Welcome to “That Happened” where we dig deep into the who, why, and how of outliers in Ohio State athletics history.
Two years removed from the program's first national championship, the Buckeyes nearly had their second. After an impressive, undefeated season, Ohio State ranked No. 2. Les Horvath, the team's star and Heisman Trophy winner, rushed for a program-record 924 yards in nine games.
After blocking for the greatest Buckeye ballcarrier in program history at that time, it was Ollie Cline's turn. The fullback was quite the runner himself, recording 221 yards on 65 carries behind Horvath. And his season in 1945 gave Horvath's a run for his money.
In nine games, Cline ran for 936 yards on 181 attempts, leading the Buckeyes to a 7-2 record. His total surpassed his former teammate's by 12 yards, making him Ohio State's single-season leader in rushing.
Cline's mark would not be surpassed until 1955 when Howard Cassady rushed for 958 yards and won the Heisman Trophy under Woody Hayes. Ollie's season was defined, however, by an incredible two-game stretch.
Before 1945, there had only been five games with a 150+ yard rusher and the single-game record was held by Louis Fisher, who rushed for 174 yards against Pittsburgh in 1941. After Cline's record-breaking year, there would be seven such games and the sophomore fullback would have broken the single-game rushing record twice.
After a 4-1 start, the sixth-ranked Buckeyes played host to No. 20 Northwestern. It was a low-scoring affair, as most competitive games were in the 1940s, and the local team prevailed, winning 16-14. Cline was the hero of the day, rushing for 180 yards in the victory, breaking Fisher's four-year record.
The next week, Ohio State fell to No. 8 in the rankings before its match against Pittsburgh. Like Fisher in 1941, Cline would carry the Buckeyes to a 14-0 victory, recording the program's first 200-yard game. The fullback finished with 229 yards and a touchdown, breaking his own week-old record.
Cline's record would remain as the top mark for the next 27 years until some guy named Archie would surpass it. In an era of heavy-rushing, the longevity of his record is truly amazing when considering the ballcarriers that came after him, from Cassady to Bob Ferguson.
Ollie Cline, despite outperforming him, is not as well-recognized or appreciated as Les Horvath. Horvath earned national recognition and the Heisman Trophy for his season while Cline was named a second-or-third team All-American by the national media.
After the 1945 season, Cline earned the Big Ten Most Valuable Player award. Soon after, he was accepted for military service and sent to camp in Indiana. Cline then returned to Ohio State in 1947, rushing for 332 yards on 80 attempts.