Already the pro scouts are buzzing around. "Schlichter is the best quarterback for the college game I've ever seen," says Dallas Cowboy personnel chief Gil Brandt. "I'm not saying he's going to be the best pro quarterback. We'll have to watch how he develops the next two years. He looks like the kind of guy you'd want to start a new franchise with and build around. Where he's really amazing is in the clutch."
In his first outing on the 1980 Heisman campaign trail, Schlichter had plenty of opportunity to display his cool in the clutch. Before he even touched the ball, the Buckeyes trailed 7-0.
Then, on OSU's first play, Schlichter rolled left and unaccountably rifled a bullet directly to Syracuse Safety Ike Bogosian. Schlichter compounded that sin by tackling Bogosian by the face mask. That set Syracuse up at the Ohio State four-yard line. Three plays later Orange Quarterback Dave Warner covered that distance with a scoring pass to Tight End Chris Jilleba. Less than six minutes into the game and it was Syracuse 14-0.
The Buckeyes countered with a 35-yard field goal by Yugoslavian-born Vlade Janakievski, but the Orangemen promptly drove 80 yards in 10 plays to make the score 21-3 early in the second quarter. Rarely have so many fans—86,643—made so little noise.
Warner scored that third Syracuse touchdown on a one-yard keeper, but 41 yards of the drive were gobbled up on runs by 5'7", 180-pound junior Halfback Joe Morris. Only Syracuse and New Hampshire showed any interest in Morris when he was a high schooler, but he has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons. He has already passed Jim Brown's and Jim Nance's career-rushing marks at Syracuse, and with his first run last Saturday, a 23-yard scamper, he overtook Ernie Davis as well. Going into this season, Morris needed only 562 yards to pass Floyd Little and Larry Csonka to become the alltime top Syracuse rusher. For a while it looked as if he might get them all last Saturday. Though he had to be helped off the field three times, he kept coming back and ended up with 150 yards on 26 carries.
Morris was making most of his yardage right up the middle. The Buckeyes had an obvious problem at nose guard. Last year's top two performers at that spot, Tim Sawicki and Mark Sullivan, had to attend summer school, and so far only Sullivan has received academic clearance to play. He didn't begin working out with the team until last week, so Bruce decided not to start him. When the score reached 21-3, however, Bruce sent in Sullivan. Syracuse had 115 yards rushing at that point. They gained just 93 the rest of the day.
It was midway through the second quarter before Schlichter began to work his magic. First, he took the Buckeyes 70 yards in 11 plays to set up a 34-yard field goal by Janakievski. On Ohio State's next possession, Schlichter narrowly missed a touchdown when he barely overthrew Donley, who was wide open. Still, he moved the Buckeyes 46 yards in 1:39 to set up a 42-yard field goal by Janakievski. That came with just 10 seconds left in the half and made the score 21-9.
Schlichter finally got a touchdown on the first possession of the third quarter. Starting on his own 20-yard line, he handed off five consecutive times to move the ball to the Syracuse 47. There he faked yet another handoff to draw the safety in, dropped back and threw deep down the middle to Donley, who had beaten the Syracuse cornerback one-on-one. The pass wasn't pretty, wobbling badly, but it hit Donley right in stride. Ohio State was now within a touchdown.
The Buckeyes got it on their next possession, when Schlichter marched them 81 yards on their fourth consecutive scoring drive. Tailback Ricky Johnson ran four yards to put Ohio State ahead 22-21. Then the Buckeyes went for a two-point conversion. Schlichter rolled right and, finding no one open, was chased all the way to the sideline. There he reversed his field, running left and scanning the field for open receivers. Spotting Johnson in the middle of the end zone, he threw a perfect strike while on the run. Later Schlichter described the conversion as "the most enjoyable play of the game for me."
The score remained an all-too-close 24-21 for four more Syracuse possessions before, with about two minutes to play, Schlichter's workday seemed to come to an abrupt end. On a keeper left that gained 10 yards to the Syracuse 23, he was slammed hard to the artificial turf and got up limping. His backup. Bob Atha, quickly replaced him, and on two consecutive carries moved the ball to the 10-yard line, at which point Schlichter suddenly reentered the game. On his first play back, he sprinted around left end, was hit at the three and pulled two Syracuse defenders with him into the end zone for the final score of the day.