Buckeyes fell flat against Minnesota in 1931, as did Big Ten's charity efforts

Ray Stein
Buckeye Xtra

Nov. 28, 1931 

Each week, Gameday+ takes a look at an Ohio State game played on this date: 

Minnesota 19, Ohio State 7 

Minnesota star Jack Manders, here working on his kicking form, delivered a punishing performance against Ohio State in 1931. Newspaper accounts said it took "two to three men to drag the human locomotive down to earth."

Setup 

Uncertainty has been one of the buzzwords in this damnable 2020, including as it relates to college football. The Big Ten, for instance, not knowing how many games its members would be able to sneak past the coronavirus monster, added a “championship weekend” to the back end of its schedule. So, on the weekend of Dec. 19, while the East and West division winners meet in a conference title game, the other 12 teams will match up to settle old scores — or, more likely, to seek bowl eligibility and gain more television contract cash.

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A novel idea? Yes and no. Nearly 90 years ago, in the early years of the Great Depression, the Big Ten tacked an extra week onto the season with a slate of games for the purpose of donating to charity. The top six teams in the standings were to play regulation games, and the bottom four playing each other in 30-minute halves in Chicago.

Ohio State drew a game at Minnesota, and if the stars aligned properly could emerge with a share of the league title. OSU expected its cut would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000 to provide clothing and food to the state’s children. 

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Stars

Minnesota hit the Buckeyes with straight-ahead football like a grapefruit in the face with 121 yards rushing by Jack Manders, the Gophers’ “220-pound behemoth” who ran behind “mammoth” All-American guard Clarence “Biggie” Munn. Pete Somers added a touchdown run and a catch. For Ohio State, Carl Cramer scored on a third-quarter run, which was set up by his 35-yard punt return. 

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Turning point

Truth be told, Ohio State didn’t bring its A game on the Empire Builder train to Minneapolis from Chicago, where the Buckeyes spent Thanksgiving. The Buckeyes were largely cooked after Somers caught a 10-yard pass from Myron Ubl to cap a 90-yard drive in the second quarter. Manders’ third-quarter TD run ensured it, prompting poison pens from media who were growing weary of coach Sam Willaman’s ways.

Ohio State did not put forth its best effort in 1931 against Minnesota, and coach Sam Willaman (middle) took criticism from the press about it.

Impact

Bad: The Buckeyes indeed did lose out on a tie for the conference title, which was shared by Purdue, Michigan and Northwestern. Worse: Nasty weather across the Midwest resulted in poor attendance for the charity games — fewer than 25,000 in Minnesota and only 10,000 for Northwestern-Michigan. The total take was around $154,000 leaguewide, far less than had been anticipated. 

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Quotable

“(Manders) left the Buckeyes floundering about like so many porpoises as the Gopher ball-carriers raced for long gains without restraining hands being laid upon them. … It usually took two or three men to drag the human locomotive down to earth.” -- game account in The Dispatch 

“Line Is Weak; Tackles / Not In Form; Backs / Fail To Show Speed” -- headline in The Dispatch (and one seriously dreadful haiku attempt) 

rstein@dispatch.com  

Players from Ohio State (in white jerseys) and Minnesota vie for a forward pass in the 1931 charity game.