For the second straight season, the Ohio State football team has reached the Fiesta Bowl. Although the introduction of the College Football Playoff format in 2014 brought more prominence to the game played in the University of Phoenix Stadium, the Buckeyes have been appearing in the Fiesta Bowl since 1980.
“One of the great bowl experiences I’ve ever been a part of I believe three other times,” OSU coach Urban Meyer said earlier this month. “It’s great to be here.”
OSU (11-1) is ranked at No. 3 in the playoff, and has appeared in eight different Fiesta Bowls, while Clemson (12-1) has never made an appearance. With two teams that have a mutual respect for one another, and two squads that have incredible talent on both sides of the ball, the 45th edition of the Fiesta Bowl should be one for the ages.
With playoff implications on the line, neither team will be willing to give an inch. The Buckeyes have been to the desert on multiple occasions, and have a 5-3 record throughout the program’s history.
Here is a look back at the successes and failures of the Buckeyes in Glendale, Arizona.
Penn State – 31
Ohio State – 19
With the 10th anniversary of the Fiesta Bowl came the second straight bowl appearance for the Buckeyes since Earle Bruce took over coaching duties in Columbus. Bruce, who had led the Buckeyes to a 11-1 season in his first year, earned a 9-2 mark to go to the Fiesta Bowl.
After holding a 19-10 lead in the first half, running back Curt Warner from Penn State helped the Nittany Lions rack up 351 rush yards as a team, and slowly put the game away. Outscoring OSU 21-0 in the second half, Penn State earned its second Fiesta Bowl victory.
Ohio State – 28
Pittsburgh – 23
Another 9-2 season for Bruce and the Buckeyes led them back to the Fiesta Bowl, this time against Pittsburgh. Led by quarterback Mike Tomczak and running back Keith Byars, both future NFL talents, the Buckeyes were able to bring home a 28-23 win.
On the last drive of the game, Tomczak drove his team down the field in the final two-and-a-half minutes, tossing a 39-yard score in the closing moments for the win. The Buckeyes had picked up their first ever Fiesta Bowl win, and given Bruce his third straight bowl win with OSU.
Ohio State – 31
Miami (Fla.) – 24
After being away for nearly 20 years, OSU returned to the Fiesta Bowl on the grandest stage of them all. OSU coach Jim Tressel, in just his second year at the helm, had led an underdog Buckeyes team to a perfect 13-0 record in the 2002 season.
However, a Miami Hurricanes team stood in the way of the Buckeyes, with the likes of future NFL players Willis McGahee, Kellen Winslow Jr., Ken Dorsey, Andrew Johnson, Jonathan Vilma and the late Sean Taylor. Most felt OSU did not have a chance to even come close to winning.
The Buckeyes forced five Hurricanes’ turnovers, and benefitted from four rushing touchdowns split evenly between running back Maurice Clarett and quarterback Craig Krenzel. An injury to McGahee slowed the Miami offensive attack, and OSU denied a late Dorsey pass in the endzone for the program’s seventh national championship.
Ohio State – 34
Kansas State – 28
A year removed from a national championship win, the Buckeyes returned to the desert to square off against Kansas State. After falling to Wisconsin and Michigan, OSU was denied a second straight championship bid, but would have to put up quite a fight against a scrappy Wildcats team.
Krenzel, eager to prove his worth as a potential NFL quarterback, struggled to find consistency throughout the year, throwing for just 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2003. However, in Arizona, Buckeyes fans were treated to a four touchdown performance by the eventual Chicago Bears draft pick.
The Buckeyes were outgained on offense, and struggled to limit Kansas State quarterback Eli Roberson, even though OSU did not allow a passing touchdown. Roberson picked up a pair of scores on the ground, while Darren Sproles and Ayo Saba each had a rushing touchdown.
OSU recovered an onside kick attempt and chewed the clock before stopping a late Roberson pass to earn the win and its second straight Fiesta Bowl win.
Ohio State – 34
Notre Dame – 20
Two losses in the 2005 season before reaching the midway point of the year kept the Buckeyes from national championship contention. Even after dropping closely contested games to Texas and Penn State, OSU rebounded with three wins over top 25 opponents in six games.
Led by veteran quarterback Troy Smith, the Buckeyes proved why OSU was a potential national champion in 2005 against Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. The Buckeyes kept Fighting Irish quarterback Brady Quinn from the endzone, and limited Notre Dame to just 62 total rushing yards on the day.
Smith threw for 342 yards and a pair of scores, one of which went 56 yards to Ted Ginn Jr., who finished the day with 167 yards receiving. An impressive athlete with a plethora of skills, Ginn Jr. also ran in a score from 68 yards out.
OSU running back Antonio Pittman added his own score on a 60-yard scamper to seal the deal for the Buckeyes with under two minutes to go in the game.
Florida – 41
Ohio State – 14
Before he was coaching for the Buckeyes, Urban Meyer’s name was not a popular one in Columbus following the 2006 season. After OSU went a perfect 12-0 that year, the Buckeyes ran into a brick wall that was the Florida Gators in the 2007 national championship.
Smith had a Heisman year at the helm of OSU’s offense, while James Laurinaitis was continuing the trend of beastly linebackers produced in Columbus. A seven point favorite coming into the contest, OSU had a quick 7-0 lead after Ginn Jr. returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown.
However, an injury to the Buckeyes’ top receiver and returner stagnated Tressel’s offense, resulting in just 82 total yards for OSU, An offense that failed to move the ball, mixed with a defense that forced zero turnovers and gave up 370 yards was a recipe for disaster in the desert.
Florida quarterback Chris Leak throw for a score, while Deshawn Wynn and Percy Harvin each ran in for a score. Tim Tebow, and eventual Heisman Trophy winner under Meyer, ran for his own touchdown late and tossed a one-yard touchdown pass.
OSU trailed 34-14 at halftime, and did not score in the second half.
Texas – 24
Ohio State – 21
Future NFL quarterback Colt McCoy was at the helm for the Longhorns in 2009, and had led Texas to an outstanding season. However, an early season loss to No. 6 Texas Tech ruined McCoy and company’s chances of reaching a national championship.
Texas, a preseason top 10 pick in the coaches poll, came into the 2010 Fiesta Bowl as a 10-point favorite.
Terrelle Pryor, who earned the starting job earlier in the year, was a freshman phenom, expected to take OSU to great heights. But, against Texas, Pryor only gained 144 total yards, and scored just once on a gadget play that saw him catching his first of two career touchdown receptions.
OSU fell 24-21 after McCoy connected with Quan Cosby with under a minute left, and the Buckeyes finished the year 10-3.
Ohio State – 44
Notre Dame – 28
After an improbably national championship in 2014, OSU was looking for a repeat performance. However, after playing throughout the season in lackluster fashion for a team many coaches and fans felt was one of the best in the nation, the Buckeyes dropped their second to last game against the Michigan State Spartans.
A 42-13 drubbing of Michigan in the following week was not enough to sway the playoff committee, and OSU found themselves in the Fiesta Bowl. Out for vengeance, the Buckeyes picked apart an overmatched Fighting Irish team.
Ezekiel Elliott ran rampant over the Notre Dame defense, picking up four touchdowns on 149 yards rushing. Then-redshirt sophomore quarterback J.T. Barrett picked up 211 yards and a score through the air, and the OSU defense grab two turnovers en route to a 44-28 victory.