Oct. 21, 1944
Each week, Gameday+ takes a look at an Ohio State game played on this date:
Ohio State 26, Great Lakes 6
Setup: Ohio State fans faced an existential crisis when the team from the Great Lakes Naval Training Center arrived for homecoming in 1944. The Bluejackets were coached by Paul Brown, OSU’s coach in absentia who had been commissioned into the Navy that year. He had coached many of the same Ohio State players the previous three seasons and had handpicked as his temporary successor his assistant, Carroll Widdoes. It was just all odd for Brown to be back in the Horseshoe, coaching against a team that was his, but not.
Stars: Les Horvath made his Heisman Trophy case with 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns as he directed Ohio State’s 309-yard effort. Russ Thomas forced and recovered a fumble while playing the full 60 minutes, and he helped the Buckeyes dominate the line of scrimmage.
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Turning point: In a 6-6 game in the fourth quarter, Horvath had a 24-yard pass and a 34-yard run to set up his tiebreaking 1-yard run. Ohio State’s Paul Jackson then forced a turnover by Great Lakes when he stole the ball on a Statue of Liberty play and Ollie Cline cashed in with a 4-yard scoring run to make it 19-6.
Impact: That Ohio State had remained unbeaten by beating a Brown-coached team proved bittersweet. Overall, the 1944 season was sweet, as the Buckeyes went 9-0, won the Big Ten and finished second to Army in the The Associated Press poll. The bitter came in the offseason when Brown was lured away from a possible return to Ohio State by Mickey McBride, the owner of the Cleveland Browns of the All-America Football Conference. After finishing ’44 with Great Lakes, Brown would never coach college football again.
Quotable: “It’s just a different situation. You get along as best you can. There’s just a difference between a college team and a service team.” — Brown, noting the businesslike manner with which his team accepted defeat by a better team. Sort of like pro football.
— Ray Stein / email@example.com