Jack Park: TCU twice ruined perfect seasons for the Buckeyes

Jack Park For the Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State defeated the visiting Texas Christian University team, 14-0, September 25, 1937.

Pictured: Nick Wasylik, Buckeye left halfback, is shown being downed after a short gain through the Frogs' line in the second quarter.

Ohio State’s 52-3 victory over Rutgers last week was the school’s 900th all-time win (900-324-53), second highest among major college programs. Michigan is the all-time major college victory leader with 944 (944-340-36).

The Buckeyes will face TCU Saturday evening at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. OSU has done well in this superlative structure, winning the 2014 National Title with a 42-20 triumph over Oregon and defeating Southern California 24-7 in last season’s Cotton Bowl.

Ohio State has had six perfect seasons – 1916 (7-0), 1944 (9-0), 1954 (10-0), 1968 (10-0), 2002 (14-0), and 2012 (12-0). Additionally, the Buckeyes have had 23 near-perfect seasons – winning all but one game. OSU incurred a single loss during 19 of these 23 seasons, and the other four were each spoiled by a single tie.

TCU has twice ruined what otherwise would have been perfect seasons for the Buckeyes – 1957 (9-1) and 1961 (8-0-1). The Horned Frogs won 18-14 in 1957 and tied OSU 7-7 in 1961. Both games were season openers and major upsets at Ohio Stadium. These are the only two campaigns in school history when Ohio State failed to win its season opener, then won all of its remaining games. The Buckeyes captured the 1957 UPI National Title, and were awarded the 1961 National Title by the Football Writers Association of America.

Michigan has been the most frequent spoiler with six – five times dealing OSU its only setback (1906, 1926, 1933, 1969 and 1996), and playing the Buckeyes to a 10-10 tie in 1973. Illinois, Michigan State and Wisconsin join TCU as two-time spoilers. Ohio State’s first near-perfect season was 1899 when Case Tech and the Buckeyes battled to a 5-5 tie in Cleveland. The most recent was 2015 when Michigan State handed Ohio State a 17-14 setback in Columbus for the Buckeyes’ only blemish of the year.   

Ohio State is 4-1-1 all time against TCU with all six games played at Ohio Stadium in the month of September. The Buckeyes won 14-0 in 1937, 14-7 in 1966, 62-0 in 1969, and most recently 37-3 in 1973. The 1937 Buckeyes were coached by Francis Schmidt, who had been head coach at TCU before taking the Ohio State job in 1934. After losing to OSU that season, TCU captured the 1938 national title with a record of 11-0 behind the fine play of quarterback Davey O’Brien who was that season’s Heisman Trophy winner.

After defeating TCU in a lack-luster season opener in 1966, Ohio State lost five of its remaining eight games to finish the season at 4-5. It was just the second of two losing records during Woody Hayes’ 28 seasons as head coach.

OSU forced six turnovers in the 1969 game, while leading in first downs 26-9 and total offensive yards 565-196. It was the Buckeyes’ 15th consecutive victory dating back to the last four games of 1967.

Ohio State’s one-sided victory in 1973 was marred when fullback Champ Henson, the team’s leading scorer the previous year, was carried from the field late in the first quarter after suffering torn ligaments in his left knee. Henson was lost for the remainder of the regular season. Linebacker Bruce Elia was moved back to fullback the following week, a position he played the previous season. Elia and Billy Marek of Wisconsin led the Big Ten in scoring that year with each tallying 84 points on 14 touchdowns.

Saturday night’s game will be Ohio State’s 30th overall against opponents from the state of Texas. The Buckeyes are 23-4-2 over the first 29, with 24 of the games being played at Ohio Stadium. Following is OSU’s record by opponent: Baylor (2-0), Houston (1-0), Rice (2-0), SMU (7-1-1), Texas (1-2), Texas A&M (4-0), TCU (4-1-1) and Texas Tech (2-0).