Flashback: Howard "Hopalong" Cassady's Three Touchdowns Helps Ohio State Stave Off Upset-Minded Nebraska in 1955

By Vico on October 13, 2017 at 2:15 pm
Howard "Hopalong" Cassady
The Ohio State University Archives

This Ohio State schedule is a far cry from an Ohio State football schedule from our youth. The Buckeyes opened the season with a conference opponent for the first time since 1976. Two opponents appeared on Ohio State's schedule for the first time (Army, UNLV) while the next three had not regularly appeared on Ohio State's schedule since 2014 (Rutgers, Maryland) or 2011 (Nebraska).

Nebraska is a unique departure from the three opponents that opened its conference schedule because the two had played before the Big Ten's last two rounds of conference realignment. The Cornhuskers and Buckeyes first played to open the 1955 and 1956 seasons, both in Ohio Stadium. That first encounter in 1955 followed Woody Hayes' first national championship and served as the first step in what would become Howard "Hopalong" Cassady's Heisman season.

Ohio State entered the 1955 season as the No. 6 team in the country and with high hopes that it could repeat much of last year's glory. A Big Ten no-repeat rule precluded the Buckeyes from returning to the Rose Bowl but the Buckeyes returned last year's star back, "Hopalong" Cassady, for a senior season that promised to be one for the ages.

Expectations were not as high for Bill Glassford's Cornhuskers. The Lancaster native, then in his seventh season as Nebraska coach, had just guided his squad to a 6-5 season in 1954 punctuated by a 34-7 loss to Duke in the Orange Bowl. Glassford's homecoming to Ohio came amid considerable scrutiny to produce results befitting a program with Nebraska's expectations. Indeed, he stepped down from his post after the conclusion of a 5-5 1955 season.

The Cornhuskers were outmanned and much smaller than the national champion Buckeyes. However, the underdog Huskers gave the capacity crowd of 80,171 no shortage of tense moments before the Buckeyes eventually secured a 28-20 win.

Quick Stats from Ohio State vs. Nebraska (1955)
Statistic Ohio State Nebraska
First Downs 17 16
Rushing Yards 321 138
Passing Yards 17 189
Interceptions 1 1
Fumbles Lost 1 3

Ohio State needed to come from behind twice to beat the spirited Cornhuskers. With Ohio State up 7-6 early in the second quarter, the Buckeyes were driving for another score when Nebraska linebacker John Edwards intercepted a lateral on an option pitchout and returned it for 91 yards the score.

Ohio State reclaimed a 14-13 lead with a 51-yard touchdown drive to give the Buckeyes a lead before intermission.

Nebraska dug another hole for the Buckeyes when it opened the second half with a 69-yard touchdown drive that culminated in a Don Erway pass to split end Jon McWilliams for the score. Nebraska took a 20-13 lead, which would ultimately be Nebraska's last score of the day.

Howard Cassady returned the ensuing kickoff 36 yards. Combined with Jim Roseboro and Frank Ellwood, the Buckeyes quickly reclaimed the lead. Cassady leaped over the line of scrimmage for one of his three scores on the day. The Buckeyes scored again on the next possession, again assisted by a big gain from Cassady. The Buckeyes held the Cornhuskers scoreless in the fourth quarter to secure the 28-20 win.

The Buckeyes opened the season with what amounted to be a disappointing win. The Buckeyes fell two spots to No. 8 in the next week's AP Poll before falling out the Top 25 altogether with a 6-0 loss at Stanford in its second game. The Buckeyes beat Illinois the next week before suffering a grisly home loss to Duke. Therein, the Buckeyes committed six turnovers and could not even make it into Duke territory in the entire second half.

Howard Cassady's three touchdowns to open the season became the silver lining for 1955. "Hopalong" had a brilliant 1955 season, especially in Big Ten play. The Bucks' star back led the conference in scoring in a walk. His 15 touchdowns (90 points) amounted to a full 38 points better than Michigan State's Jerry Planutis. The Buckeyes recovered from the 2-2 start to finish 1955 undefeated in Big Ten play. The senior sensation won the Buckeyes' third overall Heisman to end his storied career.

That road to Cassady's Heisman began with a three-touchdown performance against Nebraska. The season that followed, which was never going to include a Rose Bowl trip because of the Big Ten's no-repeat rule, fell short of expectations. However, it turned into a celebration of Ohio State's star player who catapulted the Buckeyes to a national championship and Rose Bowl win this previous year.

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