Sept. 22, 2001
Each week, Gameday+ takes a look at an Ohio State game played on this date:
UCLA 13, Ohio State 6
Setup: Like the rest of the country, major-college football came to a grinding halt after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Sports and other entertainment diversions became irrelevant for a few days. Eleven days, to be exact. After taking off the week of Sept. 15, games scheduled for Sept. 22 were played amid tight security and in front of fans anxious about congregating in a potential target yet eager for a return to normalcy. For Ohio State, the game against UCLA in the Rose Bowl was the second in Jim Tressel’s tenure as coach, the Buckeyes having opened with a ho-hum 28-14 win over Akron on Sept. 8. UCLA, ranked 14th, would offer a stiffer test.
Stars: OSU counted zero stars on a day when quarterback Steve Bellisari completed 5 of 23 passes, the Buckeyes managed 166 yards and eight first downs and kickers Mike Nugent and Josh Huston combined to miss two chip-shot field goals (28 and 32 yards) and an extra point. Ohio State bottled up UCLA running back DeShaun Foster, but QB Cory Paus had 262 yards passing and the game’s only offensive touchdown.
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Turning point: UCLA never trailed after Paus’ TD throw to Ryan Smith on the Bruins’ first possession. Ricky Bryant recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for Ohio State’s only score, but the Buckeyes failed to score on four drives that started in UCLA territory, including one at the 9-yard line and another at the 15.
Impact: Ohio State never won more than two consecutive games in Tressel’s first season, but the highlight of the 7-5 season was a proud-in-Ann-Arbor, 26-20 win over Michigan to close the regular season and an epic comeback in an Outback Bowl loss to South Carolina. Some say that propelled the Buckeyes to bigger things in 2002.
Quotable: “In all decisions we make, our goal is to see what’s there before we make a decision, and I’m not sure we saw what was there.” — Tressel, who was discussing a Bellisari interception, or maybe something deeper
Ray Stein / firstname.lastname@example.org