Jack Park: Buckeyes' winning field goal in 1940 against Purdue was controversial

Jack Park For The Columbus Dispatch
Dick Fisher (No. 2), Ohio State left halfback, scores a touchdown in first few minutes of play in game with Purdue at Columbus, October 6, 1940.

Ohio State will travel to West Lafayette for a Saturday night contest against Purdue at Ross Ade Stadium. The two have not met since 2013 when the Buckeyes won handily on the road, 56-0.

Ohio State and Purdue have played just 56 games, with OSU holding a sizable lead at 40-14-2 (73.2%). The Buckeyes are 27-5-2 (82.4%) at home and 13-8 (61.9%) at West Lafayette. The two played their 1943 game in Cleveland, where Purdue won 30-7.

Ohio State won 17-14 at home in 1940, but the outcome was questioned the following week. The Buckeyes started strongly and led 14-0 at the half on short scoring plunges by halfback Dick Fisher and fullback Jim Langhurst. But the Boilermakers retaliated in the second half to tie the score, 14-14, with touchdowns by fullbacks John Petty and Bill Buffington.

Late in the final period, Ohio State moved to a fourth down at the Purdue 12 with just 19 seconds remaining. OSU head coach Francis Schmidt inserted placekicker Charlie Maag to attempt a field goal. Maag’s 29 yard kick at the closed end of Ohio Stadium was good, allowing Ohio State to win a real thriller, 17-14.

It was quite a finish for the captivated crowd of 54,556. The following week sportswriter Wooly Holmes of the Chillicothe News-Advertiser reviewed a detailed play-by-play account of the game. Holmes reported that, in his opinion, Maag had been an illegal substitution. Maag played the first part of the second quarter, then was replaced at tackle by Jack Stephenson. Before the end of the second quarter, Maag went back into the game to replace Stephenson.

College rules in 1940 prohibited a player from returning to play in any quarter once he had seen action in that quarter. Holmes’ column quoted the Spalding Official Football Rules Guide, rule 5, section 2, found on page 18 as follows: A player may be substituted for another at any time, but a player may not return in the same period in which he was withdrawn. The penalty for this illegal entry is that the player shall be suspended from the game and his team penalized 15 yards.

When informed of the situation, Schmidt acknowledged the violation and took full responsibility for the infraction. He was quoted in the Columbus Citizen as saying, “I made a sincere mistake and I’m sorry. I honestly thought Charlie had not been substituted before in that period, when I sent him in late in that second quarter.”

Schmidt also absolved referee John Getchell from being responsible for not calling the infraction. According to Schmidt, the Big Ten coaches had a “gentlemen’s agreement” that they would govern themselves on this regulation, and that they had promised not to violate the rule. Maag said, “I simply forgot I had been in the game earlier in the second quarter.”

It was rumored that Ohio State may have contacted Purdue and offered to either forfeit the game, or erase the field goal and allow the final score to remain at 14-14. If Ohio State did indeed make this offer, Purdue apparently declined the gesture. Both schools report this 1940 game in their current press guides as a 17-14 Ohio State victory.

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