We’ve spent this past month or so looking back through some of Ohio State’s most exciting games from the last 12 years, and with the real Buckeyes kicking off this Saturday, it is time to bring this series to a close. It has been a ton of fun running through all of these throwback games, and if you missed any of the action, you can find all of the recaps here.
In our last time out, Ohio State defeated Oklahoma in the first round of this makeshift College Football Playoff, and have now advanced to the national title game. Like we’ve done all series long, we have selected the opponent from one of the Buckeyes’ matchups over the past 12 seasons, and we have saved the best game for last: the 2015 Sugar Bowl against Alabama.
With the real 2020 Big Ten season kicking off on Friday night between Wisconsin and Illinois, the final game of 12-for-12: Ohio State’s Perfect Season is upon us. We have gone back and watched so many great performances by the Buckeyes through the last decade-plus, and we look forward to seeing much more of those as this new campaign begins.
Let’s get to the action.
Even though Ohio State scored the first points of the night on a field goal, the beginning of this game was not exactly kind to the Buckeyes. The Silver Bullets forced Alabama to punt on its first two possessions, but a fumble by Ezekiel Elliott on the second drive of the game for OSU set the Crimson Tide up just outside the red zone. Two plays later, Derrick Henry was waltzing into the end zone on a 25-yard TD run to put Alabama up 7-3.
Ohio State was able to put together a nice drive its next time out, thanks mostly to a 40-yard pitch-and-catch from Cardale Jones to Devin Smith, but it would stall out on the goal line as the Buckeyes were once again held to three points.
Urban Meyer’s defense didn’t appear to have any answers for Henry in the run game, and the big bruising back helped work the ball all the way down the field deep into Ohio State territory, where Blake Sims capped off the drive with a 15-yard TD pass to Amari Cooper.
You could feel momentum rapidly building in the Crimson Tide’s favor, and that became even more apparent when Jones was intercepted by Cyrus Jones. Alabama began with the ball inside the red zone once again, and this time it was T.J. Yeldon finishing it off with a two-yard TD run. It was only the start of the second quarter, but Ohio State already trailed 21-6 to the No. 1 team in the nation.
That was when a switch was flipped for the Buckeyes. Ohio State was able to put together another long drive, and this time they came away with a touchdown. After a couple of big pickups through the air by Jalin Marshall, the ball was sitting on the Alabama 18-yard line. A short pass and a few short runs by Elliott later, and OSU now only trailed 21-13 after a really tough start.
It was as if the field had titled directions, and all of the sudden Ohio State was buzzing. A quick three-and-out by the Crimson Tide put the Buckeye offense right back on the field, and you could tell the feeling of the game had changed. With less than a minute and a half remaining in the second quarter, Meyer pulled a ridiculous trick play out of his hat.
Jones handed the ball to Marshall, who then flipped it to Evan Spencer. The wide receiver then threw a perfect strike to Michael Thomas in the corner of the end zone, who perfectly toe-tapped on the sideline for a miraculous TD that had Ohio State within one as the two teams headed into the locker room, the score now showing 21-20.
Ohio State carried that momentum with them into the second half. After a couple of quick strikes to Thomas set the Buckeyes up near midfield, Jones unloaded a pass deep down field to a wide open Devin Smith for a 47-yard TD. OSU held their first lead of the game, now up 27-21 to start the third quarter.
The two teams then traded punts as Alabama tried to recapture some of their magic from earlier in the game. A Henry run for 21-yards was a good start to their next possession, but then disaster struck for Blake Sims. Defensive end Steve Miller dropped back into coverage, and Sims threw it right into his hands as the big lineman returned it all the way to the house for a 41-yard pick-six, Ohio State now leading 34-21.
Bama was able to get back on the scoreboard their next time out, as Derrick Henry continued to wreak havoc on the Ohio State defense. A 52-yard run for the human bulldozer set the Crimson Tide up in the red zone, and a few plays later Sims ran it in himself to cut the Buckeyes’ lead to 34-28 with a minute to go in the third quarter.
Five of the next six combined drives between the two talented squads resulted in a punt, with the lone outlier being another interception thrown by Sims — this one into the hands of Vonn Bell. It wasn’t until a little over three minutes remained that either team was able to find the end zone again, and when it did happen, it would more or less seal the game.
Starting the drive on their own 5-yard line, Ohio State was able to work the ball out from the shadow of their own end zone to the 15. From there, Ezekiel Elliott put on the finishing touches. The Buckeyes’ star RB ran the ball 85 yards through the heart of the south, and after a two-point conversion to Thomas, OSU held a 42-28 lead with time ticking away.
While the game was now virtually out of reach, Alabama wasn’t ready to just roll over and die. It was a quick score for the Crimson Tide, as a 51-yard reception by DeAndrew White gave way to another TD grab by Cooper, and all of the sudden it was a seven-point game with still two minutes remaining.
For whatever reason, Urban Meyer elected to call a pass play on first down instead of attempting to run out the clock. The throw fell incomplete, but as a result the Buckeyes would be forced to punt back to Alabama with still 1:33 left on the clock after the Tide used their remaining timeouts — of which they only had two remaining before the drive started.
Bama got to the 50-yard line rather quickly, and it became nail-biting time for Ohio State. With eight seconds left on the clock, Sims had no choice but to heave the ball down towards the end zone. It was picked off by safety Tyvis Powell, and it sealed a massive victory for the Buckeyes over Alabama in their own backyard as they came away with a crazy 42-35 win in New Orleans.
Ohio State finishes out our Perfect Season series as National Champions!
Thanks to all of you who followed along with us through this throwback journey. I originally came up with this idea as a way to get some Ohio State football into our lives when we thought there wouldn't be a season, but luckily the real Buckeyes take the field in a little over 24 hours.
Hopefully the 2020 campaign goes as well as this Frankensteined season.