Gameday+ | Rearview mirror: Sept. 8, 1990

Staff Writer
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State tailback Robert Smith in action during the 1992 season [Associated Press file photo]

Sept. 8, 1990

Each week, Gameday+ takes a look at an Ohio State game played on this date:

Ohio State 17, Texas Tech 10

Setup: John Cooper’s third season at Ohio State began with cautious optimism and a handful of new faces. In no particular order, the Buckeyes welcomed their first designated special teams coach (Bob Palcic), a prized freshman running back (Robert Smith) and a new university president (E. Gordon Gee). In the 1990 opener, the man in the bow tie shook the most hands and kissed the most babies, but the Ohio Stadium crowd showed the most appreciation for the 18-year-old kid from Euclid.

 >>Get more: Find complete Gameday coverage at BuckeyeXtra.com/topics/Gameday

Stars: Smith led all players with 86 yards, and added 41 yards receiving and 61 yards on kickoff returns. The rest of the OSU offense was pedestrian, and the Buckeyes hurt themselves with five turnovers and two empty trips inside the Texas Tech 5-yard line. On defense, linebacker Steve Tovar had 13 tackles, 3½ for loss.

Turning point: Ohio State trailed 3-0 at halftime and 10-3 deep into the third quarter before Smith had 73 yards on a 77-yard drive capped by his 2-yard touchdown run around right end. The Buckeyes took the lead for good when Jeff Graham fielded a low punt and weaved his way 50 yards for a score with 12:47 left.

Impact: Smith finished the season with a school freshman record of 1,126 yards rushing, but his star soon faded — among some in the Nation, anyway. He quit the team in 1991 after a disagreement with assistant coach Elliot Uzelac about missing class time to attend practice, then returned to lead the team in rushing as a junior before heading to the NFL. As for the Buckeyes in 1990, they started 2-0 under Cooper for the first time, hit an 0-2-1 patch, then reeled off five straight wins before getting swallowed by what would become a familiar sinkhole — end-of-season losses to Michigan and in the bowl game.

Quotable: “Nobody told me that freshmen aren’t supposed to do things like that. I knew I was a player. I knew they didn’t bring me here because I was nice to recruiters.” — Smith

— Ray Stein / rstein@dispatch.com

Listen to the BuckeyeXtra Football podcast: