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Buckeye Heroes: The greatest offensive fireworks displays in Ohio State football history

Ohio State has had their fair share of elite offense, but which firework displays truly deserve the best of all time denotion.

NCAA Football: USA TODAY Sports-Archive Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about Ohio State heroes. Whether they are the biggest names in Buckeye athletic history, or underappreciated icons; perhaps even players who made major impacts off the field. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our ”Buckeye Heroes” articles here.

The Fourth of July brings a ton of festive activities centered around celebrating the United States’ declaration of independence from Great Britain all those years ago. Across the country barbecues are had, hot dogs are eaten at amusement parks, and the most famous tradition of them all is fireworks.

If you go anywhere across the country, you will see beautiful and extravagant shows of lights across the sky. In some areas, you may even see people playing with them in the street. But the one aspect about fireworks, they have come to be the metaphor most commonly used for explosive offenses when they are having an exciting game.

When an offense is churning, it may feel like a thousand little low-explosive pyrotechnic explosions. The ways it happens can be seen as the different colors, but the real reason I am talking so much about fireworks is not the festivities on July 4th.

As I looked to the sky from my apartment window and saw fireworks exploding, it got me thinking about the recent successes of Ohio State’s offenses – kind of messed up, right? In those thoughts, I wanted to take a look back and try to find some of the more explosive offenses in Ohio State’s history.

In this post-Fourth of July celebration, Ohio State has plenty of offenses to choose from.

Ohio State 1969

This was not Woody Hayes’ national championship team, they also lost to Michigan. On this list though they might have been the most explosive offense in the Hayes era at Ohio State. There are quite a few teams with Archie Griffin that could have found their way onto this list, but in 1969 Ohio State ran the ball at will and put up huge numbers in the points category which was not the way Hayes tried to coach his teams to victory.

The 1969 Buckeye squad on offense averaged 42.6 points per game and obliterated their fair share of opponents in the process. Ohio State scored 62 points to open up the season against TCU and scored more than 40 points in seven out of nine games. This was an absurd performance from an offense during the time. With future head coach Earle Bruce calling the plays, iconic names like Rex Kern and Jim Otis led the Buckeyes to their most respective offensive year from a scoring standpoint under Hayes.

Is this the most explosive offense in school history, the numbers say no. Era-adjusted though, this offense scored at will and ran a lot of plays. Even if the changing ways of the game made Hayes’ blood boil at times, there is no question of the success he had when he bought into change. Just look what happened when Hayes bought into Bruce’s option playbook. Here’s 42 minutes of Ohio State taking on USC and O.J. Simpson in 1969 because why not.

Ohio State 1995

The 1995 Ohio State offense was part of arguably the biggest “what if” team in the history of the Buckeyes’ football program. This group might not have had the most points per game or most yards per game in school history, This team was stacked with talent on both sides of the ball. Arguably John Cooper’s most talented team, he had a Heisman Trophy winner in Eddie George, and the rest of the group wasn’t too bad either.

George led the offense with 2,344 yards out of the backfield with 25 touchdowns to go with it. To add to the George effort, the great Terry Glenn added 1411 yards and 17 touchdowns on the other side of Bobby Hoying’s throws. The highlights and explosive plays were plentiful, and the Buckeyes definitely rode their workhorse back George.

In front of him, Orlando Pace meaning the Buckeyes might have had their best running back and best offensive linemen in school history at the same time. There are not a lot of defenses that could have slowed this group down, but unfortunately, like much of the Cooper era, the Buckeyes fell short in the end.

Ohio State 2014

The 2014 offense was so underrated despite winning a national championship, what Tom Herman and Urban Meyer were able to do with a backup quarterback was absurd. Ohio State’s offense from 2014 is in the top-5 in almost every major statistical category. Rushing yards, yards per rush attempt, passing yards, yards per pass attempt, and they averaged 44.8 points per game.

Now looking at the stats, you might tell me the 2013 offense was better. The only thing about that is they did not win the championship, the 2014 team did. Now Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde were a dynamic tandem, but the group after truly exemplified offensive explosiveness once they got rolling. The Buckeyes scored more than 30 points in all but one game that year en route to a national championship.

Getting into the names, J.T. Barrett led the way yardage wise doing his best to minimize the loss of Braxton Miller. At receiver Michael Thomas took a leap, Jalin Marshall provided an all-around game in the slot, and Devin Smith continued his downfield dominance. On the line, the Buckeyes might have had their best group of the decade with multiple NFL players up front.

Ohio State 2019

This offense was truly elite, and where would Ohio State be if the Buckeyes did not land quarterback Justin Fields? When you look at the offensive football at Ohio State changing to the modern era, this is where it starts. 2018 wasn’t an explosive offense year, but it had to be behind Dwayne Haskins. The offense in 2018 compared to 2019 was also more individual effort and lack of adapting by Urban Meyer to go all-in on the modern passing game.

Justin Fields was dynamic throwing the ball, and this was the year Ohio State got their first taste of Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave playing together. J.K. Dobbins ran for over 2000 yards and K.J. Hill caught everything thrown his direction. Talent for talent, this might be the best group on the list despite only Dobbins having his career-best season.

The 2019 offense averaged 46.9 points per game which was the most in school history. They ranked in the top-5 in every major offensive category in school history, and the Buckeyes exceeded media expectations winning the Big Ten, and making the College Football Playoff.

Honorable Mentions

Ohio State 1917: The 1917 team was one of the first, if not, the first great team in Ohio State’s history. Led by Chic Harley, the Buckeyes outscored opponents 292-6 and somehow did not win a national championship under John Wilce that season. I guess that is what happens when the schedule includes Denison, Ohio Wesleyan, and Camp Sherman (Chillicothe).

Ohio State 2006: Tressel Ball had its way of endearing itself onto the Buckeye faithful, but the few times Ohio State had the horses the man in the sweater vest let it rip. Given his avoidance of anything with pace of play, the anti-Chip Kelly still found himself behind one of the best offenses in school history. The names on this squad include Heisman Winner Troy Smith, receivers Anthony Gonzalez, Brian Hartline, Brian Robiskie, and Ted Ginn Jr. They lived up to expectations.

There are years of great offenses to look back on at Ohio State, and even with differing eras the offensive talent has always been in the upper echelon throughout the country. Over the years the Buckeyes have had multiple Heisman Winners, conference record holders, and great individual efforts. When a group comes together offensively at Ohio State, the results usually have the Buckeyes in contention to win trophies.

On the flip side, the lesson I have learned from writing this article, a balanced team is better for winning a national title. All of the teams on the list were absolutely dynamic offensively, they also all fell short of the ultimate goal in winning a national championship. For the Buckeyes this year, they will be one of the more electric groups in the country. The history they are apart of will be decided in how the offense performs when it matters most.

To take this back to the beginning, there is nothing more annoying than fireworks being set off by neighbors weeks before any holiday they are part of the celebration. When the time is right and everything comes together, fireworks can truly be spectacular. This to say, there is nothing more frustrating than wasting all-time great offenses. The Buckeyes have done that quite a bit outside of the 2014 squad.

Offense is fun, but without a defense it likely won’t be enough to win a championship. We’re in the best offensive era in school history, not it is time to turn that into a trophy.