COLUMBUS - A record setting crowd of more than 106-thousand fans were at a fever pitch for the first three-plus quarters of the Ohio State/USC game but a 14-play drive in the final minutes of the game were too much for Ohio State to overcome as the Buckeyes saw a golden opportunity slip away 18-15.
Most people would have believed that holding the Trojans to 18 points would be enough to insure an Ohio State win but the Buckeyes only could manage ten first downs and squandered great field position all evening long.
"Our kids prepared extremely hard and played extremely hard," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said. "We just didn't come up with enough of the things you need to do to win a ball game like that."
Terrelle Pryor took much of the blame on himself on a less that notable 11-25 passing performance for 177 yards. But what might be more memorable could be the time that Ohio State opted to kick a field goal on a 4th and goal from the 2-yard line and then a decision in the fourth quarter to punt from the USC 36 yard line rather than opt for a long field goal by Aaron Pettrey with the wind behind him.
"We did talk about (the field goal) and we came down to the decision that if we didn't make a 53 or whatever (yard) it would have been we would have been giving our defense, who had been out there a little bit… out defense tougher position to handle…" Tressel said of the decision to punt.
Things got off to the worst kind of start possible with Pryor attempting to force a pass in that linebacker Chris Galippo was able to step in front of and take the ball the other way for 51-yards and Pryor was forced to make the stop on the two yard line.
The Ohio State defense held tough and extended the series all of the way to a fourth and goal from the one yard line but the defense couldn't keep Stafon Johnson from knocking it in and with that the Trojans had a 7-0 lead on a four play drive that only netted two yards.
Ohio State came back on its next drive with Herron leading the way ripping off short runs of eight, four and six yards to g et the Buckeyes close to midfield. Jim Cordle got flagged for a false start and it seemed as if history was going to repeat itself with the Buckeyes moving backwards and taking themselves out of drives.
But it Pryor was able to bounce back and hit Dane Sanzenbacher for a 56 yard reception and put the ball on the USC 3-yard line. Herron hit pay dirt on his second crack from inside the five and the Bucks tied the game up at seven.
The Buckeye defense continued to look good forcing a three and out but the Buckeyes weren't able to do much on the ensuing drive.
Ohio State got back on the scoreboard after Ray Small made a key return that won't show up in the stat columns. Small was only able to return the ball four yards but if the senior didn't field the ball it had the makings of rolling for 15 or 20 yards.
Off of that the Buckeyes would have a little success on the ground but it was a big pass to DeVier Posey that appeared to break it open. Posey took it for 34 yards and gave the Buckeyes great field position at the two yard line. But Ohio State was unable to do anything and left the Buckeyes were left with a big 4th and 1 call and after last week's 4th and 2 debacle opted to take points rather than risk it. Aaron Pettrey nailed the easy 18 yard chip shot.
The Trojans came out looking strong on the next drive and moved the ball pretty easily into Ohio State territory but Ross Homan came up as a hero with a big interception of Barkley.
USC had another chance on its following possession but could only get to the Ohio State 26-yard line and had to attempt a 44-yard try but Jordan Congdon hit the cross bar and the Buckeyes held a three point lead at that point.
It looked like Ohio State would take a three point lead into the locker room but the Trojans moved the ball quickly on a eight-play drive for 77 yards that resulted in a 22 yard field goal by Congdon. That would send both teams to halftime tied at ten.
The Buckeyes managed to hold onto the ball for 10:31 of the first quarter and kept the USC total offense down to five total yards of offense.
The second half picked up with things going well for Ohio State when the team broke the tie with a safety when punter Billy O'Malley couldn't handle a high snap and it seemed that Mighty-Mo was well within Ohio State's grasp. On the ensuing free kick DeVier Posey returned the ball for 24 yards and came extremely close to breaking it.
But the wheels started to come off even when the Bucks were being successful. The Buckeyes marched down the field and had a 1st and goal from the ten yard line but couldn't do much with it. Pryor made an ill-advised pitch that cost the Buckeyes eight yards and despite a 13-yard pass to Brandon Saine the Bucks still had to settle for three.
Five points would not be enough and even with the lid being blown off of the 'Shoe by a very enthusiastic crowd the defense couldn't hold despite its best efforts.
The 14-play drive ended with a two yard run by Stafon Johnson untouched run before a 2-point-conversion to Joe McKnight made the margin three points.
The Bucks were only left with 1:01 on the clock and things were just not meant to be after an intentional grounding call on Pryor before a 4th down heave that was thrown into triple coverage and picked off by the Trojans.
"We only played three quarters," defensive end Cameron Heyward said. "I really thought we had a lot of good (open field) tackles and we were getting stops. We just couldn't hold them at the end. We had our chances."
The Bucks next chance for redemption will be next Saturday as Ohio State travels to Cleveland (Ohio) to take on a surprisingly high powered Toledo team.