On this date in Ohio State football: Sept. 21, 1996

Ray Stein
Buckeye Xtra
Pepe Pearson ran for 103 yards and three touchdowns in Ohio State's rout of Pittsburgh. [Dispatch file photo]

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

Ohio State 72, Pittsburgh 0

Setup: Say what you will about how John Cooper’s Ohio State teams failed to finish their seasons, and the numbers do not lie. But his unsightly records against Michigan and in bowl games were more excruciating because of the Jenga towers the Buckeyes were able to construct early in the season. Coop was a veritable Mr. September, guiding Ohio State to a 30-1 record in that month over his final 10 seasons. Never were Cooper’s ninth-month superpowers more evident than in 1996, when a team needing to replace Heisman Trophy-winning running back Eddie George, receiver Terry Glenn and quarterback Bobby Hoying burst out of the gate like a rabbit on a rail. The Buckeyes opened the ’96 season with a 70-7 win over a Rice team coached by a seriously chapped Ken Hatfield, then had a week off before hosting Pittsburgh. Seventh-ranked Ohio State was a heavy favorite, but would the Buckeyes be caught sleeping on the Panthers with a rematch at Notre Dame a week later? Short answer: no.

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Stars: George’s replacement, Pepe Pearson, rushed for 103 yards and three touchdowns, and his backup, Joe Montgomery, bulled his way to 109 yards, all in the second half. The two-headed quarterback combo of Stanley Jackson (94 yards and a touchdown) and Joe Germaine (8 of 8 for 139 yards and two TDs) was solid. And freshman receiver David Boston showed his promise with three scores.

Turning point: Is there one in a 72-0 game? OK, if you must. After Pearson finished Ohio State’s first drive with a 16-yard scoring run, the Buckeyes forced a punt that never was because of a high snap, and OSU took over at the Pitt 10. Two plays later, Pearson scooted in from 9 yards out to make it 14-0. The Buckeyes would end up scoring on their first 10 possessions and did not attempt a pass in the second half.

Impact: Is it a coincidence that the schools haven’t played since? The ’96 game was the last of a four-year home-and-home in which the Buckeyes won all four and outscored Pitt 216-45. Beyond that, Ohio State in 1996 would handle Notre Dame and win its first 11 games for the second year in a row and enter the Michigan game with a shot at a national title. Let’s just leave it there for now, shall we?

Quotable: “Are we that good? Are they that bad? We’re probably not as good as we think we are, and Pitt is probably not that bad.” — Cooper

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