Tuesday’s announcement that former Ohio State offensive tackle Orlando Pace will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame was surprising.
Surprising in the sense I would have sworn Pace already had been inducted. What took so long? Players are eligible 10 years after their last college games, and Pace’s Buckeyes career was over after the 1996 season.
“Without question, he is the best offensive lineman I have ever seen,” then-Iowa Coach Hayden Fry said in 1996. It wasn’t necessarily hyperbole. To this day, many consider Pace the best offensive tackle in college football history.
Iowa went 8-4 in 1995 and 9-3 in 1996, and yet couldn’t lay a glove on Ohio State those seasons.
In ’95 at Columbus, the Buckeyes scored on their first six possessions in building a 56-7 halftime lead, then pulled their starters. The final was 56-35.
“Coach (John) Cooper was being kind to us,” Fry said.
The next year in Iowa City, OSU led 38-6 early in the second quarter. Iowa chopped that lead to 38-26, and that was the final.
In both games, Pace was up front leading an offensive surge. He certainly had talented teammates, like 1995 Heisman Trophy-winning running back Eddie George (who got into the College HOF two years before Pace) and stellar receiver Terry Glenn.
In the 1995 Iowa-OSU game, the Buckeyes had four touchdown drives of 1:08 or less. That Iowa team went on to beat Pac-10 co-champion Washington in the Sun Bowl, 38-18.
In ’96, the Hawkeyes pasted Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl, 27-0.
Ohio State, meanwhile, started the 1995 season with 11 wins, then lost at Michigan and was beaten by Tennessee in the Florida Citrus Bowl. In ’96, OSU went 11-1. It won the Big Ten and downed Arizona State in the Rose Bowl, and was No. 2 in the final AP rankings.
I’d like to say I remember watching Pace do this or that, but I always end up following the football. And it was constantly going places when George and Glenn got it.
Cooper’s 1998 Buckeyes also finished No. 2 in the final AP poll. Two years later, after 6-6 and 8-4 seasons, he was fired because of what then-athletic director Andy Geiger called a ”deteriorating climate within the football program.”
In other words, Ohio State lost too many games.
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