GLENDALE, Ariz. - A third straight season ended in bitter disappointment for the Ohio State Buckeyes last night in the Fiesta Bowl, and this one had to hurt more than any other.
Texas won 24-21, scoring the game-winning touchdown with just 16 seconds left in the game. That spoiled an Ohio State comeback that had been led by the unorthodox combination of senior backup quarterback Todd Boeckman and freshman starter Terrelle Pryor playing at the same time.
Boeckman, whose career had been nearly given up for dead, and Pryor, whose future could not look any brighter, had melded their talents and led the Buckeyes from behind and into a 21-17 lead with just two minutes to play.
Boeckman threw a touchdown pass to Pryor to get Ohio State close with just seven minutes left, and then the Ohio State captain, who lost his job to Pryor just three games into the season, hit tight end Jake Ballard and wide receiver Brian Robiskie for big gains on Ohio State's drive that gave them the lead.
The pass to Robiskie put OSU at the Texas 23-yard line, and from there tailback Dan Herron took just two carries to get in the end zone and give the Buckeyes a 21-17 lead with only two minutes left in the game.
ROSS D. FRANKLIN / AP Enlarge
But the Buckeyes could not hold off a frantic Texas charge over the final moments, and when Quan Cosby caught a pass from Colt McCoy and slipped the tackle of Ohio State's Anderson Russell for a 26-yard touchdown, the Longhorns had the lead with just seconds to play and the victory.
No. 3 Texas trailed 6-3 at the half but put the game on the fast track in the second half, using the no-huddle, hurry-up offense almost exclusively and trying to drain the Buckeyes' tank.
In the third quarter, Texas ripped up and down the field for 14 first downs and a pair of touchdowns. The Buckeyes ended the quarter with no first downs and trailed 17-6.
The Buckeyes never recovered from that flurry, and the fact that star running back Chris "Beanie" Wells, who rushed for 96 yards in the first half, had just 15 in the second half before leaving with an injury.
For the Buckeyes, the need to win a "big one" remains unsatisfied. Losses to Florida, LSU, Southern California, and now Texas have left an unsightly stain on the legacy of a group of Ohio State seniors who have gone 43-8 in their careers and won four Big Ten championships.
The Buckeyes went to the two-quarterback offense on the first play of the game, with Boeckman in the shotgun and Pryor lined up wide to the right. Boeckman's pass went to the left to Robiskie for a 14-yard gain. A Pryor scramble for 17 yards was the only other significant gain of the possession.
MATT YORK / AP Enlarge
Ohio State stopped Texas inside its own 20 on a three-and-out on the Longhorns' initial possession and kept mixing it up on offense. Passes to Robiskie and DeVier Posey pushed the ball to midfield, and a 22-yard carry by Wells got the Buckeyes down to the Texas 22. After a Pryor sack, Ohio State got a 51-yard field goal by Aaron Pettrey to take a 3-0 lead midway through the first period.
A 26-yard carry by Wells a bit later, and a 12-yard scramble by Pryor in which he ran out of two tackles, set up Pettrey's second 51-yard field goal try, but this one missed ugly to the left.
The first quarter ended with Texas utilizing a series of quick-strike passes to push to Ohio State's 30. The Longhorns stalled at the Ohio State 10 after Doug Worthington sacked McCoy and settled for a field goal by Hunter Lawrence to tie the game at 3 less than a minute into the second quarter.
Ohio State then let Wells take over, and he had two runs for 14 yards before rolling 21 yards with a screen pass and then exploding through the left side for a 24-yard gain to the Texas 15. Two penalties on the Ohio State offensive line stopped the drive, and Ryan Pretorius kicked a 30-yard field goal for a 6-3 Buckeyes lead with just under six minutes left in the half.
Texas went into gambling mode on the opening possession of the second half, using a short snap to run the ball for a first down out of punt formation, and then going for it with success on another fourth down.
A pass interference call on the Buckeyes and a second roughing the passer penalty on Ohio State's Thaddeus Gibson moved the ball down to the Buckeyes' 14-yard line, and McCoy used a spin move at the end of a quarterback draw play to score the game's first touchdown and give the Longhorns a 10-6 lead.
Ohio State put the pressure on its defense by going three-and-out after the Texas touchdown, but the Buckeyes came up with their best defensive stand of the night and forced Texas into a fourth-and-36 situation.
Ohio State took over near midfield after Ray Small returned the Texas punt but squandered the opportunity without getting a first down. At that point Texas went right back to the no huddle offense and raced down the field 85 yards in nine plays.
McCoy hit Quan Cosby cutting across the back of the end zone from 10 yards out for a touchdown and a 17-6 Texas advantage.
Ohio State put some life into its offense by going with the two-quarterback formation, and Boeckman hooked up with Robiskie on a 48-yard bomb to get the Buckeyes down to the Texas 28. That effort stalled and ended with a 44-yard Pettrey field goal, cutting the Longhorns' lead to 17-9 with just over 13 minutes left in the game.
The Buckeyes came right back and got their first touchdown of the game on an 80-yard drive.
Boeckman finished the drive by lobbing a pass to the corner of the end zone that the 6-6 Pryor leaped and caught for a touchdown that cut the Texas lead to 17-15.
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A third straight season ended in bitter disappointment for the Ohio State Buckeyes last night in the Fiesta Bowl, and this one had to hurt more than any other. Texas won 24-21, scoring the game-winning touchdown with just 16 seconds left in the game. That spoiled an Ohio State comeback that had been led by Todd Boeckman and Terrelle Pryor.