Jack Park: Buckeye Arnold Chonko remembered for 1964 defensive effort against Indiana

Jack Park For The Columbus Dispatch
Arnold "Arnie" Chonko - Parma Senior High School Class of 1961

Ohio State will entertain Indiana this weekend at its annual Homecoming game. The Buckeyes have been very successful during their 96 previous Homecoming contests at Ohio Stadium with a record of 72-19-5 (1922 through 2017). The Hoosiers have only twice been OSU’s Homecoming opponent. OSU won 49-25 in 1981 and 30-7 in 2004. Ohio State has not lost a homecoming game since a 13-6 setback to Penn State in 2008.

The Buckeyes are 73-12-5 lifetime against IU, including a very one-sided 54-2-2 mark over the last 58 meetings. Indiana has only two home victories during the 30 games played at Bloomington --- 1904 (8-0) and 84 years later in 1988 (41-7).

Indiana has two Big Ten Conference championships; an outright title in 1945 and a shared crown with Minnesota and Purdue in 1967.  OSU and IU did not meet either of those two seasons. Indiana’s 1967 team made the school’s lone appearance in the Rose Bowl, losing to Southern California 14-3. The Hoosiers were coached that season by Johnny Pont, a fine halfback at Miami (Ohio) in 1949 and 1950 under coach Woody Hayes.

It definitely was one of the most lethargic college games ever staged, when Ohio State and Indiana played to a scoreless tie at Ohio Stadium on November 7, 1959. Buckeye fans had trouble staying awake that afternoon while their team could achieve only 121 yards of total offense and just seven first downs. The Hoosiers did only slightly better with 172 yards and 11 first downs. This was the last time Ohio State played to a scoreless tie.

In one of this series’ most competitive games, the two competed at Ohio Stadium on October 3, 1964, in the Big Ten Conference opener for each school. Ohio State rode the excellent passing of quarterback Don Unverferth to lead 17-3 after three periods. But the momentum shifted drastically in the final quarter.   

Beginning at its own 26, Indiana moved deep inside OSU territory where senior defensive back Arnie Chonko intercepted quarterback Rich Badar’s pass at the OSU six to end the threat.  After a short punt gave IU possession at the Buckeye 33, Badar quickly engineered a scoring drive to tighten things up at 17-9. The touchdown came on Badar’s five-yard pass to end Rudolph Keuchenberg. Badar's attempted two-point conversion pass was intercepted by OSU’s Don Harkins.

Indiana soon again took possession at its own 24 after forcing OSU to punt. Badar rapidly moved his squad the length of the field, only to be interrupted by Chonko's second interception of the quarter at the goal line. IU again held and soon regained possession at its own 47. Badar directed his team to a first down at the OSU 3 --- a touchdown and two-point conversion would tie the game.  But there again was Arnie Chonko, intercepting a pass thrown into the flat with just 14 seconds remaining. 

Very few of the Ohio Stadium crowd of 81,834 left early. They witnessed one of the wildest finishes ever between Ohio State and Indiana. Chonko, whose three interceptions tied an Ohio State single-game record, was awarded the game ball. Indiana outgained the Buckeyes in first downs, 18-16, and in total offensive yards, 322-289.  The Hoosiers ran 42 plays in the second half to only 26 for Ohio State, attesting to the pressure Indiana applied to the OSU defense.

Ohio State finished the 1964 season at 7-2 and Arnie Chonko was chosen an All-American. He also received a National Football Foundation scholarship that was based on combined excellence in both athletics and academics. After football, Chonko and Unverferth both became honor graduates of The Ohio State University School of Medicine.

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