Welcome to “That Happened” where we dig deep into the who, why, and how of outliers in Ohio State athletics history.
For much of its pre-World War One history, Ohio State's football program was not the titan we know them as today. Since 1890, the Buckeyes were winning roughly 65% of their games, affirming their status as a middling program, but could never claim a championship.
Before the 1916 season, though, things were looking up. Ohio State had joined the Western Conference, now known as the Big Ten, three years prior and was coming off of a 5-1-1 season, their best in the newly formed conference. Ohio State was led by head coach John Wilce, who had a 14-5-2 record in three years, and sophomore Chic Harley, who was finally able to join the varsity team, was the Buckeyes' Swiss Army Knife.
After a competitive, 12-0 victory against Ohio Wesleyan to begin the season, Ohio State played host to Oberlin, a program they had been battling every year since 1903. The series was mostly competitive with the Buckeyes' largest margin of victory coming in a 39-0 victory in 1914. Despite the home team's current streak, Oberlin never could have predicted what was coming.
The Buckeyes scored on their first two plays from scrimmage on runs from right halfbacks Frosty Hurm and Chic Harley. Ohio State's top scorers were Dick Boesel and left halfback Fred Norton, who scored four and five touchdowns, respectively.
The Buckeyes gained over 1,100 total yards of offense, 43 first downs, and reached the end zone 19 times as a team, another school record. Ohio State surpassed the century mark in the third quarter, ultimately reaching 128 by the end of the afternoon. Oberlin punted 16 times and was shut out.
After the win, the local team continued their excellent season, netting wins over powerhouses Illinois and Wisconsin en route to an undefeated record and the school's first conference championship. Ohio State gave Illinois its first conference loss since 2013.
Ohio State outscored its opponents 258-29 in seven games that season, meaning the Bucks recorded just under 50% of its points in a single afternoon. Needless to say, that is another school record that will likely never be broken.
Harley earned consensus First Team All-American honors for the first time in his storied career. He would become the first three-time All-American in program history and should be credited with the original fanaticism of Ohio State football fans. Harley averaged 8.74 points per game throughout his career, a record that remains unbroken.
The Buckeyes' win over Oberlin was the first and only time the program has reached the century mark in points scored. A sign of the times, however, the 1916 season was full of triple-digit blowouts, with 14 such games occurring that year and 93 100-point games coming in the 1910s. The last 100-point game came in 2003 between Rockford and Trinity Bible, two Division III teams.