks) and the game in general (12 total tackles). While the constant viewing of the before mentioned Laura Quinn/Hawk got real old real quick during the game, watching Laura's face upon Quinn being sacked by Hawk was worth the price of that weird jersey alone.
7. Donte Whitner was really good at football
Nine tackles and three pass deflections were Whitner's way of capping his outstanding three year Ohio State career. You can still find him today, patrolling the Cleveland Browns secondary, and still seemingly confused (check out Donte's twitter name versus his twitter handle) about whether he wanted to be known as Donte Hitner or Donte Whitner.
8. SANTONI-OH MY GOD WHAT ARE YOU DOING
When Troy Smith faked a handoff inside his own 20 with just under three minutes remaining in the first half, the stadium froze: Santonio Holmes was currently running straight past the Fighting Irish secondary for the Buckeyes' third long touchdown of the first half. But it wasn't that easy.
Holmes, figuring that no catholic alive could catch him in the open field, threw up the number one at roughly the 10 yard line and got caught by All-American Notre Dame safety Tom Zbikowski.
9. Tom Zbikowski has had a very interesting life
If you have never heard of Zbikowski, you have some reading to do. Only one of the following four statements are false. Zbikowski...
a. Quit the NFL at the young age of 28 to become a firefighter
b. Was an accomplished professional boxer
c. Played roughly 20 percent of his football games with a "massive hangover"
d. Prevented a long touchdown catch by Santonio Holmes
10. Stovall, not Samardzija, caused problems for the OSU secondary
Just when you thought the star power of this game couldn't get any bigger, we remember that Jeff Samardzija was an All-American wide receiver at Notre Dame before becoming a starting pitcher in the MLB. This decision to focus on baseball full time was not due to Samardzija not having the ability to play football (as evidenced by his 1,200 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns in 2005), but the Buckeyes held "The Shark" (apparently Samardzija thinks he can steal legend's nicknames) to just 59 yards and no touchdowns on the day.
Instead it was Maurice Stovall who proved to be the issue for the Silver Bullets, as the future 3rd round pick racked up 126 yards on nine receptions, regularly beating the Ohio State corners who were more worried about Samardzija.
11. This game was never really that close
Don't let your Notre Dame frenemys tell you otherwise: Ohio State beat Notre Dame badly this game. Sure, the Fighting Irish pulled to within seven points in the fourth quarter. But the Buckeyes outgained Notre Dame 617 to 348, was up by two scores for nearly half of the game, and only allowed Notre Dame to stay in the game thanks to two untimely turnovers (sound familiar?).
12. Ohio State had zero punts. Notre Dame had six.
This probably should have been thought 11.a.
13. This Buckeyes offense was incredibly explosive
When we think of pre-Urban Ohio State offenses one phrase comes to mind: Tressel-ball. The idea that a dominating defense and special teams could more than carry a conservative offense was the heart of Tressel-ball, but don't be fooled: an offense with three (Anthony Gonzalez, Ginn and Holmes) future first round wide receivers was far from conservative, and they proved it this night in Tempe. Ginn for 56, Ginn for 68, Holmes for 85, and finally Pittman for 60 marked the four times Ohio State found pay dirt, with the longest drive lasting a mere three minutes and 41 seconds. Tressel-ball, baby.
14. Mike Kudla, you are a beast
While the fact that Kudla could benchpress 225 pounds 45 times is reason enough to call him a beast, it was Kudla's three sacks against Notre Dame that earns him this title. Then again, what would you expect from the guy who stunts Van Dyke facial hair for his Ohio State head shot.
15. Apparently there was a day when Charlie Weis was more feared than Jim Tressel
"I been hearing a lot about how are you guys going to beat a Notre Dame team when you give Charlie Weis four weeks to prepare for it," Buckeyes senior linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "That kind of upset me because I thought, 'What about giving coach Tressel four weeks to prepare for you?''
I agree A.J. Also, fun fact: as of last May Charlie Weis was still the highest paid coach on Notre Dame's payroll. Weis was fired from his position as Notre Dame's head coach in 2009.
16. Ohio State won three Fiesta Bowls in four years
Ohio State has largely owned the Fiesta Bowl throughout the 21st century. With a record of 3-1 (damnit Texas), Ohio State knocked off Miami, Kansas State and Notre Dame to make it three Fiesta Bowl victories in four years. The other victor? Utah and young head coach Urban Meyer in 2005.