Taking a look back at a game Ohio State played on this date:

Ohio State 31, Syracuse 21

Setup: Earle Bruce's first season at Ohio State, in 1979, was sprinkled with magic dust. The Buckeyes entered the season unranked, won their first 11 games and were No. 1 and playing for a national championship against Southern California in the Rose Bowl. USC and Charles White won that game 17-16 and denied OSU the title, but the 1980 Buckeyes were going to sneak up on no one. Behind junior quarterback Art Schlichter, Ohio State was ranked No. 1 to start the season. But its stay at the top was short-lived.

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Stars: Running back Calvin Murray rushed for 117 yards on 18 carries to power a 301-yard day on the ground for Ohio State. Schlichter added 71 yards rushing and 107 passing while accounting for two touchdowns. For Syracuse, Joe Morris led the way with 150 yards rushing, including 102 in the first half as the Orangemen jumped to a 21-3 second-quarter lead.

Turning point: Down 21-9 at the half after three field goals by Vlade Janakievski, the Buckeyes stopped messing around and started playing in the third quarter. They took the second-half kickoff and marched 33 yards on five straight running plays to move to the Syracuse 47-yard line. Schlichter then went play-action and threw deep to Doug Donley, who hauled in the pass to close OSU's gap to 21-16. Ohio State then forced a punt and drove 81 yards, taking the lead for good on Ricky Johnson's 3-yard run with the 4:39 left in the quarter.

Impact: The poll voters did not take kindly to Ohio State's game-opening stumbles, dropping the Buckeyes to No. 2 in the polls, behind Alabama. They stayed there for a few weeks, until a shutout loss to UCLA in early October dropped them to the back end of the top 10 in what eventually became a 9-3 season. More shocking, the Syracuse game was the last time Ohio State took the field as the No. 1 team in the country until 1998 — a span of 217 games.

Quotable: "Our game plan didn't call for us coming from 21-3 behind, I'll tell you that. But we came back, moved the ball when we had to and our defense got control of the game after (Syracuse) had 21 points." — Bruce, who admitted to being flummoxed by the Buckeyes' slow start.

 
rstein@dispatch.com