The sixth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes shut down all-America running back Marcus Dupree and shut down Oklahoma today, beating the second-ranked Sooners, 24-14, before 75,008 at Owen Field.
With 9:20 left in the first half, Dupree took a quick pitch at his 46, gained nine yards and went down with a bruised knee that would relegate him to a low stoop on the sideline and keep the Sooners' I-oriented offense from generating much power the rest of the game.
"Losing Marcus hurt us, it left us with only one I-back and that was Earl Johnson," said Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer, who failed to win the 100th game of his career. "But I can't remember when we were so physically manhandled."
"All of our hard work--our two-a-days in the hot weather--really paid off," Ohio State Coach Earle Bruce said. "By far this was the best overall team game, both offensively and defensively, that we've played since I've been here."
Buckeye quarterback Mike Tomczack completed 15 of 25 passes for 234 and two touchdowns, both of which were to tight end John Frank.
"Frank's just slow enough that he's open all the time," said Switzer, whose Sooners amassed 347 net yards to Ohio State's 412.
"What'd he say again?" asked Frank when told of Switzer's comment. "Well, I guess that's a compliment in a way. I suppose that's real nice of him."
Frank rolled over cornerback Scott Case for the Buckeyes' first score, ending an 80-yard, 13-play drive that combined quick bursts off tackle by tailback Keith Byars and completions by Tomczak to Frank, who had seven receptions for 108 yards for the day. Rich Spangler added the extra point and the score was 7-0 with 8:44 left in the first quarter.
"Tomczak's as fine a quarterback as we'll ever play," Switzer said. "We could never stop him and that was the key, especially on first down."
Oklahoma, mixing the wishbone with the I-formation implemented by Switzer last year to better utilize the talents of Dupree, appeared uninspired in the first half and could score only once, on a 37-yard run by fullback Spencer Tillman with 9:14 left in the half.
Dupree gained only 30 yards on six carries and fumbled twice, losing one; they were Oklahoma's only fumbles. Tillman, a freshman who chose to redshirt last year rather than play in Dupree's shadow, was the game's leading rusher with 83 yards on 13 carries.
Because the Sooners' ground game was set back by the loss of Dupree, quarterback Danny Bradley took to the air and completed nine of 21 passes for 170 yards and one touchdown, a 22-yarder to wingback Derrick Shepard with a minute to go in the third quarter.
"I knew going into the game that we'd throw the ball a little," Switzer said. "A guy can look pretty ridiculous if you keep hammering away and punting on every fourth down."
Ohio State threatened to score on its second possession, but Sooner cornerback Keith Stanberry deflected a 46-yard field-goal attempt by Rich Spangler. Then, on the Buckeyes' next possession, another big defensive play quelled a drive that was highlighted by a 61-yard pass from Tomczak to Frank over the middle. Faced with fourth and goal on the Oklahoma one-yard line, Tomczak handed to Byars on a sweep to left end, but cornerback Dwight Drane closed in quickly and shut him down.
Finally, it seemed, the Sooners would be blessed with a big play, a goal-line stand that would shift the momentum and spur an offense that appeared listless and, with the 100-degree heat, lost in a white-hot Buckeye daze. But on Oklahoma's first run from scrimmage, Dupree broke off left tackle for what would have been an 11-yard gain had he held onto the football. He didn't, and linebacker Rowland Tatum recovered on the Oklahoma 15.
On first down and with the goal line and glory only 15 yards from scrimmage, Tomczak passed to Frank on a play that was an almost exact reproduction of the Buckeyes' first touchdown. With Spangler's kick, Ohio State went ahead, 14-0.
On the ensuing drive, Oklahoma took just over a minute to score. Six minutes deep into the second quarter, Bradley completed his first pass of the day, to Buster Rhymes for a 39-yard gain that put the ball on the Ohio State 46-yard line. Two plays later, Tillman ran off left guard and went 37 yards for the score. David Culver added the extra point and the score was 14-7.
Ohio State scored the first time it got the ball in the second half. Tomczak threw twice to tailback Kelvin Lindsey floating under the Sooners' linebackers, who were 10 yards deep and protecting against the curl, for gains of 17 and 16 yards. A 16-yard completion to fullback Vaughn Broadnax, who weighs 252 pounds and carries all the muscle of a down lineman, put the ball on the Sooners' 21-yard line. Three plays later, tailback Roman Bates scored, making it 21-7 with 8:30 left in the third quarter.
Bradley's 22-yard pass to Shepard at the close of the third quarter was the Sooners' only other score. But it was followed by a 22-yard field goal by Spangler on the Buckeyes' next possession, with 9:15 left in the game.
"After the field goal," Switzer said, "it looked bad for us to ever catch 'em."