Ohio State began the 1954 football season unranked, but nine straight wins carried the Buckeyes to a Rose Bowl game against USC.
Editor's Note: This is original coverage of an event in the life of legendary Ohio State coach Woody Hayes, taken from the archives of The Columbus Dispatch newspaper. These stories, photos and clippings in the Woody Hayes Archive predate the Internet era and are being presented in digital form for the first time.
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(Originally published on the front page on Jan. 2, 1955)OSU Sloshes to 20-7 Triumph Trojans Defeated By Ground Attack; Field Is Quagmire
By PAUL HORNUNG
PASADENA, Calif., JAN. 1 – Ohio State's all-conquering Buckeyes added a Rose Bowl victory to their already-won Big Ten and National championship here today in a Rose Bowl game played under "most unusual" (for California) circumstances.
Relentless sloshing by Ohio State's irresistible ground attack flattened Southern California, 20-7, before a crowd of 89,191 drenched spectators and a record TV audience in what may go down in the classic's 41-year history as the "Quagmire Bowl."
The all-day downpour was the first such embarrassing climatic backfire experienced by the Tournament of Roses committee since 1934. Since they follow the Ohio system here and let it rain, the playing field was quickly turned into mud.
Ohio State's command performance, a more complete victory than the final score indicates, constituted its tenth success of the season; its second in three Rose Bowl appearances and the ninth for the Western Conference in 10 years since the Pacific Coast- Big Ten pact came into being.
Quarterback Dave Leggett, halfbacks Bobby Watkins and Jerry Harkrader shared touchdown laurels and All-America Hopalong Cassady joined them in grinding through the USC defenses for 304 yards on the ground, only 16 short of the bowl record.
With their own big, aggressive line ripping holes in the Trojan defense, Cassady galloped for 92 yards, Leggett for 67, Watkins for 64, Harkrader for 48 and fullback Hubert Bobo for 19 to keep the pressure constantly on the upset-minded men of Troy.
After their first drive had ended in a mis-firing field goal effort by Tad Weed, the unbeaten Buckeyes finally marched 69 yards for their first score early in the second period and added another less than two minutes later for what eventually proved to be the clincher.
However, Trojan halfback Aramis Dandoy and Jon Arnett gave the estimated 5,000 followers anxious moments when a record and near-record performance respectively.
Dandoy, who did not start because of a lingering leg ailment, picked up a punt by Bobo on his own 14 yard line and, with vicious blocking at the right spots and some dazzling individual effort, splashed 84 yards to a touchdown. That eclipsed Billy Wells' 62-yard punt return record set last year for Michigan State.
Dandoy's sensational caper, longest run against the Buckeyes this season, and a successful conversion by Sam Tsagakakis pulled Southern California up to only a 7-14 disadvantage.
Arnett, a brilliant sophomore who obviously belongs in the "good mudder" category, accepted a hand-off from quarterback Jim Contratto and tip-toed his way 70 yards to the Ohio State 28-yard line on the final play of the third period. The Buckeyes last man, Cassady, pinned the speedy Trojan against the sidelines and downed him.
Frank Aschenbrenner of Northwestern covered 71 yards in 1952, which stands as the Rose Bowl record.
However, a fumble by Jim Contratto and three unsuccessful plays left the Trojans short of first down and Ohio State marched 77 yards for the "insurance" TD. Harkrader going over from the nine.
Arnett, incidentally, also accounted for the day's rushing leadership with 123 yards and a 12.5 average and came within two yards of another mark. He quick-kicked 70 yards, compared to the record of 72 set in 1952 by USC's Des Koch.
Just for the record, Ohio State's awesome display of grinding ground power came within two of the first down record. It collected 22, Georgia piled up 24 against UCLA in 1943. Illinois had 320 yards against UCLA in 1947, also a record, to Ohio's 304 today (it lost 9 for a net 295).
Ohio State didn't match UCLA's 34-0 margin of the now-four-times beaten (in 12 games) Trojans, but its loyal fans didn't seem to care much. They celebrated by tearing down the goal posts and chanting Buckeye songs as they waded out of the gloomy Arroyo Rose Bowl (the stadium lights were turned on an hour before kick-off time).
Actually, it wasn't a fair test of either team, but as has been the case all through the regular season, Coach Woody Hayes' magnificent young men were more than equal to the requirements. Leggett attempted 11 passes and completed 6, one of the for the second touchdown, but he elected to grind out yardage with the running attack and it was good strategy.
Hayes said he thought "our kids played good ball" and that they were "about two touchdowns better than Southern Cal, maybe a little more." So far as the national championship is concerned, Hayes maintains – and Ohio fans will cheer "Bravo" -- "I still think we're the No. 1 team in the nation. When you get 19 first downs on a muddy field, that's pretty good going."
Although jubilant over this latest triumph, Hayes insisted on registering two "beefs:" He didn't think the bands should have been permitted on the field at halftime and he thought the field should have been covered before the rain arrived this morning.
"I think we've got the greatest band there is. But they should have kept them both -- USC's band, too -- off the field. They let 'em come out at halftime and cut our football field into a quagmire between the 30 yard lines. It just doesn't make sense."
Hayes said that at home a giant tarpaulin is spread over the field at the first hint or forecast of rain.
"It was the worst field we've played on in four years. They should have had a tarp on the field, even if they had to send San Francisco to get it."
Hayes declined to reopen the UCLA national championship argument – the Uclans also had an unbeaten season and won the Pacific Coast Conference title. But he did feel that "there are five teams in the Big Ten I'd rate ahead of Southern California – Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ohio State."
Coach Jess Hill of the Trojans, apprised of Hayes statement, came back: "That's a very generous statement. I still say I'd like to meet them on a dry field. Ohio was as tough as we thought, but no tougher."
Both coaches felt that fumbles were vital factors in the game, since Ohio State's first two scores followed recoveries of bobbles by Contratto. The Buckeyes covered another Trojan fumble for a total of three, while recovering their own only fumble.
"The rain definitely hurt our passing game and we intended to pass a lot," Hill explained. "Jim Contratto told me he just couldn't hold onto the ball."
Southern Cal attempted only eight passes and completed three, far below its usual average.
Rose Bowl games have always produced epic individual feats and certainly Dandoy and Bobo provided that today in the second period.
Bobo dropped back to punt, but Trojans end Leon Clark rushed in so fast Bobo apparently decided a punting try would be blocked. He started to run as Clark went sliding past then, with no more opposition close, elected to punt anyway. He got off a beauty for 54 yards to the USC 14.
Dandoy picked up the bouncing ball, eluded an eager Buckeye tackler and started up the east sideline. He picked up two key blocks and raced to midfield where he shook loose from another Buckeye tackler and headed back into the middle of the field. Jimmy Roseboro, Buckeye halfback, was gaining ground in pursuit, but a tremendous block cut him down and Dandoy continued into the end zone with a teammate as escort.
Leggett, whose strong running makes him easily one of the best split-T quarterbacks in the business, slipped between his right guard and tackle and into the end zone without being bumped off his feet. This two-yard effort climaxed an 11-play drive which started when Big Jim Parker recovered a fumble by Contratto on the Buckeye 31. Weed's conversion made it 7-0 with 35 seconds of the second period played.
Big gainer of the series was a sweep of left end Harkrader for 26 yards.
Three plays later, the Buckeyes were back in business and proceeded to sew up their winning margin. Arnett fumbled a pitch-out from quarterback Frank Hall and Leggett recovered on the Trojan 35. Watkins, having another of his great days, roared through right tackle for 14 yards on the first play and Leggett, on an option sweep-pass, lobbed the ball to Watkins on the three and he lugged the ball on into pay territory. Weed again converted and the Bucks had a 14-0 lead with only 2:05 of the period completed.
However, Southern Cal refused to fold and, after an exchange of punts, got back into the ball game on Dandoy's 86-yard run. That appeared to fire the West Coast representatives, because they threw the Bucks back on three downs and forced 'em to punt.
Ohio State looked like it might convert another fumble into a touchdown midway in the third quarter. Bob Thornton recovered Arnett's fumble on the USC 43 and Cassady, Watkins and Leggett churned the mud to third down and 2 on the Trojan three-yard line. But Watkins' try around his left end on fourth down was wrecked by Marv Goux, USC's 175-pound linebacker, and the Trojans took over.
Arnett's sensational 70-yard dash followed, but it only led to anxious moments for the Buckeye followers.
With Leggett and Harkrader doing most of the labor and Cassady chiming in with two gains, the Buckeyes went 77 yards in 13 plays. Harkrader, alternating with Watkins as much as the limited substitution rule would permit, hauled in a pitchout from Leggett and ran Southern Cal's right end for a touchdown, being tackled at the goal line. Weed's place-kick was blocked by Clarke, but it didn't matter.
The Trojans gambled and lost late in the period, giving Ohio the ball on the midfield stripe. A 15-yard penalty against USC moved the ball into scoring territory, but a penalty nullified Watkins' 19-yard run and Lindon Crow, USC halfback, intercepted Leggett's pass on the 10 to end the threat.
Ohio State made a sustained drive after the opening kickoff, but that effort also ended short of the goal line.
Eleven plays -– three of them misfiring passes -- got the ball to the Southern Cal 14, but with fourth and seven. Weed's substitution cost the Bucks five yards and his try from the 26-yard line had neither the distance nor the power.
Ohio State's spirited performers thus close out a long and glorious season, probably the greatest in Ohio State history. The '54 buckeyes are the first team in history to win 10 games in a single season.
The story of the victory today was like the others which preceded it -– great blocking, great running, backfield balance and enough passing threat to keep the enemy off balance. Southern California made it a game, but it was clearly outclassed.
Three of the Ohio Staters took off tonight for more football –- in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., next Saturday. They were Leggett, Thornton and end Dean Dugger.
Married players will start the trip home Sunday morning by train, along with their wives who enjoyed the trip as guests of the university. Other players will leave by plane at 9:30 a.m. Monday.
* * *The Woody Hayes Archive:
>> Ohio State hires a new coach (1951)
>> Rose Bowl win caps perfect season for Ohio State (1955)
>> Another national title, another Rose Bowl victory for Ohio State (1958)
>> Ohio State students protest as faculty bans Rose Bowl trip (1961)
>> Thrilling comeback win at Michigan makes Ohio State's season (1965)
>> Ohio State coach visits troops in Vietnam (1966)
>> Wearing short sleeves in the snow on the Ohio State sideline (1967)
>> Ohio State's Woody Hayes joins rally with Richard Nixon (1968)
>> O.J. visits Ohio State locker room after Rose Bowl win (1969)
>> Ohio State win over Michigan called 'our greatest victory' (1970)
>> No. 1 Ohio State loses at Michigan State in controversial finish (1974)
>> Hayes starts his 25th season as Ohio State coach (1975)
>> Ohio State comeback against Michigan is 'greatest game' (1975)
>> Ohio State coach sponsors a Vietnamese refugee family (1975)
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