The highlight has circulated every season for the last 15 years. This week, it’s almost certainly been on the Twitter feeds for any Ohio fan. It’ll undoubtedly be played on the ACC Network television broadcast before the rematch begins Saturday at Heinz Field.
The chaos started after Dion Byrum intercepted Pitt quarterback Tyler Palko on the third play of overtime on Sept. 10, 2005 at Peden Stadium. A then-program record 24,535 fans stormed the field as the cornerback sprinted to the end zone and sealed a 16-10 win for coach Frank Solich’s first win at Ohio
Byrum cemented his name in Ohio history when he returned two interceptions for two touchdowns to give the Bobcats a win over the Panthers, who won the Big East Championship and made the Fiesta Bowl a season earlier. Not many people gave Ohio a chance when Pitt arrived at Peden Stadium for the Bobcats’ first appearance on national television since 1969, but Byron flipped the script.
The Post caught up with Byrum about his memories from that night ahead of Ohio’s game against Pitt this week 15 years later. Here’s what he remembers:
Q: How do you sum up what happened that night?
DB: Excuse my language. It was a damn good game. I played both ways in high school, and I never had a game with two interceptions. I never had two interceptions for touchdowns, and then one of them being a game winner. Some of these guys who get drafted and play in the Big 12 and SEC, they only get two or three interceptions in their career.
It was a good year. The first game of the year, I picked up the option pitch and scored on that. Then, we played Pittsburgh, and I had two (interceptions) in that, and I end up having five more (that season). I had six interceptions and four touchdowns. So if I was at Texas, I would have won the Jim Thorpe Award. But because we were Ohio, I was a semifinalist.
Q: What was it like to get that first interception and give Ohio that initial hope and momentum?
DB: I didn't think he was going to throw it because he was throwing the ball from the opposite hash, and he tried to throw it all the way to the numbers. I was like, ‘I know he’s not throwing this ball.’ I caught it, and the first thing that came to my mind was like, ‘I gotta run as fast as I can.’ I was thinking ‘run, run, run’ and almost fell because my mind was moving faster than my feet. I felt myself stumbling and was like, ‘Please don't. You might not get a chance to score again.’ Somehow, I was able to keep my feet because I scored.
You could tell we were going to have to do something else to stay in this game because there was no offensive points scored in that game. We still had like, two or three quarters left. I didn't feel like that one play was going to be enough to for us to win that game.
Q: What happened on the second interception, and what was the scene like when you reached the end zone?
DB: As the ball was coming, I almost closed my eyes. I wasn't sure if I was gonna get there fast enough. As I stepped up, I was able to get there one step before he could get to the ball. I made the catch, and I was gone. I was like, ‘Oh crap, here it comes.’
When I scored, all those people jumped on me. I was at the bottom of the pile and I couldn't breathe. So I was screaming ‘Get off, get off!’ I felt like all the air leaving my body and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I don’t want to die.’ We can’t win this game and then I die at the bottom of this pile.
Q: What was the scene on campus for you after the game and throughout that week?
DB: By the time I got home, I had eight or nine voicemails from people who watched the game because it was the only game on. We stayed up to one, two o'clock in the morning trying to find it on SportsCenter for them to replay it. The next day, man, I was so tired and my shoulder was hurt from a block that I took. I just looked at my roommate, and I was like, ‘Man, I'm just staying in the house.’ I guess everybody partied downtown. I went to sleep.
Q: What will it be like for you to watch the game this week? Will you be thinking about that night in 2005?
DB: I don't know, maybe? I don't know. I never look at it that way. I just watch the football game. I never sit back and be like, ‘Wow, I did this, this and this.’ I did it, and I’m proud of it, but it’s in the past. I'm happy I did it. I'm happy that people remember it, but I don’t dwell on it.