By Alex Laracy
In 1997, the fourth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes went into the Rose Bowl against Arizona State looking to snap a four-game losing streak in “The Granddaddy of Them All.” Ironically, OSU head coach John Cooper led Arizona State to a win over Michigan in the 1987 Rose Bowl. Cooper took over at Ohio State the next year and has not appeared in a Rose Bowl since.
“The talent level on the field that night was unreal,” claims then junior Buckeye linebacker Jerry Rudzinski. “In my mind, it was the best pool of players I’ve seen in this decade in college football. Guys like Jake Plummer, Shawn Springs, Orlando Pace, the names go on and on ?”
The Buckeyes were not the only team who was confident going into the big game.
“Both teams were there to win,” Rudzinski adds. “Neither team was gun-shy. We knew it would be a battle.”
The teams were deadlocked 7-7 at halftime after a 25-yard pass from Jake Plummer to Ricky Boyer early in the second quarter. The Sun Devils jumped out to a 10-7 lead on the first possession of the second half on a 37-yard field goal by Robert Nycz.
Then, reserve quarterback Joe Germaine was called off the bench to provide a boost to the stagnant Buckeyes offense. Germaine, born and raised in Arizona, grew up as a Sun Devils’ fan but turned down a scholarship offer because the ASU coaching staff wanted him to play defensive back.
|Demetrious Stanley’s 72-yard TD reception was the longest in OSU bowl history.|
Cooper’s insertion of Germaine proved to be a shrewd move, because the sophomore quickly hooked up with senior flanker Demetrious Stanley for one of the biggest plays of the game.
“It was a simple post route,” says Stanley. “Germaine threw it right on the money. I caught it, saw the defender fall out of the corner of my eye, and all I saw was green grass ahead of me.”
Rudzinski adds, “That was a huge momentum builder. When Demetrious scored, we started to feel like we were the superior team and we were going to win this game.”
The 72-yard score set a record for the longest Ohio State TD pass in a bowl game.
But the Sun Devils were by no means ready to give up. With the Buckeyes up 14-10, the stage was set for a dramatic finish and no Hollywood scriptwriter could have penned a more exciting ending.
Jake Plummer had already established himself in his career as a clutch performer with a knack for pulling out unlikely victories.
“We knew (Plummer) was a winner,” claims Rudzinski. “He had come from behind so many times that season already, we didn’t want to be just another victim.”
Things did not look good for the Buckeyes when on a third-and-11, Jake “the Snake” somehow slithered his way into the end zone to give ASU a 17-14 lead with 1:40 to play.
“I just remember Plummer going to the sidelines and taking off his helmet, looking like he had just won another one for Arizona State,” adds Rudzinski.
With 1:19 remaining, starting from their own 35-yard line, Ohio State needed a touchdown. The Buckeyes remained calm, however, for they had confidence in their offense led by the young, brash Germaine.
“Every day during the course of the season, we practiced our two-minute drill against one of the top defenses in the country, with two of the top defensive backs (Springs and Damon Moore) in the country” says Stanley. “At that time, I didn’t think anybody on that team could stop me, so I was confident that we were going to win the game.”
Germaine responded well to the pressure by connecting with Stanley on three third down plays on the drive, before finally hitting David Boston from five yards out with 20 seconds left with the game winner. The Buckeyes were Rose Bowl champions, and Germaine would be named the game’s Most Outstanding Player. The win propelled the fourth-ranked Buckeyes to an 11-1 record and the No. 2 spot in the final polls.
“Both teams played great,” says Rudzinski. “It’s unfortunate one team had to lose, but it was a really important victory for Ohio State. We hadn’t won a bowl game in a long time.”
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