Woody Hayes came off of his second-worst season as Ohio State's head coach before the 1967 season. Fans began to turn on him and the state's talented players signed elsewhere.
What the fans and detractors could not see was the bright future shown in practice by the freshmen. So, why didn't Hayes play these fabulous freshmen? Because the NCAA did not allow freshmen to play varsity football in 1967.
|The 1967 Buckeyes
|Woody Hayes (17th year, 107–41–7)
|Bill Anders, Samuel Elliott
Games of Note
September 30th • Arizona • Ohio Stadium
Starting in 1967, the NCAA changed its rules to and made quarterbacks eligible receivers. In the first quarter against Arizona, Hayes and the Buckeyes took advantage of the new rule to grab a 7-0 lead. On the scoring play, quarterback Jerry Ehrsam pitched out to halfback Dave Brungard for a sweep. Brungard stopped in his tracks and threw back to Ehrsam down the left sideline without a defender near him for an easy 7-yard score.
Arizona responded with a 15-play, 82-yard touchdown drive to tie the game late in the second quarter. The Wildcats took the lead just after halftime when quarterback Bruce Lee – not Bruce Lee – rushed in from nine yards out. Neither team scored again and Arizona won 14-7.
At the time, Arizona played in the Western Athletic Conference and became the first team from the conference to defeat Ohio State. What was not known at the time is what motivated Darrell Mudra's team to victory. From an article by ArizonaWildcats.com:
Former UA linebacker Olden Lee recalled the motivation the Wildcats drew from watching a television interview with Hayes the day before the game was played at the famous horseshoe-shaped stadium in Columbus.
“We came in to Columbus on Friday evening before the game,” Lee told ArizonaWildcats.com. “And it isn’t hard to remember the thing that sticks out the most from that trip. We were sitting around the hotel watching television and pretty soon they were interviewing Woody. He was talking about the tradition Ohio State had, of winning its first game each season.
“The interviewer said something like, ‘Well, Coach, do you tend to schedule a weaker opponent for the opener?’ And Woody didn’t necessarily confirm it — but he didn’t do a lot to dispel it, either.”
The power of getting slighted is strong.
|NO. 2 PURDUE
October 7th • Oregon • Autzen Stadium
A crowd of 25,000 visited Autzen Stadium for its dedication and to cheer on the home Ducks. The Buckeyes firmly ruined the dedication and the fans' disposition on this warm and sunny October day.
Ohio State scored two quick touchdowns to start the game. Following an interception returned to the Oregon 2-yard line, Jim Otis found pay dirt and the Buckeyes led 7-0 in the first three minutes. On the next possession, Rudy Hubbard burst through from the three, and Ohio State led 13-0 after the point after was missed.
Paul Huff added two second-half touchdown runs and the Buckeyes defeated the Ducks 30-0. Ohio State's secondary intercepted four Duck passes to ensure the shutout.
October 14th • No. 2 Purdue • Ohio Stadium
The Boilermakers entered with an eight-game winning streak and Ohio State hoped to be the team to end it. Ehrsam didn't help things when he tossed a pick-six on the third play from scrimmage. Purdue's Dennis Cirbes snagged the pass at the 30 and gave his team a 7-0 lead.
The Boilermakers racked up 470 total yards and added five more scores to lead 41-0 with under a minute to play. The Buckeyes avoided the shutout when Billy Anders caught a touchdown pass with 28 seconds left. Gary Cairns missed the extra point, however, and the 35-point whooping was Hayes' largest margin of defeat during his time in Columbus.
Ohio State suffered its seventh loss in its last 11 games and its third consecutive at Ohio Stadium. Many around the state questioned if Hayes should remain as coach after his 17th season. Was Wes Fesler on to something when he complained about the pressure at Ohio State?
October 21st • Northwestern • Dyche Stadium
Hayes and his team left the criticism in Columbus and headed west to Evanston and Northwestern.
Neither team scored in the first half, and only eight points came in the final two quarters between the two teams.
Ohio State opened the second half with a 3:43 drive that culminated with David Brungard's 2-yard touchdown run. Cairns' had his extra point blocked, but the Buckeyes led 6-0.
The score remained the same with just over a minute remaining when Hayes used his tactical mind. Ohio State faced fourth down on its own 10 when the coach elected to take a safety rather than punt from his own end zone. The gamble paid off — the Wildcats did not get near the goal line after the free kick from the 20.
The Wildcats tallied more total yards and converted more first downs than Ohio State, but five turnovers allowed the Buckeyes to leave town with a 6-2 victory.
October 28th • Illinois • Ohio Stadium
Ohio State caught the turnover bug from Northwestern for its tilt against Illinois. First-year coach Jim Valek's defense intercepted two passes and recovered three of Ohio State's seven fumbles. The question now became if Ohio State could overcome all of the turnovers.
Inspired by Hayes' halftime words, it only took the Buckeyes 1:23 to go 73 yards and cut the Illini's lead to 10-6. Ohio State decided to go for two, but the conversion pass attempt fell incomplete.
Near the halfway point of the fourth quarter, Ohio State took its first lead when Anders caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Long. The Buckeyes were 6:13 away from ending their three-game losing streak in Ohio Stadium.
The Ohio State defense could not prevent Illinois from driving 77 yards to score the winning touchdown, however. Dave Jackson's second rushing touchdown came with only 34 seconds remaining. The Illini held on, and Valek's first Big Ten victory was a 17-13 defeat over Hayes and the Buckeyes.
This ended up as Ohio State's last loss until the end of the 1969 season.
November 4th • Michigan State• Spartan Stadium
Not known at the time, but this served as a linchpin game for Hayes and Ohio State. The coach knew some called for his job and addressed his concern with his staff. Hayes felt his assistant coaches would keep their jobs even if he did not.
Inspired for Hayes on a cold and snowy afternoon, Ohio State's players took it to the Spartans from the start. Paul Huff and Long scored in the first quarter to put the Buckeyes out front 14-0. Michigan State's Allen Brenner 29-yard touchdown reception cut the lead in half in the second quarter.
In the fourth, Huff powered in for his second touchdown of the game and secured Ohio State's 21-7 win in front of Michigan State's homecoming crowd.
After the game, the players presented Hayes with the game ball. Little did any of them know how important that win was. Nor did they know about the magical run that followed.
November 25th • Michigan • Michigan Stadium
Following the all-important win in East Lansing, Ohio State defeated Wisconsin and Iowa in Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes' 17-15 victory over the Badgers served as their first win in The Shoe since defeating Indiana more than 365 days earlier.
Ohio State (5–3) and Michigan (4–5) both entered this game on three-game winning streaks, but the fans did not turn out in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines' five-game losing streak from Week 2 and Week 6 played a large factor in crowd numbers only reaching 64,144 on a perfect weather day.
The fans that did attend, however, saw Ohio State score the game's first 21 points with help of a little-used running back. The unexpected spark plug was a player named Rudy Hubbard from Hubbard, Ohio.
More on the game from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Coach Woody Hayes of Ohio State went to the cupboard and found Rudy Hubbard.
Hubbard, a seldom-used halfback this season with only 26 carries, provided the big spark with two touchdowns as Ohio State's' resurgent Buckeyes closed out a successful season yesterday with a pulsating 24-14 victory over favored Michigan.
Before a crowd of 64,144 on this pleasant sunny day in Michigan's vast stadium and a regional television audience, Ohio State steamrolled to a 21-7 halftime lead and then fought off Michigan after the intermission to bag its fourth straight victory.
On a bad leg, Hubbard finished the day with 103 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns. For his efforts, Hayes preseented him the game ball.
- Arizona defeated Ohio State in the first game of the series.
- The Buckeyes improved to 4–0 against Oregon.
- No. 2 Purdue steamrolled the Buckeyes in a 41-6 victory, Hayes' largest margin of defeat while at Ohio State.
- A smart self-inflicted safety preserved a 6-2 win over Northwestern.
- Five turnovers were too much to overcome in the Week 5 loss to Illinois. Ohio State did not lose again until the end of the 1969 season.
- With Hayes' job on the line, the Buckeyes defeated Michigan State 21-7 in East Lansing.
- Little used Rudy Hubbard scored twice to help Ohio State beat Michigan 24-14, the program's sixth victory in eight tries against the Wolverines.
- The AP Poll never ranked the 1967 team.
- Billy Anders and Dick Himes were named All-Americans, the former for a second time.
- Dick Himes was selected in the NFL Draft.
It's hard to believe, but Woody Hayes was probably a game away from being fired as Ohio State's coach. Had the Buckeyes lost to Michigan State many believed the university would have released him. Instead, Hayes and the team won and kept on winning.
The strong finish to the 1967 season carried through the offseason. With momentum on its side and the influx of the "Super Sophomores," a special season sat on the horizon for 1968.