Sept. 23, 1989
Each week, Gameday+ takes a look at an Ohio State game played on this date:
Southern Cal 42, Ohio State 3
Setup: John Cooper’s first season as coach included some pleasant surprises at home (Syracuse, LSU) and some abject failures on the road (at Pittsburgh, Dark Day II at Indiana) and a dud 4-6-1 record. After Ohio State’s 1989 season started with a nice win over Oklahoma State, Cooper took his team to the sunshine of Southern California hoping to avoid the tanning booth.
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Stars: The Buckeyes were sporting new tattoos after Todd Marinovich, USC’s redshirt freshman quarterback, lit them up for four touchdown passes. RB Ricky Ervins added 117 yards rushing and Junior Seau spearheaded a defensive onslaught on OSU quarterback Greg Frey by breaking up three passes and registering two sacks. Carlos Snow ran for 83 yards, 55 on OSU’s first two drives.
Turning point: Ohio State held its own for a while, leading 3-0 after the first quarter before becoming mentally and physically undone. (Interestingly, there was much sniping and finger-pointing in postgame interviews.) First, Marinovich threw an 87-yard scoring pass to John Jackson, who got past slipping cornerback Vinnie Clark. Two plays later, Snow fumbled a handoff from Frey, USC recovered and Marinovich found tight end Scott Galbraith for an 11-yard score and a 21-3 lead. The bickering Buckeyes had buckled.
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Impact: Ohio State’s 39-point defeat was its largest losing margin since Michigan’s 58-6 licking in 1946, though many Buckeyes said Pitt’s win the year before was far more thorough. OSU (8-4) lost two weeks hence at Illinois, then won six in a row before a familiar bugaboo — losses to Michigan and in the bowl game — reared its head for the first, but not the last, time in the Cooper era.
Quotable: “When we had to throw the football, we couldn’t block them. … We can’t trade ’em. We better get back to the drawing board. If one guy breaks down, it makes the whole offense look bad.” — Cooper, calling out his offensive line
— Ray Stein