Ohio State football | Jack Looks Back: Buckeyes, Irish have combined for some classics

Staff Writer
The Columbus Dispatch
This memorable photo of Ohio State running back Eddie George was a product of the Buckeyes' 45-26 victory over Notre Dame in 1995. George had two touchdowns and 207 rushing yards against the Fighting Irish.

Jack Park, a leading Ohio State football historian, checks in each week during the college football season with a retrospective about the Buckeyes.

The Fiesta Bowl matchup on Friday between Ohio State and Notre Dame will feature two of college football's more accomplished programs. The teams have met only five times, with the Buckeyes holding a 3-2 edge in the series.

Coach Elmer Layden's Fighting Irish twice defeated OSU teams coached by Francis Schmidt, in 1935 and '36. Coach John Cooper's 1995 and '96 OSU teams posted wins over ND teams coached by Lou Holtz. Most recently, coach Jim Tressel's OSU team defeated the Irish, coached by Charlie Weis, 34-20 in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2, 2006.

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The 1935 game will live in infamy in the annals of Ohio State football. This celebrated contest has been cited by some as the most outstanding game during the first 100 seasons of college football. Both teams were undefeated and aiming for the national title. Ohio State officials estimated 200,000 tickets could have been sold for the Nov. 2 matchup in Ohio Stadium.

The Buckeyes completely dominated the first half and led 13-0. Layden surprised everyone by announcing his second-team "shock troops" would start the second half. The third quarter was scoreless, but ND gained momentum while wearing down OSU's regulars.

The Fighting Irish regulars returned to dominate the fourth quarter by scoring three touchdowns, the last two in the final 1:30, to emerge with an incredible 18-13 victory. Ohio State's offense completely disappeared in the second half -- zero yards rushing and no completed passes.

A return match at Notre Dame the next fall was every bit as nerve-racking as the 1935 contest. A crowd of 50,017 -- at the time a Notre Dame Stadium record -- sat through intense rain to see the Fighting Irish win 7-2 after scoring on their only sustained drive of the afternoon. Layden substituted frequently, particularly in the second half, and his fresh troops played a major role in keeping the Buckeyes out of the end zone.

Big plays characterized Ohio State's home victory in 1995. After a slow start, the Buckeyes overcame a 10-0 deficit to win 45-26. Ohio State, relying on its superior speed, grew stronger as the afternoon progressed. OSU outscored Notre Dame 31-9 in the final two quarters after trailing 17-14 at halftime.

Quarterback Bobby Hoying was superb, passing for 272 yards and four of Ohio State's six touchdowns. Tailback Eddie George scored twice and rushed for 207 yards. OSU's 45 points were the most ever scored against Notre Dame during Lou Holtz's 11 seasons as head coach of the Irish.

Playing before a Notre Dame Stadium crowd of 59,075 in 1996, the Buckeyes made it two straight over the Fighting Irish with a 29-16 victory. Ohio State's team speed again was one of the game's deciding factors. OSU players awarded the game ball to Cooper in honor of his 150th career coaching victory.

Dmitrious Stanley set the tone of the game, returning the opening kickoff 85 yards to the ND 13-yard line. Four plays later tailback Pepe Pearson ran it across from the 3. OSU linebacker Greg Bellisari spearheaded the defense with 14 tackles.

The Buckeyes' 34-20 victory in 2006 was highlighted by the play of quarterback Troy Smith and wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. The two connected on a 56-yarder for OSU's first TD, followed by Ginn's dazzling 68-yard reverse for OSU's second score. Smith also found receiver Santonio Holmes for an 85-yard TD toss just before halftime. All-America linebacker A. J. Hawk was the game's defensive MVP with a game-high 12 tackles.

Ohio State and Notre Dame are scheduled to meet in Columbus on Sept. 3, 2022, and in South Bend on Sept. 23, 2023.


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