Taking a look back at a game Ohio State played on this date:

Ohio State 12, Missouri 7

Setup: The late December holiday was still three months away, but it still felt like Christmas morning when Ohio State opened its 1941 season. The game against Missouri was the first for new Ohio State coach Paul Brown, the 33-year-old wunderkind from Massillon High School who brought a sterling prep record (80-8-2) as well as the discipline and organizational skills that had gone missing under slap-dash coach Francis Schmidt. The first step came against a Missouri team coached by Don Faurot, who coincidentally was among the four finalists for the Ohio State job that Brown got.

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Stars: Fullback Jack Graf starred on offense, defense and special teams — though accounts of games in those days were as short on statistics as they were long on platitudes. Graf scored both OSU touchdowns — a 2-yard run on fourth down in the second quarter and a 1-yard plunge with about 10 minutes remaining, which gave OSU a 12-0 lead. He also had a wind-aided 73-yard punt and a 48-yarder against the wind.

Turning point: In terms of the contest at hand, the game wasn't decided until Graf's interception of a desperation pass in the final seconds near the OSU goal line. But in the longer view of what promise the Brown era held, the key moment may have arrived early in the game. Ohio State took the opening kickoff and netted 91/2 yards in three plays. Brown eschewed the punt and Graf bulled for a first down with room to spare. Brown might have won a statewide election at that point.

Impact: The 1941 Buckeyes had their flaws, but they lost only once (at Northwestern) and were tied once (at Michigan). Graf was named the Big Ten's MVP and OSU finished tied for second in the standings behind national champion Minnesota. A year later, Brown and the Buckeyes celebrated their first national title.

Quotable: "Say! That's a swell team. They've got punch and pep — and whatever changes Brown has made, they're for the best. Brown's taken well with the students and the public and I'm for him 100 percent." — Gov. John W. Bricker, who wasn't even running for re-election.

rstein@dispatch.com