At a 1959 boosters' luncheon, Woody Hayes guaranteed a national championship in two years. Come 1961, the legendary coach had to make good on his promise.
Hayes' 10th team was talented and deep, but needed a big year so its coach's championship prediction would not turn out to be an albatross.
|The 1961 Buckeyes|
|B1G Record||6–0, 1st|
|Coach||Woody Hayes (11th year, 72–23–6)|
|CaptainS||Michael Ingram and Tom Perdue|
Games of Note
September 30th • TCU • Ohio Stadium
In 1957, Ohio State opened its season with a loss to TCU. The Buckeyes rebounded to win the rest of their games, the Big Ten title and national championship. The 1961 team wished to do the same, but hoped to not experience a loss to the Horned Frogs.
Abe Martin's unranked squad upset then-No. 8 Kansas a week earlier. Couple that victory with the one in Ohio Stadium four years earlier and TCU remained confident entering The Horseshoe.
No. 3 Ohio State took its first drive the distance, scoring on Bill Mrukowksi's 2-yard touchdown pass to Chuck Bryant. After the quick score, The Horned Frogs' defense buckled down and kept the Buckeyes scoreless the rest of the game.
TCU tied the game in the fourth quarter when Sonny Gibbs found Jim Glasscock on a 12-yard touchdown toss. The successful point after made the score 7-7.
Hayes admitted to making a coaching mistake near the end of the game. With his team facing 1st-and-goal from the Horned Frogs' 10, he called for a pass. Only a Horned Frog defender picked off Mrukowski's attempt at the goal line, ending the Buckeyes' chance to win the game.
After the game, Hayes said, "...should have chopped away for at least two more plays since we were within field goal range."
The 82,878 in attendance agreed.
|SEP. 30||TCU||OHIO STADIUM||T, 7–7|
|OCT. 7||UCLA||OHIO STADIUM||W, 13–3|
|OCT. 14||ILLINOIS||OHIO STADIUM||W, 44–0|
|OCT. 21||NORTHWESTERN||DYCHE STADIUM||W, 10–0|
|OCT. 28||WISCONSIN||CAMP RANDALL||W, 30–21|
|NOV. 4||NO. 9 IOWA||OHIO STADIUM||W, 29–13|
|NOV. 11||INDIANA||MEMORIAL STADIUM||W, 16–7|
|NOV. 18||OREGON||OHIO STADIUM||W, 22–12|
|NOV. 25||MICHIGAN||MICHIGAN STADIUM||W, 50–20|
October 7th • UCLA • Ohio Stadium
UCLA traveled to Columbus for the first matchup ever between the two programs.
The unranked Bruins gave No. 8 Ohio State all it could handle through three quarters. UCLA led 3-0 in the fourth, but then Matt Snell and Paul Warfield introduced themselves to Buckeye football.
Warfield gave Ohio State its first lead of the game on a 13-yard touchdown scamper. Snell followed with a 33-yard scoring dash of his own.
The 13-3 victory kept the Buckeyes undefeated and gave them a 1–0 series lead against Bill Barnes' Bruins.
October 14th • Illinois • Ohio Stadium
Pete Elliott's first foray against the Buckeyes ended in a 34-7 loss in front of the home fans in Memorial Stadium a year earlier. In year two of his tenure, things didn't get any better at Ohio Stadium.
Ohio State used 10 different ball carriers and racked up 44 points on a windy and bone-chilling day in Columbus.
Bob Ferguson did most of the damage with four touchdowns, but Warfield had the most exciting play. The sophomore from Warren Harding High School scored on a 35-yard cutback touchdown in the second quarter that brought the crowd to its feet.
The Buckeyes won the Illibuck trophy for the 26th time in 37 tries.
October 28th • Wisconsin • Camp Randall
Northwestern held Ohio State to 10 points but could not score. The Buckeyes left Dyche Stadium with a 3–0–1 record.
From Evanston, No. 6 Ohio State traveled north to Madison to take on Wisconsin. The Badgers (3–2) suffered a rough loss at No. 4 Iowa a week earlier in Iowa City, 47-15.
Ferguson and Dave Katterhenrich powered Ohio State's running game. Ferguson rushed for 120 yards and averaged 6.0 yards per carry and Katterhenrich added another 91 yards. The duo led the charge for the Buckeye offense, which totaled 357 yards on the ground.
Ohio State notched its second consecutive victory against Wisconsin with a 30-21 win. The Buckeyes did not lose to the Badgers again until 1981.
November 4th • #9 Iowa • Ohio Stadium
After seven seasons as an assistant for Forest Evashevski, Jerry Burns became the head coach at Iowa ahead of the 1961 campaign.
The Hawkeyes started the season ranked No. 1 team, but a loss to Purdue the previous weekend dropped them eight spots. A loss to Ohio State marked only the second time in six years the Hawkeyes fell in back-to-back games.
The Buckeyes' defense snagged two interceptions and jumped out to a 12-0 lead. Perdue picked off the first pass and returned it 55 yards to put Ohio State up 6-0. Dave Tingley's interception then set up Joe Sparma's 18-yard touchdown pass to Bryant.
The Buckeyes poured it on in the fourth quarter. Sparma found Bryant for another touchdown pass, this time for 63 yards. Bryant dodged seven defenders before plowing over an eighth Hawkeye in the end zone. Hayes called Bryant's touchdown, "one of the greatest individual efforts I have ever seen."
Later in the quarter, Gary Moeller returned an interception to the Iowa 21. Ferguson finished Ohio State's scoring with an 11-yard touchdown run.
The 29-13 victory put the Buckeyes and Minnesota atop of the Big Ten standings.
November 18th • Oregon • Ohio Stadium
Before taking on Oregon at home, Ohio State traveled west to Bloomington. Sparma's two touchdown passes sparked the Buckeyes 16-7 victory and kept them undefeated in Big Ten play.
A Week 8 non-conference game was a rarity for Ohio State. The last time the Buckeyes played a team outside of the Big Ten at this point in the season came in 1917 against Auburn.
Len Casanova's Ducks (4–4) came to Columbus for Hayes' 100th game as Ohio State's head coach. The Buckeyes' coach could not have scripted a better game for his team.
John Mummey, Ferguson and Bob Klein rushed for over 100 yards and the offense did not turn the ball over or commit a penalty. In fact, Ohio State was not penalized on either side of the ball during the 22-12 victory.
November 25th • Michigan • Michigan Stadium
Ohio State needed a win to capture the Big Ten title and secure a possible trip to the Rose Bowl.
A recap of The Game from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Ohio State's Buckeyes ran rampant yesterday to roll up their biggest score of all time against Michigan, 50-20, in 61 years of football warfare, since 1897.
The impressive triumph brought Ohio State an unbeaten record for the season, one tie and eight straight victories.
And Ohio State also bulleted to its fourth undisputed Big Ten title under Woody Hayes, as Minnesota fell before Wisconsin. Ohio State's other championships under Hayes were in 1954, 1955 and 1957.
It was the Buckeyes' second campaign without a loss during the 11-year coaching regime of Hayes. The other being a perfect 10-0 season in 1954.
This game featured memorable and record-breaking moments.
Sparma and Klein set a series record with an 80-yard touchdown pass. Later, Davey Raimey became the first player to return a kickoff for a touchdown. Ferguson also became the first player to rush for four touchdowns in The Game.
A memorable moment came when Warfield raced for a 69-yard touchdown. The highlight of his best run of the season was when Warfield dropped Bruce McLenna to the ground by shaking him out of his shoes.
The 50 points by Ohio State was a program record against Michigan. The win also marked Ohio State's 400th all-time. However, the last two points in the game raised the ire of Wolverine fans.
With Ohio State leading 48-20, Hayes decided to go for two with only 20 seconds remaining on the clock. This instance of going for two late in the game happened seven years before the famous "Because I couldn't go for three" game.
So, why did Hayes eschew the extra point and go for two? His kicking coach, Ernie Godfrey, celebrated his 70th birthday and Hayes wanted the final score to equal 70 to honor him. The act did not please the Wolverines or their fans.
The win marked third time Hayes beat Michigan in consecutive games as Ohio State's coach and improved his record to 7–4 against the Wolverines. The victory also secured Ohio State's fourth outright Big Ten title in eight years.
Rose Bowl Controversy
On Nov. 28, 1961, Ohio State's Faculty Council voted 28 to 25 against allowing the undefeated Buckeyes a chance to participate in the Rose Bowl.
At the time, educators believed Ohio State was turning into a football factory. They also thought the Rose Bowl was too commercial and did not hold educational value.
Students protested the decision for two nights as thousands marched in the streets. The walk forced State, Columbus and university police into action to maintain peace while protesters walked from to the capitol.
Despite the uprising, the decision held and Minnesota went to Pasadena where it defeated UCLA in the Rose Bowl.
Although Ohio State finished the season ranked No. 2 in the AP and UPI polls, the Football Writers Association of American awarded the team a national championship.
- TCU shocked the third-ranked Buckeyes with a 7-7 tie.
- Ohio State defeated UCLA 13-3 in the first-ever game between the schools.
- The Buckeyes blanked Illinois 44-0. This was the 11th time Ohio State shut out the Illini.
- OSU beat Wisconsin 30-21 and racked up 357 rushing yards .
- Ohio State used timely interceptions in a 29-13 victory over No. 9 Iowa.
- The Week 8 game against Oregon marked the first regular season contest against an out of conference team since 1917. The Buckeyes won 22-12.
- Ohio State defeated Michigan 50-20 to claim its 12th Big Ten title.
- The Faculty Council voted against sending the Buckeyes to the Rose Bowl.
- Bob Ferguson was named All-American for the second time.
- Bob Ferguson, Chuck Bryant, Sam Tidmore, John Havlicek and Jack Roberts were selected in the NFL Draft.
The 1961 team finished undefeated and Big Ten champs. Bob Ferguson finished second to Ernie Davis in the Heisman Trophy voting and the team won the FWAA national championship.
However, the decision of the Faculty Council to deny the team a Rose Bowl trip put a damper on the season. The letdown would carry over to the following season.