YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


No. 2 Ohio State Wakes Up and Smells the Roses

Big Ten: Finkes' fumble return lifts struggling Buckeyes past Indiana, 27-17; trip to Pasadena is their first in 12 years.

November 17, 1996|From Associated Press

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — At long last, Ohio State is back in the Rose Bowl.

Matt Finkes returned a fumble 45 yards for the tie-breaking touchdown with 6:18 left and the struggling No. 2 Buckeyes beat Indiana, 27-17, Saturday to clinch their first Rose Bowl berth in 12 years.

With the game tied 10-10, Ohio State's fortunes turned when the Indiana quarterback Jay Rodgers, scrambling for a first down, was stripped of the ball by linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer. Finkes grabbed the ball in the air and ran untouched into the end zone, putting Ohio State ahead 17-10.

"Andy came up and hit the guy, and knocked the ball loose. The ball was laying there, and I picked it and ran as hard as I could and went to the end zone," Finkes said of the first of three consecutive Indiana turnovers that led to 17 points. "It was just laying on the guy's back.

"The offense was kind of sputtering the whole time, and we needed a real big play. That obviously gave a lot of boost to our team."

Ohio State (10-0 overall and 7-0 in the Big Ten) can complete a perfect season with a victory next Saturday over Michigan. Under Coach John Cooper, Ohio State is 1-6-1 against Michigan. Then it's on to Pasadena to play No. 4 Arizona State in a game that could have national championship implications.

"Finkes made the most important play of his career. I know it's the most important play of my career," Cooper said. "The entire defense played great. They played their hearts out."

Pepe Pearson carried a career-high 37 times for 130 yards, while freshman David Boston had 13 catches for 153 yards to help the Buckeyes move the football.

Indiana (2-8, 0-7) gave Ohio State a tough game in Bill Mallory's final home game as coach. But the Hoosiers still lost their 15th consecutive Big Ten game.

"It's kind of frustrating going there down to the last minutes," Mallory said. "That's the history of us this year. Today we put our heart and soul in it. We gave them a run for their money."

Indiana took a 10-7 lead on a two-yard run by Rodgers with 9:18 left in the third quarter.

The Hoosiers' upset hopes grew moments later when Pearson fumbled and Jabar Robinson recovered at the Ohio State 35. Alex Smith gained five yards on first down but the drive ended with Ty Howard intercepting a pass by Rodgers at the 12 on the next play.

With Pearson carrying seven times for 24 yards, the Buckeyes tied the score 10-10 on a 19-yard field goal by Josh Jackson.

Leading 17-10 after Finkes' touchdown return, another Rodgers fumble was recovered by Rob Kelly at the Indiana 18 and set up a 31-yard field goal by Jackson.

On Indiana's next possession, with Chris Dittoe at quarterback, Damon Moore returned an interception 28 yards for another score.

Indiana then moved 51 yards to score on a six-yard pass from Dittoe to Ajamu Stoner with 52 seconds remaining.

Smith finished with 86 yards in 21 carries, bringing his career total to 3,328. Only Anthony Thompson has more yards rushing (5,299) at Indiana than Smith, a junior.


Rose Bowl at a Glance

* No. 2 OHIO STATE (10-0) vs. No. 4 ARIZONA STATE (10-0)


1921: California 28, Ohio State 0

1950: Ohio State 17, California 14

1955: Ohio State 20, USC 7

1958: Ohio State 10, Oregon 7

1969: Ohio State 27, USC 16

1971: Stanford 27, Ohio State 17

1973: USC 42, Ohio State 17

1974: Ohio State 42, USC 21

1975: USC 18, Ohio State 17

1976: UCLA 23, Ohio State 10

1980: USC 17, Ohio State 16

1985: USC 20, Ohio State 17


1987: Arizona State 22, Michigan 15

Los Angeles Times Articles