A shout out to NBC-4 Sports Director Jerod Smalley, who on New Year's Eve took nominations for Columbus' best sports moments of the decade. That was the genesis of the list I've put together. Jerod's list included not just moments, but stories. For example, the Ohio State football 2014 national championship, as it should be, was number one. Also included was the "Save the Crew" movement, which kept our beloved soccer team in Columbus and is responsible for upcoming downtown stadium. I'm focusing my list more on singular plays---those in-game moments that had Columbus sports fans leaping out of their seats in the stadium or arena, or out of their recliners at home. I also restricted my list to Columbus. The Cavs championship of 2016, featuring LeBron James game seven block followed by Kyrie Irving's shot was a huge moment for many Cleveland sports fans who live in Columbus, but I put my focus on Columbus sports teams.
I know many of you may have your own list that includes different moments, or moments from a high school championship or some personal achievement--but for me--here's my top 10.
Number 10: Braxton Miller's Spin: In the season opener of 2015, the defending national champion Buckeyes played at Virginia Tech. Braxton Miller, the 2-time Big Ten MVP quarterback was making his debut as an H-back. In the third quarter, Miller took a direct snap and scored on a 53-yard run that featured a video-game like spin move. It was a play that was probably the signature moment in Miller's sensational Buckeye career.
Number 9: Evan Spencer To Michael Thomas: On New Year's night 2015, the Buckeyes trailed Alabama 21-13 in the closing seconds of the first half of the Sugar Bowl. That's when Urban Meyer and the Buckeye coaching staff went into their bag of tricks. Quarterback Cardale Jones handed off to H-back Jalen Marshall who then pitched it to wide-out Evan Spencer, who then fired a pass into the end zone where Michael Thomas made a spectacular grab for the touchdown. It trimmed Bama's lead to 21-20 at the half and was one of the momentum changing plays that eventually led to an Ohio State win over the Crimson Tide and a berth in the National Championship game.
Number 8: William Buford shoots down Michigan State: In the 2012 regular season finale, the Basketball Buckeyes needed to win at Michigan State to earn a share of the regular season Big Ten championship. After trailing throughout the game, the Buckeyes rallied to pull even with the Spartans at 70 with seconds remaining. Senior William Buford took a dribble hand-off from Aaron Craft and rose up and drilled a contested top of the key jumper to win the game 72-70.
Number 7: Aaron Craft's buzzer beater: In the second round of the 2013 NCAA tournament, the Buckeyes were in a tie game with Iowa State, when Aaron Craft put on the hero's cape. With the clock ticking, Craft rose up and nailed a 3-pointer with .2 left on the clock, lifting Ohio State to a 78-75 win and a fourth consecutive trip to the Sweet 16. I could have also included LaQuinton Ross' shot a week later. His 3-pointer in the closing seconds beat Arizona in the regional semifinals. The Buckeyes would eventually lose to Wichita State in the regional finals but the 2013 tournament run included two breath taking Buckeye finishes.
Number 6: Foligno's OT goal vs. Pittsburgh: There were actually two moments in this 2014 playoff game that could have made the list. In the closing seconds of regulation, Brandon Dubinsky scored to force overtime. That set up the moment I chose. Nick Foligno, firing a wrist shot past Pittsburgh goalie Marc Andre Fleury to win the game 4-3 and even the series at 2. Unfortunately, that was the last win for the CBJ in the series, but the Foligo goal will go down as one of the great moments in CBJ history.
Number 5: JT Barrett to Marcus Baugh: The 2017 Ohio State vs. Penn State game didn't start well for the Buckeyes but it sure did end the right way. OSU trailed 21-3 in the first half and were still down 35-20 after three quarters but then outscored the Nittany Lions 19-3 in the fourth quarter pulling out a thrilling 39-38 win. The comeback was capped off by J.T. Barrett's 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end Marcus Baugh. The next week, Ohio State would suffer a stunning 55-24 loss at Iowa, but the 1-point victory over Penn State turned out to be difference in the conference race, as Ohio State would go on to win the Big Ten title.
Number 4: E.T's half-court heave: In the quarterfinals of the 2010 Big Ten tournament, the Buckeyes seemed to be headed towards an upset loss to rival Michigan. With just two seconds left, Evan Turner, who weeks later would be named college basketball's player of the year, took the in-bounds pass from David Lighty, dribbled to mid-court, rose up and nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Wolverines 69-68. The Buckeyes would go on to win the Big Ten tournament, with Turner winning MVP.
Number 3: Curtis Samuel double overtime TD to beat Michigan: The 2016 Ohio State/Michigan game will go down as one of the most dramatic in the history of the storied rivalry. The Buckeyes trailed into the fourth quarter but battled back to force overtime. After both teams scored touchdowns in the first OT, the Buckeye defense held Michigan to a field goal on their second OT possession. That gave Ohio State a chance to win with a touchdown. Seconds after J.T. Barrett converted a first down on a 4th and 1, the Buckeye QB gave the ball to Curtis Samuel, who went around left end for a 15-yard touchdown, giving the Buckeyes a memorable 30-27 victory.
Number 2: Artemi Panarin's empty netter vs. Tampa Bay: The Blue Jackets had never won a playoff series and in the first round of the 2019 playoffs were playing the Tampa Bay Lightning, who had a historic regular season. The underdog Jackets however, pulled off one of the biggest playoff upsets in NHL history, not only winning the series, but doing it with a 4-game sweep. In the fourth game, the CBJ were clinging to a 4-3 lead when Artemi Panarin sealed the game and the series with an empty net goal, sending Jackets fans into a frenzy. I've been told by many who were there, that it's the loudest moment in Nationwide Arena history.
Number 1: Zeke's run through the heart of Dixie: The Buckeyes won the 2014 national title by beating Oregon---but that game was almost a victory lap compared to the Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. It was the victory over the Crimson Tide that most Buckeye fans remember and they play Buckeye Nation most remembers is Ezekiel Elliott's 85-yard burst with just over 3:00 left that essentially sealed the victory. Credit to wide out Evan Spencer whose block took out two Bama defenders, springing Zeke for his 85-yard "run through the heart of Dixie."