WHAT: The final Ohio State scoring drive of the 1997 Rose Bowl
WHO: Ohio State vs. Arizona State
WHEN: January 1, 1997
WHERE: Pasadena, CA
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: My family had a small party for the game, not quite on par as to when my parents made TICKETS for some house party Rose Bowls back in the day but it was the first time Ohio State had reached the Rose Bowl in a dozen years so a get together was in order. Most of what I remember is everyone hating Brent Musburger and thinking he was personally cheering for Arizona State. This was all nonsense of course but:
The 1996 Buckeyes seemed different. Up to that point in the 90s, Ohio State teams were wash, rinse, repeat. Have a pretty good year, get whooped by Michigan, mid-level bowl. But in 1996 all the Buckeyes did in their first 4 games is score 209 points including wins over top 5 teams Notre Dame and Penn State. They would go on to steamroll most of the rest of the season leading up to a potential Rose Bowl-clinching game at perennial bottom feeder Indiana. The Gates clan hopped in our jalopy and headed west for Bloomington to take part in what we expected to be a forgone conclusion and instantaneous Buckeye party. Photographic evidence exists of the Rose Bowl signs we (my mom) made to celebrate the occasion. Someday I will break into the Gates family archives to get all these treasures but hiring Nicolas Cage ain’t cheap.
HOWEVAH, the Hoosiers had other plans in mind and Ohio State found themselves in a defensive slugfest. Tied 10-10 about midway through the 4th the Buckeyes finally broke through on a pretty glorious defensive lineman strip fumble touchdown (fast forward to 2:11). We thought surely this nailbiter win will have no bearing on keeping our undefeated season alive against our hated rival the next week!
Luckily for John Cooper they wouldn’t be relegated to another Citrus Bowl and were still heading to Pasadena to go up against his old team, the Arizona State Sun Devils.
That’s a lovely sweater, coach.
For the third game in a row, it was a defensive, back and forth slugfest, with Ohio State continuing to shoot itself in the foot with their two quarterback system of Stanley Jackson and Joe Germaine. You know how the old saying goes, if you have two quarterbacks you have two in the bush. Wait that’s not right, knick nack patty wack, give a dog a bone? Never wear white after Labor Day? Never was good with those.
Anyways, Arizona State quarterback and “smoking Jay Cutler before there was smoking Jay Cutler,” Jake Plummer scores on a scamper with a little under 2 minutes left that put the Sun Devils ahead 17-14.
Things looked grim in Buckeye land. The Sun Devils were close to assuring themselves at least a share of the national championship. The Gates household was demanding Brent Musburger’s head on a pike. The start of 1997 needed some serenity brought to it. We go to the tape.
Brent’s partner on the broadcast? Future Super Bowl winner Dick Vermeil.
Reviews of his hiring only a few weeks after the Rose Bowl were not exactly uh, glowing but I’d say it worked out pretty well for him, and he actually is the unsung hero with his commentary in this clip.
“Look at him stick it in there. He’s done it before.” Come on now guys this is a family program.
“If I were John Cooper right now I would be almost ready to DIE.”
I told you Mr. Vermeil was about to spit that *fire emoji*.
The Buckeyes elect to go with Joe Germaine, who to me always looked like he was wearing one of those plastic helmets you get for a Halloween costume. At least he’d be comfortable with the scratchy inner-padding.
“Hellooo darkness my old friend”
Jake the Snake attempts to pump up that Sun Devil D but you’ll start to notice to those pep talks take a turn once OSU starts driving….
“Don’t worry guys, equipment manager told me this thing is made of real genuine balsa wood.
OSU converts a 3rd and 10 and Brent reacts with all the excitement of a mid-July baseball game in the 5th inning. The Gates household at this point is demanding he be brought before the jury in the Salem witch trials.
I miss coaches having ridiculous headsets on the sideline, like they’re getting ready to fly a helicopter, or run the soundboard for a concert at the local civic center. Really a dying art, the sideline headset, except of course for anything involving this man:
As the Buckeyes approach midfield, Jake continues to try to amp the squad, although going a little more subdued with the Raise the Roof strategy, a timeless classic. Not quite at the same level as the Shaq/Stuart Scott Lower the Floor though.
The Buckeyes have breached the wall and crossed the 50, followed by Brent explaining to us peons that overtime is a possibility, as this was the first year for college overtime and our lizard brains could never possibly fathom this outcome. Dammit it’s like I’m 10 years old in the bitter Gates household all over again.
Demetrius Stanley catches one inside the 30 and let’s check in with Jake:
This also seems like an appropriate time to point out how EVERY player in this time period had the same size shoulder pads. I mean, it looks like Orlando Pace could have borrowed Jake’s pads for crying out loud. And from my EXTENSIVE football playing career of one year, I can verify it is quite difficult to throw a ball with bulky pads on so kudos to the likes of Jake for breaking through.
Ohio State gets the benefit of a pass interference call I would best describe as “meh” although Dick Vermeil seemed awfully sure about it and hey that’s good enough for me.
We go back to Jake! Your thoughts?
It seems like just yesterday we were raising the roof like there was no tomorrow.
Brent and Dick besmirch Joe Germaine for not taking this running lane and, well yeah they’re probably right. But that glorious QB running lane don’t always turn out so glorious I can promise you that.
Time for that old game, Ohio State fan or Dick Vermeil direct quotes?
“Pass interference! Pass interference! Jesus! Yeah I would be saying that too Stanley, looked like he had a hold of him!”
“I saw pass interference Brent, excuse me. Top of your screen, Jackson number 23. I don’t know what the heck that is, if that isn’t, those guys down there, the officials, ought to donate the check to charity on that call. My gosh! That’s too obvious!”
Can’t put a price on that kind of earnestness, St. Louis Rams. Also in case you couldn’t tell, this was not called pass interference.
This however, WAS called pass interference.
Another tick towards midnight for the Cinderella Sun Devils. And now I’m imagining Sparky in a Cinderella gown, which would make it no less frightening.
When you realize the others might bail you out in the group project after all:
We go back, one last time to Mr. Plummer
There aren’t enough players to hide behind.
Dick: “The big thing is Brent, don’t turn it over if you’re throwing the football.”
I’d say dynamite drop in Monty if it weren’t oh so real in the history of a certain northeast Ohio team.
Luckily for our poor, unfortunate Cleveland souls Joe Germaine finds a wide open David Boston in the corner of the endzone to put the Buckeyes ahead, followed by a Boston strut that was often imitated but never duplicated by every 10 year old Central Ohioan over the next year.
Also at this point I feel like most of the Gates house party wasn’t so excited for the touchdown as much as the sweet release of getting to cuss out Musburger. We all have our personal joys in life.
A bonus look-in to Jake! He finally found the bench.
“Hey we got an A, good job everybody, good job!”
Arizona State was unable to do anything on the ensuing short drive and OSU took the Rose Bowl. Florida would go on to beat Florida State in a rematch in the Sugar Bowl…….which would have given the Sun Devils the national championship. Ouch. We’ll always have the gifs, Jake.