Jan. 1, 1975

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

USC 18, Ohio State 17

Setup: In December 1974, when coach Woody Hayes told his Ohio State football team that it was time to leave Columbus for the Rose Bowl, his players universally cried, “Oh, daddy, do we have to?” OK, not really. But by New Year’s Day 1975, playing Southern California in Pasadena had become old hat for the Buckeyes, who met the Trojans in three straight Rose Bowls, then added a buy-three-get-one-free appearance the next season, against UCLA. The 1975 game against USC was a rubber match, the Trojans having drilled OSU in the 1973 game and the Buckeyes returning the wallop the following year. A share of the national title also was up for grabs on 1/1/75 — if Notre Dame could upset Alabama in the Orange Bowl.

 

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Stars: The star power — OSU’s Heisman winner Archie Griffin and USC’s Heisman runner-up Anthony Davis — was held in check by defenses and rib injuries, but the Trojans’ pitch-and-catch combo of Pat Haden (181 yards passing, two TDs) and J.K. McKay (105 yards receiving) stole the show. OSU defensive back Neal Colzie had two interceptions — and one costly spike.

Turning point: Despite being outgained by nearly 200 yards and despite making some brutal mistakes, Ohio State led 17-10 deep into the fourth quarter. Haden’s on-point, 38-yard scoring pass to McKay with 2:03 remaining pulled Southern Cal to 17-16, and the Trojans then took the lead on Haden’s two-point flip to Sheldon Diggs. Ohio State’s last-gasp drive fell short when Tom Skladany’s 62-yard field-goal try landed in the end zone.

Impact: Ohio State’s narrow loss hurt even more when Notre Dame beat Alabama 13-11 in Miami, letting USC get the coaches’ piece of the national title. (Unbeaten Oklahoma, on probation, was named champion by the sportswriters.) Better luck next year against UCLA — oops.

Quotable: “The ballgame was just that close — one point. I don’t think I have any more to say right now. Happy New Year to all of you.” — Hayes, charming the West Coast press corps after a 20-minute postgame dissertation

Ray Stein / rstein@dispatch.com