I spent a lot of time figuring this one out...MUCH longer than it took to actually put it together.
A couple of friends and I sat down for a long and in-depth discussion Our goal was to come up with the Top 10 Ohio State plays of 2006. The top 3 were easy....after that, it became a rough discussion. A couple of beers later, we decided to expand the list to include 15 plays (and we STILL had to leave off some great plays). Here's the fruit of our labor....
Now I KNOW that there were some deserving plays that had to be left out....what are your top plays? Which ones did we leave off that you liked? Did we get it right?
And as a bonus, here's a little recap of our Top 15;
#15 - Smith-to-Ginn for 46 yards against Texas. Ohio State needed to start off strong to establish themselves quickly against #2 Texas. Smith takes a hard hit after going outside the pocket, but not before he finds a slashing Ginn, who races across the field and down the Texas sideline.
#14 - Chris Wells' 52-yard run against Michigan. Against the best rushing defense in the NCAA, Wells' takes a handoff, spins away from a tackle, and cuts down the center of the defense on his way to the biggest TD of his career. And he did it without slipping on the field. He used a new-fangled device called "cleats".
#13 - Smith-to-Robiskie against Iowa. It's not often that a 13-yard slant pattern gets to be a huge play, but Smith threw the perfect pass, and Robiskie somehow caught it despite having a defender literally between him and the QB. Watch the replay. If that pass is inches to the left, it bounces off the defender. Simply incredible.
#12 - Brian Hartline makes the hit of the year. Hartline opens up a tremendous hit on an Indiana kickoff returner. I was at this game, and I still can hear the hit to this day. Hartline actually knocked the player from the game.
#11 - Marcus Freeman's interception against Iowa. The game still had a bit of drama to it with Iowa trailing by 2 TDs and a fired-up Hawkeye crowd ready for a comeback. But in one quick play, Freeman ended their hopes by batting a pass in the air and snatching it deep inside Iowa territory.
#10 - Ginn's punt return TD against MSU. We'd waited all year for him to take it to the house, and he did, thanks to speed in traffic and a huge block by Roy Hall. Hall's block comes to Ginn's right side at the 41 yard line.
#9 - Malcolm Jenkins' INT against Penn State. The game was still within reach at 14-6 when Jenkins picked off an Anthony Morelli pass and weaved his way to the end zone. The play was an eerie reminder of Chris Gamble's INT for a TD against...Penn State...the last time OSU went unbeaten. To make it even more strange, Jankins and Gamble intercepted their passes at the exacy same spot on the field.
#8 - Smith fakes out the entire Michigan defense. It was 2nd-and-1 in the 2nd quarter, and Ohio State hurried to the line, scrambling the UM defense. Ginn lined up tight on the line, and everybody thought Chris Wells was going to dive over the middle across the yard marker. He did. But Troy Smith hid the ball behind his own back, and found a streaking Ginn over the middle in a fake so perfect, it even surprised Brent Musburger.
#7 - Smith dodges Indiana defense, finds Ginn. Had Smith decided to keep running around end on this scramble, he could have easily gained 20 yards on the ground. But a QB as amazing as him has eyes all over the field, and he found Ginn in time to stop, backpedal two steps and fire it from his back foot. A perfect pass, and the "Are you kidding me?" trend from annnouncers began.
#6 - Smith again dodges a defense to fire a TD pass, this time to Michigan State. There is no way any other QB completes this play. Smith should have been tackled at least twice, but came out of traffic clean, then fired a bullet to Robiskie, the force of the pass knocking him to the ground. The most remarkable part of this play....the intense roar of the crowd, and we were playing AT Michigan State.
#5 - Ginn runs a reverse, but throws it to Rory Nicol for a TD. We were up by 25 points at the time, and the game was in control, so why run a trick play? I'll tell you why....to scare the bejeezus out of Michigan. We forced the Blue to change their defensive game plan by opening up the playbook a few weeks in advance, but in the meantime we got to see one of the most entertaining plays in all of college football for 2006.
#4 - Laurinaitus forces a fumble against Texas and Washington scoops it up. Texas was 2 yards away from taking the lead against Ohio State when a huge momentum shift took place. All of a sudden, the crowd was silent in Austin, and they rarely had another chance to get loud the rest of the night.
#3 - Troy Smith wins the Heisman in week #4. Struggling against Penn State on a sloppy field, Smith decided to take matters into his own hands. He scrambled right, then reversed field and fired from his own territory straight down the center of the field. The ball traveled 60 yards in the air before resting in the arms of Robiskie. It was like watching that Doug Flutie pass, except that the QB in this case has talent.
#2 - Antonio Pittman breaks free against Michigan. The Wolverines had battled back to within four points, and a couple of turnovers had Buckeye fans worrying. On 2nd-and-1, Tressel showed the I-formation, and several huge blocks at the line of scrimmage opened up a hole for Pittman to scamper through. The rest of the defense was nowhere to be found, and Pittman raced untouched down the field. Musburger calls it a TD when Pittman is still 30 yards away from the goal line, but it wasn't in doubt. Michigan never again had the ball on offense with a chance to take the lead.
#1 - Anthony Gonzalez weaves his way through Iowa's defense for a TD. We'd all spent two years watching Ted Ginn Jr. reverse direction and sometimes run the wrong way in order to open up an opportunity to gain yardage across the field. And we liked it. But what the hell was Gonzo doing trying that? Oh, never mind. I have watched this play over and over again, and I have counted 11 Iowa players who were within 2-3 yards of Gonzalez, all of whom were left shaking their heads by the time the play was over. Hartline makes a HUGE block at the 10 that takes out two Iowa defenders (including Little Mitchy King, who earlier had yanked off Datish's helmet and punched him in the face). Gonzo ran about 50 or 60 yards to get a 30-yard TD, but it goes down as the Play Of The Year in my book. Oh, and the "are you kidding me?" comment is revived here.