Gameday+ | Rearview mirror: Sept. 15, 1984, vs. Washington State

Staff Writer
Buckeye Xtra
Pepper Johnson (98) with Ohio State in 1985 [Dispatch file photo]

Sept. 15, 1984

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

Ohio State 44, Washington State 0

Setup: How precious is this? Two notable factors about OSU’s second game in 1984 were its kickoff time (3:40 p.m., the latest game start in school history to that point) and the first Ohio Stadium appearance of The Wave, which was a thing 34 years ago (not so much now). Otherwise, Columbus was mixed bag about the Buckeyes. There was optimism because of stars Keith Byars and Chris Spielman, but also more than a dash of angst. QB Mike Tomczak had suffered a broken leg in the spring game and missed Ohio State’s opener, a sluggish showing against Oregon State that had Horseshoe fans booing — not briefly standing, yelling and raising their arms.

Join the conversation at and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra

Stars: Byars sparked Heisman Trophy chatter with 192 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns, and Tomczak saw his first action of the season, directing three scoring drives. But the Ohio State defense was the story, forcing a potent Washington State attack led by QB Mark Rypien into five turnovers. OSU linebacker Thomas “Pepper” Johnson had 11 tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception.

Turning point: Tomczak’s 5-yard scoring toss to Byars in the second quarter gave the Buckeyes a 23-0 lead, and Johnson crushed whatever second-half comeback hopes the Cougars harbored by falling on a fumble in the Ohio State end zone and intercepting a Rypien pass at the OSU 5.

Impact: After a 2-0 start against the Pac-10, Ohio State beat Big Ten favorite Iowa 45-26 to seemingly take command of the conference race. Over the next five weeks the Buckeyes twice stumbled in close losses — at Purdue and at Wisconsin — but beat Michigan to emerge from the Big Ten ruck as outright champions with a 7-2 record. A loss to USC left the Buckeyes 9-3 — par for the course in those Earle Bruce days.

Quotable: “It was a high goal for us, the shutout, and we reached it. … And if we can shine against a team like Iowa, it can mean, ‘Hello, national championship.’ ” — Johnson, getting wayyyyyy ahead of himself

Ray Stein