On a day in Ohio Stadium where former Buckeye Mike Doss was inducted into the Ohio State Hall Of Fame, Ohio State escaped an upset at the hands of the Toledo Rockets in a game that reminded one of the close calls of the 2002 campaign.
Needing the Ohio State defense to stand tall in the final minute, Ohio State defensive lineman John Simon hurried Toledo quarterback Terrance Owens on a fourth down play. Ohio State won 27-22, but was outgained, and probably outplayed, by the valiant Toledo Rockets.
At the onset of the game, Ohio State effectively moved down the field to take an early 7-0 lead. Quarterback Joe Bauserman was able to build upon his strong showing in the Akron game, finding tight end Jake Stoneburner for a 26 yard touchdown pass early in the first quarter.
Toledo drove into Ohio State territory, but missed on a 45 yard field goal. Toledo was able to take the lead on the Buckeyes, after blocking a punt deep in Ohio State territory. Toledo scored on a 6 yard pass to wide receiver Eric Page, then executed a two-point conversion to take an 8-7 lead. Ohio State drove into Toledo territory, but Drew Basil missed on a 47 yard field goal attempt. Toledo increased its lead to 15-7, behind a long 66 yard touchdown pass and run, again to Eric Page.
Ohio State was able to cut down Toledo's lead to 15-14, behind the running of Carlos Hyde. Hyde burst down the left sideline for a 36 yard run. Ohio State's defense was able to force a Toledo punt, which wide receiver Chris Fields took 69 yards to the end zone, allowing Ohio State to enjoy a 21-15 halftime lead.
Ohio State's halftime lead was to be short-lived. Toledo moved down the field, behind the play of running back Adonis Thomas, who was helped with a facemask penalty incurred by Ohio State defensive back C.J. Barnett. Toledo scored with a Thomas run, taking a 22-21 lead into the fourth quarter.
Ohio State finally was able to secure the lead behind another Carlos Hyde touchdown run, giving Ohio State its 27-22 lead. Joe Bauserman found freshman wide receiver Devin Smith for a key 36 yard reception, allowing Hyde to score from two yards out.
It looked like Ohio State was going to run the clock out, as Toledo was forced to punt on three straight possessions in the fourth quarter. Joe Bauserman again hooked up with Devin Smith for a long 31 yard reception, and Ohio State seemed to be content to run out the clock with only about three minutes remaining. Rod Smith fumbled the ball back to Toledo, and Toledo began a drive that started to take on the feelings of the 2002 Ohio State/Cincinnati contest.
Toledo's Terrance Owens, who had thrown an earlier interception to linebacker Storm Klein, went for a long touchdown to wide receiver Bernard Reedy. Ohio State was saved by defensive back Dominic Clarke, who knocked the ball away at the last moments to save a touchdown. Owens began patiently and effectively moving Toledo into Ohio State territory. Key plays were when Owens was called for intentional grounding - the very next play, Owens connected with Eric Page on a 4th and 14 for 19 yards to keep the drive going for Toledo.
With time running out, and having used two timeouts, Toledo needed to continue to gain first downs to pull off the upset. Ohio State's defensive strategy moved from one of pressure to one of flooding the secondary, making it more difficult to get deep. John Simon, having returned to the game, applied the pressure on Owens on a 4th and 6 attempt that finally allowed Ohio State fans to exhale.
Ohio State was never able to truly get anything going offensively against Toledo. Ohio State was only able to run for 112 yards, averaging 3.3 yards per carry. Joe Bauserman did not throw any interceptions, but besides his first quarter pass to Jake Stoneburner, seemed to regress as the game progressed, appearing less confident in his decisions with the ball. True freshman quarterback Braxton Miller never played, leaving many to wonder how much confidence the coaching staff truly has in Miller.
Defensively, Ohio State was off balance against Toledo, allowing Page and Thomas to turn in strong performances. As last week, Dominic Clarke made key plays when needed.
Lefty Gomez, who played for the New York Yankees in the 1930s, once stated, "I'd rather be lucky than good.". One wonders if Gomez would have applied those thoughts to the 2011 Ohio State Buckeyes. Between now and next week's contest against the Miami Hurricanes, Ohio State fans can only hope that the Buckeyes have both attributes available as they will go into a very hostile environment, with Miami fans eagerly revisiting the 2003 Fiesta Bowl national championship game.
(This post originally appeared on Along The Olentangy, 09/10/2011)