Nov. 17, 1917

Each week, Gameday+ takes a look at an Ohio State game played on this date:

Ohio State 13, Illinois 0

Setup: There was no Buckeye Nation in 1917, but the roots of that movement were beginning to take hold. Ohio State played its 28th season of football in 1917, a year marked by national anxiety (the United States had entered World War I in April) and local excitement (the Buckeyes had won their first Big Ten title in 1916). So, among headlines about bullets from German guns and war-drive efforts, OSU’s football fortunes served as a welcome diversion for the public. Ohio State took a 16-game winning streak into its home game against Big Ten bully Illinois, which had not allowed a point in a 4-0-1 start. A record crowd of 15,000 crammed into Ohio Field on an unseasonably warm afternoon to see if OSU could pull the double.

 

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Stars: As usually was the case, Ohio State’s Chic Harley played on a higher plane than his competition, though statistics, if kept, were rarely recorded. Accounts declared Harley the leading rusher on a day when the Buckeyes totaled 266 yards on the ground. And he delivered all 13 OSU points with two field goals, a 20-yard scoring pass to Howard Courtney and an extra point.

Turning point: After Harley’s first-quarter field goal, the teams settled into a tug-of-war between the 25s, with the Illini twice missing field goals. The Buckeyes’ Harold “Hap” Courtney’s recovery of a fumble set up OSU’s lone touchdown drive to clinch victory. On the scoring play, Harley drifted right at the snap and then delivered a diagonal strike to Howard Courtney, who tumbled into the end zone.

Impact: OSU had secured back-to-back Big Ten titles, a feat not duplicated until 1954-55. After beating the Illini, the Buckeyes played two nonleague games to assist the war effort — a scoreless tie against Auburn and a 28-0 win over Camp Sherman.

Quotable: “Take it straight and without a wrench that football has got poker, horseshoes, pinochle and one or two other major sports locked in Martha’s vineyard.” — W.F. McKinnon, writing in The Dispatch the day after the Illinois win in defense of football

Ray Stein / rstein@dispatch.com