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It’s not uncommon for match-ups of No. 1 vs. No. 2 to get the “Game of the Century” designation in college football.
That didn’t happen for the early-season contest between Ohio State and Texas in Austin in 2006. As for the contest, it didn’t live up to the hype.
Ohio State, on the other hand, did. On this day 15 years ago, the top-ranked Buckeyes made a statement with a 24-7 victory over the No. 2 Longhorns.
Setting the Stage
Ohio State was riding an 8-game winning streak and was ranked No. 1 as it arrived in Austin on Sept. 9, 2006. The Buckeyes were coming off a top-5 finish and a Fiesta Bowl victory. They opened the 2006 season with a 35-12 win over Northern Illinois.
Reigning national champion Texas completed a perfect season in 2005. That included a thrilling 25-22 win in Columbus over Ohio State. The Longhorns however, would find out that replacing quarterback Vince Young was tougher than it seemed.
As for the contest, defenses dominated, but that was especially true for Ohio State. Following a Texas fumble near the goal line, the Buckeyes scored the only points of the opening quarter as quarterback Troy Smith found Anthony Gonzalez on a 14-yard scoring strike with just more than a minute to play.
Texas’ lone score of the night drew the Longhorns even with less than two minutes to play in the first half. Colt McCoy’s touchdown toss to Billy Pittman capped a 13-play, 78-yard drive that took nearly seven minutes off the clock, but 1:55 to play in the half proved to be too much time for Smith and the Buckeyes’ offense.
Ohio State needed just five plays and 69 seconds to go 66 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Smith’s 29-yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn Jr. with 16 seconds left in the half gave the Buckeyes a 14-7 halftime lead and momentum they would never relinquish.
Texas managed just 116 yards in the second half. On the opening drive of the half, McCoy was intercepted by Ohio State’s Joe Gantz, which set up a field goal by Aaron Pettrey to make it 17-7.
The Longhorns had the chance to make it a 1-score game in the fourth quarter, but kicker Greg Johnson missed a 45-yard field goal. Ohio State proceeded to march 72 yards in nearly six minutes to put the game away on Antonio Pittman’s 2-yard touchdown run.
Smith finished the night with 269 yards passing and the two touchdowns. Gonzalez led all receivers with eight catches for 154 yards and a score. Antonio Pittman added 74 yards on the ground.
Texas rushed for 172 yards with Selvin Young’s game-high 94 leading the way, but the freshman McCoy struggled behind center. Young also caught six passes for 41 yards.
The Longhorns would go on to win their next seven games, but closed the regular season with back-to-back losses to Kansas State and rival Texas A&M by a combined eight points. Texas bounced back to edge Iowa in the Alamo Bowl to complete a sixth straight 10-win season.
Ohio State would hold onto its No. 1 ranking until the BCS National Championship when it was defeated by Florida, 41-14. As for Smith, he would go on to win the Heisman Trophy, becoming the first Buckeye to do so in 11 years.
Throughout the course of the season, Smith led two victories over teams ranked No. 2. The first came on this day 15 years ago.
Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.