The Penn State student section was at his back and to his left and right. A wall of sound, accented with ferociously shaking white pom-poms surrounded him from three sides.
He had 96 yards to go, and only 4:35 left on the game clock to do it.
The Buckeyes were down 26-21, and only a touchdown would do.
An unbeaten season, a chance to grab control of the Big Ten East, and stay in control of its College Football Playoff destiny was on the line.
Since he was 10 years old, Dwayne Haskins had wanted to be the starting quarterback at Ohio State. Now he was going to get a chance to try to live out his dream – leading the Buckeyes the length of the field in front of 110,889 fans in a hostile road environment.
No pressure, right?
Eight plays and 96 yards later, Haskins capped one of the most dramatic drives in Ohio State football history with a 24-yard pass to K.J. Hill.
Hill caught a quick screen, dodged around a block from Austin Mack, and raced up the sideline to the end zone.
“We just had adversity to earn, we had to keep fighting, keep swinging,” Haskins said. “You know it wasn’t pretty, pretty much the whole game, but we relied on each other, we had faith in each other, and we came out on top.”
Urban Meyer called it “One of the great drives in Ohio State history.”
In the wake of the comeback, it was hard to argue. In fact, the most remarkable part of the drive was how easy it looked.
From his own 4, surrounded by that deafening crowd, Haskins hit J.K. Dobbins on a little screen. Dobbins cut inside, then back out, and made it out to the 39. One play in, the Buckeyes were a third of the way to paydirt. The student section was far behind, and also a little deflated.
Dobbins rushed for seven yards. After an incomplete pass set up 3rd-and-3, Mike Weber converted the first down with an 11-yard run.
Haskins hit Parris Campbell on another screen. Campbell dodged outside, stiffarmed a defender, and dipped out of bounds at the Penn State 29.
After Dobbins rushed for five more yards, Haskins hit Hill, and the Buckeyes had the lead.
Coming into the game, one of the biggest questions surrounding Haskins was how he would handle adversity.
Sure, he had spent most of his first month as OSU’s starter burning through the Buckeye record books. But that was against Oregon State and Rutgers and Tulane.
How would he handle a real opponent in a truly hostile venue?
It took 96 yards, but Ohio State now has an answer.
“Obviously, this has been circled on our schedule for a long time, coming here on the road and winning,” said offensive coordinator Ryan Day. “We knew it was going to be hard. White out conditions, night game, they had it rolling. They did a great job on defense, but our kids hung in there. Winning on the road in the Big Ten is hard.”
“There isn’t a reason to be nervous. No reason to flinch,” said senior right tackle Isaiah Prince. “Stick together as brothers, play for each other, and just continue to play hard. We’ve been in situations like this before so it’s nothing new to us.”
Watch the winning touchdown below.
Want to hear 110,000 people get real, real quiet very quickly? pic.twitter.com/Y5diQ3gEGM
— Tom Orr (@TomOrr4) September 30, 2018