Happy Fourth of July! Best Fourth-Down Plays for Ohio State Football

Tyler Stephen

To celebrate our nation's Independence Day, BuckeyesNow looks back at some of the key fourth-down plays that changed the complexion of a season…and often an entire legacy. Here is our top-five list…

5. No Buckeye ranking system would be valid without at least one slight of TTUN. Coming in at the fifth spot is Ezekiel Elliott’s 44-yard touchdown run against Michigan, in a one-possession game, on fourth-and-short. After a J.T. Barrett injury in the 2014 game, Ohio State relied on a then unknown Cardale Jones to close out the Wolverines. With just 4:58 to play, the future playoff hero handed the ball off to Elliott who scampered the Buckeyes to a two-possession lead and ultimately the national title.

4. A 2003 goal-line stand on a steamy September day in the Shoe is number four on our list. The defending national champions rode a 16-game winning streak as visiting underdog North Carolina State pushed them to the brink. Trailing by 17 in the fourth quarter, the Wolf Pack stormed back to force overtime in front of a restless crowd at Ohio Stadium. Clinging to a 44-38 lead in the third overtime, the Buckeyes stopped ACC Rookie of the Year T.A. McLendon inches from the goal line on fourth down to escape a relentless effort from Chuck Amato’s group.

3. The championship defensive effort sits at the number three spot on our list as Cie Grant’s quarterback pressure forced an errant pass in the double overtime win over the Miami Hurricanes for the 2002 national title. After a Maurice Clarett five-yard touchdown run in the second overtime, the heavily favored Hurricanes were unable to convert on fourth-and-goal from the two as Grant’s backfield presence led to a Ken Dorsey toss into a trio of Buckeyes, and confetti in the desert.

2. We could not resist another TTUN dig, but most would agree this controversial conversion is deserving of the number two spot. In 2016, the Wolverines outplayed Ohio State for much of the contest and the Buckeyes faced a fourth-and-one in double overtime trailing by a field goal. With playoff hopes and a remarkable rivalry record on the line, J.T. Barrett kept the ball off left tackle and fell painstakingly close to the infamous yellow line. What proceeded was a lengthy review, confirmation of chain movement, a Curtis Samuel walk-off touchdown, and Jim Harbaugh shall we say…voicing his displeasure.

1. With all the great plays on this list, there is none greater than the “Holy Buckeye” moment that kept that fabled 2002 championship season alive. The only play in our rankings with its own Wikipedia page, this 50-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-one trailing late in the fourth quarter would have been remarkable with an aggressive coach at the helm. The conservative reputation of coach Jim Tressel made the home-run ball from Craig Krenzel to Michael Jenkins even more legendary. The Buckeyes escaped from Ross-Ade stadium with a 10-6 victory and went on to win their final three games of the season... and a national title in dramatic fashion.

Stay tuned to BuckeyesNow and all of our social media outlets (@BuckeyesNowSI) on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for continued coverage!