Ohio State's 60-year grudge against Notre Dame ended Saturday with chants of "Ed-die, Ed-die," with scarlet-and-silver-painted fans storming the field and aiming their cameras at the Ohio Stadium scoreboard, with someone ringing a campus victory bell as if it were Easter at Vatican City.
The damn thing tolled forever, a clang seemingly for each of the 45 points the Buckeyes scored against a Notre Dame team that hit the wall at 26. So big was the victory that someone jokingly told Ohio State Athletic Director Andy Geiger he ought to give Coach John Cooper another contract extension . . . and Geiger didn't laugh.
This wasn't the Game of the Century, like the famed heartbreaker the Buckeyes lost here to the Irish way back in '35, but it will do. For decades, Ohio State has waited for a rematch and Saturday, in front of a record 95,537, the Buckeyes got revenge, respect and goose bumps.
"I don't know how much anybody paid for tickets out there," Cooper said of a game for which scalpers were getting up to $400 for a seat, "but they got their money's worth."
The seventh-ranked Buckeyes (4-0) weren't too psyched. As the band formed its famous script Ohio and about 500 former players, including 18 from the 1935 team, stood in line on the field, Cooper made his sprint toward the sideline. He nearly didn't survive.
"I thought I was going to get trampled," he said. "I'm not as fast as I used to be."
Fifteenth-ranked Notre Dame (3-2) knows the feeling. The Irish were up 3-0, then 10-0, then 17-7, then 20-14, before Ohio State ran up its backs too. The Buckeyes did it by taking advantage of three second-half Notre Dame turnovers--a fumbled punt, an interception, another fumble--and a changeover on downs and turning the mistakes into 24 points.
Along the way, running back Eddie George and wide receiver Terry Glenn became serious contenders for the Heisman Trophy and Ohio State became a candidate for a national championship. George had 32 carries for 207 yards and two touchdowns, and Glenn had four catches for 128 yards and two scores of his own, including a 12-yard hook pattern that became an 82-yard scoring sprint.
For George, it was his second 200-yard game this season. More important, 129 of his yards and both scores came in the second half, as the Buckeyes simply overpowered the Irish.
It's hard to pick which Irish turnover or Buckeye play hurt Notre Dame the most. A nice place to start would be Emmett Mosley's fumbled punt about midway through the third quarter. Ohio State got the ball at the Irish 19 and scored three plays later. With the extra point, the Buckeyes took a 21-20 lead and never glanced back--except to look at the streaker who bolted from the bleachers and pranced around the field wearing only a G-string and a scarlet pom-pom.
The Buckeyes went on to score 21 unanswered points, including Glenn's touchdown sprint past cornerback Allen Rossum, an all-American sprinter who was timed at 6.29 in the 55 meters at the 1995 NCAA Indoor Championships. Glenn, a streaker in his own right, left contrails.
"I was thinking about [Rossum]," Glenn said. "I heard he was one of the fastest players in football, but I'm pretty fast too. When I got past the 50, I knew they'd never catch me."
Notre Dame moved to within nine points of the Buckeyes early in the fourth quarter, but that was it for the comeback hopes. On Ohio State's first play from scrimmage after the Irish score, George took a pitch from quarterback Bob Hoying and didn't stop running until he reached the Notre Dame 19. He scored three plays later.
"All summer long, all you heard was, 'Notre Dame game, Notre Dame game,' " George said. "I'm just glad we won."
By the end, Notre Dame was blue and gold mush. The 45 points were the most scored against the Irish since Lou Holtz arrived in South Bend in 1986. Only tailback Randy Kinder (143 yards, three touchdowns) had an afternoon worth remembering.
"I thought we could keep up with them as long as we could mix the run and the pass," said Holtz, less than three weeks removed from spinal surgery.
Holtz wasn't supposed to be on the sidelines. Earlier in the week, he said he planned to watch the game from the press box. But you know Holtz: Take everything he says with a shaker's worth of Morton's. Sure enough, there he was on the sidelines, dressed in a long-sleeve shirt, blue sweater vest, white turtleneck and baseball cap--all on an afternoon when the temperature in Columbus was a toasty 80 degrees.
Like the thermometer, the Irish ran hot in the first half. They had that 10-point lead early in the second quarter and Holtz had the Buckeye defense confused.
It worked for a while. Then the Buckeyes used their superior depth, their five key seniors--including Hoying, George and tight end Rickey Dudley--95,537 fans (at one point, the stadium actually swayed) and their six-decade-old grudge to settle a score.
"There will be some celebrating tonight," Cooper said.
Spoken like a man late for his own party.