Skip to main content

All Of The Lights: A History Of Night Games At The 'Shoe

A look back at Ohio Stadium's twilight encounters.

When the Ohio State Buckeyes host the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Saturday, it will not only be Nebraska's first trip to Ohio Stadium in 56 years, but it will also be just the 12th night game played at the venue.

The stadium has no permanent lighting fixtures, meaning temporary ones have to be installed for each night matchup. However, the Buckeyes will host be hosting a game after dark for the fifth straight year, and three of their previous night games have produced record attendance at the 'Shoe.

Here is a quick look back at the first 11 primetime match-ups in the stadium's long history:

The First >>

1985: No. 9 Ohio State 10 - Pittsburgh 7

With All-American and Heisman favorite Keith Byars out due to a preseason injury, it was up to Earl Bruce's Buckeye defense and quarterback Jim Karsatos to lead OSU to victory in the opening game of the season.

Safety William White was the standout performer of the evening, recovering one fumble and also intercepting a Pittsburgh pass attempt. Ohio State would go on to a 9-3 record and a win in the Citrus Bowl against BYU. A young coach by the name of Jim Tressel was on OSU's offensive staff that year, and it'd be his last season coaching in the capital until his return as the head coach in 2001.

Next - 1993 >>

1993: No. 16 Ohio State 21 - No. 12 Washington 12

This early season "primetime special" pitted the Buckeyes against the Washington Huskies, a team that was coming off of three straight Rose Bowl appearances, winning the first two of those against Iowa and Michigan, respectively. The Huskies were also National Champions at the end of those seasons, but a scandal involving their players being paid by boosters and others caused the NCAA to prohibit them from postseason play in 1993 and 1994.

Buckeye wideout Joey Galloway was electric as usual, dancing through the Huskies' defensive backfield to score on a fourth down play. OSU's two running backs, Raymont Harris and Butler By'not'e, combined for almost 200 yards as they shredded through the visitor's defense. The quarterback that night was the legendary Bobby Hoying, who threw about the same number of touchdowns in his career as there were crew-neck sweatshirts in the Horseshoe crowd on that September night.

Ohio State's dominating victory was a massive blow to a Huskies team that had already gone through a lot. It was a memorable evening for the '93 Buckeyes, who would start the season 8-0 but ultimately go on to a 10-1-1 record, a Holiday Bowl victory, and a share of the Big Ten title.

Next - 1997 >>

1997: No. 9 Ohio State 24 - Wyoming 10

Coming off an upset victory over No. 2 Arizona State in the previous season's Rose Bowl, Ohio State looked to continue to prosper under John Cooper, who was in his 10th season as head coach. The dual threat of quarterbacks Stanley Jackson and Joe Germaine gave the Buckeyes the edge with what turned out to be a less than ideal performance for the defending Big Ten co-champions.

It happened to be the first game to not be sold out at the 'Shoe since 1991, and though the Buckeyes' season would be an overall positive one, their exploits would be overshadowed by their great rivals Michigan. Under Lloyd Carr and inspired by Heisman winner Charles Woodson, the Maize and Blue beat the Buckeyes for a third straight year on their way to the National Championship.

Next - 1999 >>

1999: No. 13 Ohio State 42 - No. 14 UCLA 20

This early season marquee matchup featured two of the season's most promising teams: Ohio State was coming off a Sugar Bowl win, and UCLA was defending PAC-10 Champion and had also lost the Rose Bowl. On the night, though, the Buckeyes were the much better team: two touchdowns and 119 rushing yards from running back Michael Wiley helped the defending Big Ten co-champions come back from a 10 point deficit to rout the Bruins by a 22-point margin. Quarterback Steve Bellisari came off the bench for OSU and threw for two touchdowns and 159 yards, and after giving up the first 10 points of the evening, the Buckeye defense held steady as well.

Unfortunately both team's performances from the previous season would not repeat. UCLA finished a dismal 4-7, and Ohio State would go on to be 6-6, its first season without a bowl game since 1988. This game was John Cooper's last under the lights at Ohio Stadium.

Next - 2001 >>

2001: Ohio State 38 - No. 14 Northwestern 20

Ohio State finally hosted a Big Ten opponent at night, and it came in the form of the 3-0 Northwestern Wildcats. The team from Evanston's early season form seemed to point to their first win against the Scarlet & Gray in 21 attempts, but buoyed by their new head coach Jim Tressel, it was the Buckeyes who showed their true colors.

It was Tressel's defense that really stole the show in what would be a sign of things to come. Buckeye legend Mike Doss had a crucial fumble recovery for a touchdown in the first quarter, and defensive back Derek Ross intercepted Wildcat quarterback Zak Kustok. Jonathan Wells was the main man for the home team on offense, with his 179-yard, three touchdown effort being one of the all-time greats for an OSU rusher.

Northwestern limped on to a 4-7 record, while Ohio State upset arch rival Michigan on its way to a 7-5 season and a second consecutive loss in the Outback Bowl. Things were looking up for the Buckeyes, and they would march to a magical National Championship a year later.

Next - 2003 >>

2003: No. 2 Ohio State 28 - No. 17 Washington 9

After the aforementioned National Championship, Ohio State entered the 2003 season as favorites to repeat its success. Standing in its way for the opener was a talented Washington Huskies team under first-year head coach Keith Gilbertson.

Returning many of the heroes from its terrific squad of a year before, Ohio State dominated the PAC-10 school. Quarterback Craig Krenzel passed for 209 yards and rushed for two scores, while running backs Maurice Hall and Lydell Ross had one touchdown a piece. It was an accomplished performance from the defending champs against opposition who would only go 6-6. The Buckeyes did have a successful season winning the Fiesta Bowl yet again, but losses against Wisconsin and Michigan prevented them from retaining the Big Ten title.

Next - 2005 >>

2005: No. 2 Texas 25 - No. 4 Ohio State 22

In what was the first meeting between two great football schools, Ohio State's 2005 clash with Texas was in every way a modern classic - two fantastic teams and two fantastic coaches, all going head-to-head under the lights and in front of the whole country. It would be difficult to sum this game up like it was any other game, because it wasn't. There are key moments that will be remembered for a long time by both schools -- Cedric Griffin's hit in the end zone and Limas Sweed's game-winning catch. For all those that watched it, it was one game they will never forget.

The talent on display that night was unreal (Vince Young, Troy Smith, Brian Orakpo, AJ Hawk, to name a few), and rest of the season showed just how good both teams were: Ohio State won the Big Ten and Fiesta Bowl; but Texas was the best team in the land after winning the Big-12, the Rose Bowl, and the National Title.

Next - 2008 >>

2008: No. 3 Penn State 13 - No. 9 Ohio State 6 

For the first time in years, Penn State walked into Columbus as the favorite, and its terrific display certainly merited its status as No. 3 in the nation. In what can be described only as a typically defensive Big Ten affair, the Nittany Lions scored the only touchdown of the game off of a one-yard run from Pat Devlin. Ohio State mounted a comeback of sorts with only minutes left in the final quarter, but quarterback Terrelle Pryor's late pass into the endzone was intercepted by Lydell Sargeant, meaning Joe Pa's team had its first win in Ohio Stadium since 1978.

Ohio State lost to Texas again that year, in the Fiesta Bowl. Penn State, meanwhile, went all the way to the Rose Bowl before falling to USC in its own backyard.

Next - 2009 >>

2009: No. 3 Southern California 18 - No. 8 Ohio State 15

After being trounced by the Trojans in Southern California a year before, the Buckeyes looked to return the favor on their own home field. It wasn't just any home field advantage either -- a record crowd of 106,033 people crammed into the confines of 411 Woody Hayes Drive. With a partisan crowd behind them, the Buckeyes went stride-for-stride with their western visitors. Going into the fourth quarter, Ohio State held a 5-point lead, negating USC's offensive threat at every turn.

But Buckeye fans' worst fear was realized with 7:15 left in the final quarter: Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley came of age. Leading a massive 95-yard drive, the USC signal caller gave his team its first lead and even got the two-point conversion for good measure. It was a crushing loss for the Buckeyes, but an amazing victory for the visitors.

Ohio State would make up for it during rest of the season, though, beating Michigan in Ann Arbor and Oregon in the Rose Bowl. The end of USC's season was less glamorous -- a 9-4 record concluding in a victory in the Emerald Bowl.

Next - 2010 >>

2010: No. 2 Ohio State 45 - Marshall 7

A game that looked simply like a training exercise on paper turned out to be just that. The No. 2 team in the nation dismantled the Thundering Herd in every department in this season opener. Terrelle Pryor had two touchdown passes, and running back Brandon Saine had two rushing scores himself. The game was already 35-7 at halftime, and the entire nation already knew the firepower of this Ohio State squad. This game would be the last home night game the Buckeyes would play under Jim Tressel.

Despite losing to Wisconsin and missing out on a chance for an outright Big Ten championship and a shot at the national crown, Ohio State was still co-champion of its conference and outlasted Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. Marshall would finish 5-7 under first-year coach Doc Holliday.

And Finally - 2011 >>

2011: Ohio State 33 - No. 15 Wisconsin 29

After an offseason of incredible turmoil, Ohio State had an interim coach in Luke Fickell and was also without its leader and quarterback Terrelle Pryor for the entire season. Wisconsin came into the game with 6-0 record, while Ohio State was only 4-3. The Buckeyes had to perform extremely well to get the upset, and they certainly did.

Both teams shared only 10 points in the first half, but the second one turned out to be much more exciting. In particular, the last five minutes might be up there with the most exciting five minutes in Buckeye history -- four touchdowns (two by each team) and a long Hail Mary pass to cap it all off.

The breathtaking victory would be high point in Ohio State's season, one in which it would finish 6-7, its first losing record in over a decade. Wisconsin would win the rest of its regular season games on the road to a Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl loss to Oregon.