With Brigham Young's potent offense snoozing lazily in the Florida sun, No. 17 Ohio State turned to an unlikely defensive hero today in the Florida Citrus Bowl.
Senior linebacker Larry Kolic -- who walked off the team twice last year, citing personal reasons -- returned a third-quarter interception 14 yards for the winning touchdown in Ohio State's 10-7 victory before 50,920 in sold-out Orlando Stadium. The Buckeyes' defense held No. 9 Brigham Young to its lowest point total in seven years as Ohio State ended a two-game losing streak to finish at 9-3 for the sixth consecutive season.
The Cougars, who won the national championship in 1984 with a 13-0 record, entered the game with the No. 1 offense in the country, averaging 500 yards per game. Shifting from a two-man rush to a full blitz at varying points of the game, the Ohio State defense proved puzzling for BYU quarterback Robbie Bosco.
Kolic, who had only 42 tackles all season, compared with 133 and 132, respectively, for fellow linebackers Chris Spielman and all-America Pepper Johnson, stepped in front of a Bosco slant pass intended for running back Vai Sikahema on the second play after intermission. He scampered into the end zone for the go-ahead score 68 seconds into the second half.
"I was playing nose guard on the play, but I dropped off the line as he threw," said Kolic, who was named the game's MVP. "This confused Bosco, and he threw it right to me. We wanted to vary our pressure against Bosco. We knew they would throw underneath, but we had to stop the deep passes."
The Cougars, who were last held to seven points in a 24-7 loss to Utah State in 1978, turned the ball over six times and finished at 11-3. Brigham Young's last hope was snuffed out with three seconds left when Terry White intercepted Bosco in the end zone.
Ohio State's Keith Byars, who broke a bone in his right foot Sept. 2 after leading the nation in rushing last season, suffered a leg injury in the first quarter and didn't return. Byars carried only twice for five yards.