Ohio State’s national champions of 1957 will celebrate their 60th anniversary on campus this weekend, when Ohio State faces Maryland. Coach Woody Hayes often stated that “a football team improves more between the first and second games, than any other time of the season.” This quotation applied perfectly to Hayes’ 1957 team. After sustaining an embarrassing 18-14 setback to underdog Texas Christian in the season-opener, the Buckeyes rebounded with nine consecutive triumphs to capture the United Press International national championship.
The loss to TCU was Hayes’ first season-opening loss in seven seasons at Ohio State. It also is the only time in 128 seasons that the Buckeyes would go on to win all their remaining games after losing the season-opener. It was an era of one platoon football, with players playing both offense and defense and some playing 60-minute games.
In the season’s second contest at Seattle, halfback Don Sutherin scored on an 81-yard punt return to break a 7-7 halftime deadlock and lead the way to a 35-7 victory. Years later when reminiscing about this season, Hayes recalled that “Sutherin’s punt return was the play that turned our ’57 season around. We just seemed to gel from that point forward.”
During the 1950’s, the Big Ten Conference belonged to Ohio State and Iowa. The Buckeyes captured outright league championships in 1954, 1955, and 1957. The Hawkeyes won outright conference titles in 1956 and 1958. Iowa was guided by fiery Forest Evashevski, who had been an outstanding blocking back for the Michigan Wolverines in the late-1930’s. There was no love lost between Hayes and Evashevski. The two rivals nearly came to blows during a heated discussion at a conference coaches’ meeting in Chicago.
Ohio State’s come-from-behind 17-13 triumph over Iowa (the week prior to the regular-season finale at Michigan) still stands as one of the Buckeyes’ all-time finest triumphs. The visiting Hawkeyes were six-point favorites in a game that would decide the conference championship. Ohio State entered the game 5-0 in conference play, Iowa was 4-0-1 after being tied 21-21 at Michigan two weeks earlier.
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With Iowa leading 13-10, Ohio State took possession at its own 32-yard line with just 7:51 remaining. Realizing this might be their last chance to score, the Buckeyes put together an eight-play 68-yard drive for the winning touchdown. Behind superb blocking, sophomore fullback Bob White was unstoppable as he carried between the tackles on seven of the eight plays for 66 of the needed 68 yards. With this victory, OSU wrapped-up the outright Big Ten title. The following weekend, Hayes’ warriors won at Michigan 31-14 after trailing 14-10 at halftime.
In the Rose Bowl, halfback Don Sutherin booted a 34-yard fourth-quarter field goal to break a 7-7 tie and lift the Buckeyes to a 10-7 victory over the Oregon Ducks. OSU finished the season at 9-1, outscoring its nine opponents, 267-92. The Buckeyes gave up only six points in the fourth quarter. Halfback Don Clark was the team’s leading rusher with 737 yards and eight touchdowns.
Guard Aurealius Thomas was named to the All-America team, guard Bill Jobko was chosen the team MVP and Woody Hayes was named college football’s coach-of-the-year. Clark, Thomas, and end Leo Brown were chosen All-Big Ten. Brown and fullback Galen Cisco were the team co-captains. During the years since 1957, Thomas, Hayes, end Jim Houston, and assistant coach Ernie Godfrey have all been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Congratulations and best wishes to the Ohio State Buckeyes of 1957, as they gather this weekend at homecoming for their 60th anniversary to reminisce about their splendid journey to the national championship!