ANN ARBOR, Mich. — In November 2005, Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith and his Buckeyes trailed the Wolverines of Michigan 21-19 late in the fourth quarter.
Smith, under pressure, scrambled to evade the Wolverines pass rush and lofted a perfectly thrown ball down the sideline – into coverage – and sophomore wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez made what’s been dubbed “The Catch” by Buckeyes fans ever since. Ohio State went on to win and Gonzalez became a legend in Columbus.
Saturday in Ann Arbor, 12 years later and wearing the same No. 11 as Gonzalez did, Ohio State sophomore Austin Mack hauled in what may well be viewed as The Catch, Part 2.
Dwayne Haskins was forced to enter in the middle of the third quarter when J.T. Barrett left the game because of a freak injury, and Mack found a way to bring in Haskins’ second pass of the game, converting a key third-and-13 only seconds after a second consecutive Buckeyes false start put Ohio State way behind the proverbial 8-ball.
The 27-yard grab – Mack’s only catch of the day – kept alive a Buckeyes possession that ended with the game’s go-ahead touchdown. For Mack and Haskins, it was roommates doing what they’ve gotten used to doing. That’s the byproduct of many nights of work, far away from the bright lights of Michigan Stadium.
“I love all my receivers,” Haskins said after the game. “But I definitely have a special connection with Austin. We had to make a play, and you know, 1-on-1, I’ll take my boy anytime.”
If there was any sense of panic at that big moment, Mack didn’t express it either. He went up and brought down the game’s most important pass and took a big hit while doing so. That’s just what had to happen for the Buckeyes to find their way out of Ann Arbor with a sixth straight victory over the rival Wolverines.
“We had back-t0-back penalties, it was third-and-long,” Mack said. “We needed a big play. Somebody had to make a play. They called an isolation pass and that’s me, a fade route, and I went up and made the play.”
It wasn’t just a play, it was the play and it’s the reason Ohio State is still alive in the hunt for the College Football Playoff.