On this date in Ohio State football: Dec. 28, 1985

Ray Stein
Coach Earle Bruce with running back Keith Byars during the 1984 season [File photo]

Dec. 28, 1985

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

Ohio State 10, Brigham Young 7

Setup: The 1985 Ohio State football season was an odd duck. Coming off a Rose Bowl appearance the year before, the Buckeyes came into fall camp with high hopes based on a roster that included stars such as tailback Keith Byars, second to Doug Flutie in the 1984 Heisman Trophy voting, as well as receiver Cris Carter, linebackers Chris Spielman and Thomas “Pepper” Johnson and unrelated secondary mates Terry and William White. The season, however, took a turn south when Byars suffered a broken bone in his right foot 12 days before the opener. OSU was hit-and-miss thereafter, blowing a 14-point lead in a loss at Illinois, then allowing Purdue’s Jim Everett to pass for 497 yards before seemingly righting the ship with a November upset of No. 1 Iowa at Ohio Stadium. Two weeks later, however, the Buckeyes inexplicably lost 12-7 at home to Big Ten doormat Wisconsin to drop out of the Big Ten lead, then were outplayed at Michigan in a 27-17 loss as Jim Harbaugh lit them up for 230 yards. That loss left Ohio State with an 8-3 record and a spot opposite pass-happy BYU in the second-tier Citrus Bowl. “I wish I was home,” Byars said a few days before the game. Regardless, a win would give the Buckeyes a 9-3 record for the — gulp — sixth consecutive season under coach Earle Bruce.

Stars: Ohio State nose guard Larry Kolic was MVP of a defensive slugfest by intercepting two passes, returning one 14 yards for a touchdown early in the second half to give OSU the lead for good. Carter had five receptions for 71 yards and John Woolridge rushed for 92 yards in place of Byars, who returned for the bowl but aggravated the injury in the first 6½ minutes. BYU quarterback Robbie Bosco passed for 261 yards, 57 below his average, and was picked off four times.

Turning point: Despite forcing six turnovers, Ohio State managed only three points from its offense as the Buckeyes lost two fumbles and were stopped short inside the BYU 5-yard line in the third quarter. So the Cougars were never out of the picture, even after William White wrested the ball away from Scott Norberg for an end-zone interception with 3:38 remaining. Terry White’s easy end-zone pick — “It looked like a punt coming down” — with three seconds left sealed it.

Impact: Bruce once again was pinned with a 9-3 record, which then and now was an acceptable though unfortunate result in between snuffing for championships. (He solved that problem the next year by scheduling a 12th regular-season game.) After two spectacular seasons, Byars ended up playing only four games in 1985, rushing for 213 yards. But he was still a first-round pick in the NFL draft, going No. 10 to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Quotable: “When you play for the national championship, that’s one thing. When you play in a New Year’s Day bowl, it’s another thing. And then there are all the others.” — Bruce, offering a blunt assessment of the Buckeyes’ feelings about spending Christmas in Orlando