Oct. 12, 1963
Each week, Gameday+ takes a look at an Ohio State game played on this date:
Ohio State 20, Illinois 20
Setup: With Ohio State coming off a middling 6-3 season in 1962, there were a lot of questions about Woody Hayes’ 13th Buckeyes team — namely, who would provide the offense? Future NFL stars Matt Snell and Paul Warfield were among the stable of backs, but quarterback was a question mark with sophomore Don Unverferth at the helm. Still, the Buckeyes opened the season with two shutout wins — 17-0 over Texas A&M and 21-0 at Indiana — and checked in at No. 8 in the Associated Press poll before a homecoming game against Illinois. OSU had whipped the Illini 51-15 the season before. Behind All-America linebacker Dick Butkus, Illinois had knocked off Big Ten preseason favorite Northwestern the week before facing the Buckeyes.
Stars: Ohio State halfback Don Harkins totaled 110 yards from scrimmage on just four touches — three rushes and a 43-yard catch on a pass from Unverferth. Warfield added 65 yards and Snell 47 yards rushing and a touchdown before suffering an injury. Dick VanRaaphorst added two field goals, including a Big Ten-record 49-yarder to tie the score with 1:53 remaining.
Turning point: Questionable decisions by both coaches — Hayes eschewing a chip-shot field-goal try in the first half, Illinois’ Pete Elliott unwisely going for two after a TD that pulled the Illini to 17-13 early in the fourth quarter. After VanRaaphorst’s tying kick, OSU got one last possession when Arnie Chonko intercepted a pass with 38 seconds remaining. Ohio State moved to the Illinois 39, but VanRaaphorst’s try from 57 yards was well short.
Impact: Somehow, the Buckeyes jumped from No. 8 to No. 4 in the polls, largely because four teams ranked ahead of them — Oklahoma, Alabama, Navy and Southern California — lost as Ohio State was held to a tie. The OSU offense, however, went missing in action the next week in a 32-3 loss to Southern Cal and never scored more than 14 points in its final six games — and still went 3-3 in that span.
Quotable: “That’s the silliest question I ever heard.” — Hayes, responding to a “mystery” reporter, reputedly from United Press International, who had asked, “Your defense today, did it improve over the first two games?”
Ray Stein / firstname.lastname@example.org