Say the name “Ryan Hamby” to most Ohio State fans and their minds will summon up one particular play.
Hamby played four years for the Buckeyes, was part of the 2002 national title team, racked up nearly 500 yards receiving and five touchdowns, including a crucial score in double-OT against North Carolina State in 2003. But today, to many, his name is synonymous with just one thing; a crucial dropped pass in the end zone in a 2005 loss to Texas.
Thursday night in Bloomington, Ohio State junior WR Parris Campbell had what could have been his own Hamby moment.
With the Buckeyes trailing 14-13 in the third quarter, Campbell was running free, a couple yards behind the last Indiana defender. J.T. Barrett dropped a nearly perfect pass right into his arms as he raced into the end zone – but Campbell dropped it. The Buckeyes would turn the ball over on downs, the seventh scoreless drive in their last nine chances.
“I would just say it was a personal thing where I was just down on myself because those are plays that I make,” Campbell said after the game. “When I didn’t make it, it was personal.”
The game, and perhaps the Buckeyes’ season, changed in the minutes after TV cameras showed Campbell sitting dejectedly on the sideline bench.
“My teammates they got around me, they kept hitting me with positive notes. That’s really what lifted me up,” Campbell said. “I was kind of down in the dumps after that, I can’t lie. Just having them around me, supporting me, still having that confidence in me, that’s what got me through.”
Junior WR Johnnie Dixon was one of the Buckeyes trying to keep Campbell focused.
“He came to the side and he was all down. I’m like, ‘Yo, it’s part of the game. You’re going to drop a ball every now and then. So get your head up and go make that play,’” Dixon recounted after the game. “He came back and he made it.”
On a crucial 3rd-and-2 on the Buckeyes’ next possession, Barrett went back to Campbell and connected for a 28-yard gain. That drive ended with a touchdown that gave OSU a 20-14 lead.
“It was a great feeling because J.T. still had confidence in me and my coaches still had confidence in me to make those playcalls, even after that, just because they knew that I would bounce back,” Campbell said.
He would make an even bigger play the next time OSU had the ball. Indiana had retaken momentum and the lead, 21-20, when the Buckeyes started a drive at their own 26.
Barrett dropped back and hit Campbell on a crossing route. As he turned, junior WR Terry McLaurin picked up a key block, and Campbell’s speed took care of the rest. The 74-yard touchdown gave Ohio State a lead it would never relinquish.
“As soon as I caught the ball, I turned upfield and I saw 83 right there, Terry McLaurin. That’s a guy who blocks his ass off every single play no matter what it is. So as soon as I saw him, I knew it was six. As soon as I got past him, it was green field from there,” Campbell said.
He finished the game with six catches for 136 yards and that game-changing – and perhaps career-changing – score. Now he hopes the downfield passing game can become a more consistent threat.
“As much as we’ve worked on the deep ball leading up to this point, it’s nowhere near what we’re going to do in the future,” Campbell said.
“And I feel like we have a lot more threats, not just in the deep ball, intermediate game as well. I think it’s just a matter of getting our athletes the ball in space and just letting us run, letting us do what we do.”