Jack Park: Remembering Ohio State's 'Fifth Quarter' game in 1943

Jack Park For The Columbus Dispatch
Paul Brown, Ohio State University Coach, in 1941

The current season marks the 75th anniversary of Ohio State’s 1943 season, Paul Brown’s third and final year as head coach. The Buckeyes owned a record of 2-5 as they faced Illinois on November 13 in the season’s last home game. This homecoming contest developed into one of the most exciting games all season, with the lead changing hands four times. The afternoon also produced one of the most unusual finishes in college football history.

The Fighting Illini scored their third touchdown late in the second period to lead at halftime, 19-13.  Ohio State went back ahead, 26-19, with touchdowns in each of the third and fourth quarters. Illinois retaliated with its only points of the second half to tie the game, 26-26, with 6:50 remaining.

The Buckeyes received a huge break when Illini halfback Eddie McGovern fumbled, and OSU quarterback Bobby McQuade recovered at the Illinois 23 with just 10 seconds on the clock. With time for just one play McQuade fired a pass into the end zone, intended for halfback Ernie Parks, that fell incomplete. Field judge Irish Krieger fired his gun signaling that time had expired, and both teams headed for their dressing rooms.  Many of the crowd of 36,331 left Ohio Stadium thinking that the game had ended in a 26-26 tie.

Illinois’ left tackle, however, had been offside on the final down, but few had seen head linesman Paul Goebel signal the infraction, including the other game officials. After being informed of the infringement, the officials concurred that the game could not end on a defensive penalty.  Referee Jim Masker made his way to the Ohio State dressing room, where he told Paul Brown that his team could have "one additional down." Krieger’s task was much tougher. He delivered the same message to coach Ray Eliot in the Illinois dressing room.

Nearly 15 minutes after McQuade's pass had fallen dead in the stadium’s south end zone, both squads returned to the playing field for one final down. Many of the players needed a few extra seconds to get back into their equipment and uniforms. Johnny Stungis, a 17-year-old freshman from Powhatan Point, Ohio, calmly booted a 33-yard field goal to earn Ohio State a 29-26 "fifth quarter" victory.  The historic three-pointer oozed over the middle of the crossbar with little to spare. It would be the first and only field goal attempt of his career.

Stungis had played tenor saxophone in the Powhatan Point High School band until his senior year, when the school’s coach convinced him to play football instead of the band. He credited placekicking coach Ernie Godfrey for much of his newly developed kicking skills.

It was an extremely tough loss for Ray Eliot. His two fine halfbacks, Eddie Bray and Eddie McGovern, had combined for 249 yards rushing.  Years later, Eliot was asked about this game by Cincinnati sportswriter Pat Harmon. Eliot told Harmon, “If I had known what the official wanted when he knocked on the door, I would NEVER have let him in the dressing room to talk with us!”

Listen to the BuckeyeXtra Football podcast: