On this date in Ohio State football: Sept. 20, 1975

Ray Stein
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State fullback Pete Johnson in the 1974 Rose Bowl

Taking a look back at a game Ohio State played on this date:

Ohio State 17, Penn State 9

Setup: Just two games into its 1975 season, Ohio State faced the kind of make-or-break tests usually reserved for the end-of-season struggle against That Team Up North. The Buckeyes opened against No. 11 Michigan State in East Lansing — the place where their 1974 championship hopes vanished despite protests that Champ Henson had crossed the goal line. OSU passed that first '75 test by a comfortable 21-0 margin and a week later hosted No. 7 Penn State, the Beast of the East. The game marked the first meeting between coaches Joe Paterno of the Nittany Lions and Ohio State's Woody Hayes, who received a pregame salute from the OSU band — a formation spelling WOODY to commemorate the boss man's 25 years at the helm.

Stars: By this point in their Ohio State careers, tailback Archie Griffin and fullback Pete Johnson had their thunder-and-lightning act down pat. Griffin carried 24 times and slashed his way for 128 yards — his 23rd consecutive regular-season game topping 100 — and Johnson provided the down-low dirty work with 112 yards and two touchdowns on 23 attempts. The OSU defense came up big, too, holding Penn State to three field goals a week after registering a shutout of the Spartans. For the Nittany Lions, Duane Taylor rushed for 113 yards and Chris Bahr had the three field goals, including a stadium-record 55-yarder in the first half.

Turning point: There were two, actually, both in the second half. Penn State had closed its gap to 10-9 on its first drive of the third quarter, then found itself with a golden opportunity to take the lead when the Buckeyes' Brian Baschnagel fumbled a punt and the Lions' Tom Giotto recovered, giving Penn State a first down on the OSU 38-yard line. But a sack by Aaron "Chunky" Brown and Bob Brudzinski of quarterback John Andress pushed the Lions out of field-goal range. The margin was still one midway through the fourth quarter when Griffin made the play of the day — a one-handed, 23-yard reception of a Cornelius Greene pass on a third-and-11 play from the OSU 32. ("That was an almost impossible catch," Hayes gushed afterward.) Nine plays later, Johnson trucked in from 11 yards out for the final margin.

Impact: The back-to-back wins over college football heavyweights allowed Ohio State to jump to No. 2 in the polls, and the Buckeyes soon found themselves on a major roll. They ascended to the top spot two weeks later by thrashing UCLA in the Rose Bowl, then crushed their next six opponents by an aggregate score of 242-29, with only one game, against Indiana, settled by fewer than 29 points. At 10-0, Ohio State then took care of business at Michigan -- Woody's last victory over the Wolverines — and was on the way to Hayes' fourth national championship when the party ended on New Year's Day — again in the Rose Bowl, again against UCLA.

Quotable: "Ohio State is an awfully fine football team. I told my team after the game I hoped they learned something from this game. You can't make mistakes we made in the second half and beat a team like Ohio State. ... I think there's enough glory for both teams in a game like his." — Paterno, who like Hayes partook in a mutual-admiration society moment after the game.