1968 - Buckeyes
The widely-cast recruiting net paid dividends as the '67 freshmen class proved to be one of the best in college football history, with many starting immediately as sophs. It was the October 12th game against number-one ranked Purdue that truly made the season one of destiny. After five weeks as the country’s top-rated squad, the Boilermakers found themselves on the wrong end of a tough 13-0 defensive struggle that resulted in victory for the Buckeyes in what was their opening game of Big Ten play. It set the tone and established confidence for the incredible sophomore-dominated squad. Senior Rufus Mayes was moved from tight end to tackle and made All American. He was teamed with tackle Dave Foley, also an All American and both were drafted as number-one picks, Mayes by the Bears, where he began his eleven-year pro career that also took him through Cincinnati and Philadelphia, and Foley by the Jets. He played nine seasons with the Jets and Bills. Although junior FB Jim Otis was a primary weapon with 985 yards, the sophs took over: QB Rex Kern, backs Leo Hayden, Larry Zelina, and John Brockington, and ends Jan White and Bruce Jankowski. Kern had to overcome pre-season back surgery and was injury prone all year, yet spurred the team on. On defense, DB's Jack Tatum, Mike Sensibaugh, and Tim Anderson jumped right in with tough MG Jim Stillwagon. The new talent was so deep that Brungard completed another good year at HB then transferred to finish out at Alabama next to Johnny Musso. The team finished with a school record 4402 rushing yards, a 9-0 record, and then traveled to the Rose Bowl where they beat number two-ranked USC 27-16 to win the National Championship. The 1968 Ohio State team is considered by many to be among the top few in the history of the game and the so-called “Super Sophs” would close out their career in 1970 with a record of 27-2! The team had great talent and was "helped" by a new helmet design, the silver shell that became and has remained the Ohio State standard. Jim Otis and a few others kept their MacGregor externally padded helmets from the previous year, but most of the team switched to the Riddell models and all of the helmets featured a one-inch red center stripe, one-half-inch white flanking stripes, and then a second set of one-half-inch black flanking stripes for a sharp and distinctive appearance, one maintained to this day. The well-known Buckeye award stickers also made their debut, placed upon the right side of the helmet.
The 1969 squad almost went all the way too. What some said was "the best college team of all time" and what others called "what could have been the best college team of all time" was relegated to the distinction of being a great team with a last-game-of-the-season loss to rival Michigan. The loss left the Bucks at 8-1, home for the bowl season, and ranked at number four in the nation instead of "the best" across the board. That the Wolverines were led by former Hayes' assistant Bo Schembechler and entered the game as seventeen-point underdogs just dug the stake deeper into the hearts of Buckeye rooters. The consensus first-team All American list included QB Rex Kern who contributed almost 1600 yards of total offense in the school record-setting explosion of 4439 yards, and FB Jim Otis (1027 rush yards) who went on to a productive nine-year NFL career, starting with the Saints and Chiefs but primarily with the Cardinals. The 383 points that came with the work of the '68 sophs who had matured to juniors was second best in the country. The stacked backfield of Hayden, an oft-injured Brokington, and Zelina was overpowering while TE Jan White and WR Jankowski provided the receiving threat. MG Stillwagon and DB Tatum didn’t miss a beat, ranked as among the most feared defenders in the land and both named as first-team All Americans. There was plenty of defensive help especially from the secondary. DB Ted Provost (Vikings, Cardinals) received some All American votes, Sensibaugh pulled in nine INT's to augment Tatum's work and soph Stan White swung effectively between LB and DB. The defense only gave up ninety-three points and a total of eleven Buckeyes made the All Big Ten team.
The war with Michigan was definitely on and as Bo had bested Woody in the first contest, Woody was gearing '70 up with all of 1968's "Super Sophs" now as seniors, taking specific aim at the Wolverines. Hayes rolled through the schedule 8-0 and hosted Michigan in a game he had spent all year preparing for. QB's Rex Kern (DB for Colts and Bills) and back-up Ron Maciejowski guided the potent offense with All American FB Brockington, the pride of Brooklyn, New York and a cog with the Packers for a solid seven years, HB's Zelina and Hayden (Vikings number-one choice), and receivers Jan White (Bills) and Bruce Jankowski (Chiefs). Newcomer John Hicks was an immediate hit at OT. The secondary was the strength of the defense, led by All American John David “Jack” Tatum who gained the reputation his "Assassin" nickname implied. He continued to reinforce the moniker with his play in what was a fine pro career with the Raiders and Oilers and became a member of the College Football Hall Of Fame. Also on the All American rolls were Tim Anderson, and Mike Sensibaugh (eight seasons with the Chiefs and Cards). Anderson signed with the CFL Toronto Argos, making him the first NFL number-one draft pick to ever sign with the CFL. It may have been the only time that three members of the same secondary received some type of All American mention. Stillwagon was again the All American nose guard, team MVP, Outland Trophy winner and the recipient of the very first Lombardi Award. He had a fine CFL career as the CFL’s Defensive Player Of The Year in 1972 and made the CFL All Star team in three of his six seasons with Toronto. Stillwagon is another member of the Super Soph group to be named to the College Football Hall Of Fame. Number-five OSU vs. number four Michigan on national television, and a record-breaking mob at Ohio Stadium, both teams undefeated and untied in a battle for the conference title; this was what the entire season came down to. In a game that was 10-9 Buckeyes early in the fourth quarter, the battle never ebbed and it finished at 20-9 in Ohio State’s favor which gave them a number-four ranking going into the Rose Bowl against Jim Plunkett and his Stanford team. Once again an undefeated season slipped through the grasp of Hayes as the Bucks dropped the contest 27-17. The class that represented the Buckeyes from 1968 through '70 compiled a 27-2 record which remains an Ohio State record. Not surprisingly, sixteen graduating members of the 1970 squad were drafted by the NFL.
The '71 team was the first to play a full ten game schedule and the stadium installed Astro-Turf and while that was good news, tackle John Hicks went down and out for the season with a knee injury and that took quite a bit away from the offense. The offensive attack had to be driven by All American center Tom DeLeone who had a long and productive career with the Bengals and Browns from 1972 to '84, RB and sixteen-foot pole vaulter Rick Galbos, soph TB Morris Bradshaw, and tight end Rick Middleton. Galbos led the rushers with only 540 yards. The team boasted a great LB core with Stan White who played eleven years with the Colts and Lions, Vic Kogel, and soph Randy Gradishar. At 6-1 it looked like another typical Ohio State season but the offense was inconsistent and three end-of-season losses dropped the rebuilding team to 6-4. The 10-7 loss to Michigan featured Hayes' famous attack on a down marker and post-game refusal to meet the press. In 1972’s second game, a tough one against North Carolina, OSU running backs coach and former Buckeye halfback Rudy Hubbard lobbied hard to get a smallish freshman running back into the fray. Fans were treated to the first of many spectacular performances as new HB Archie Griffin ran for 239 yards. With all of the other great players at Ohio State, Griffin’s ability reflected and defined the next four years of Buckeye football. Griffin was an immediate hit with 867 rushing yards. Strapping 230-pound FB Champ Henson was the NCAA scoring leader with twenty TD's and added 795 yards to the rushing total and Brian Baschnagel supplied the do-it-all ability from wingback and as a return man. Fred Pagac was a fixture at TE blocking well and T John Hicks returned from his ’71 injury with All American level play. Going 9-1 and beating Michigan 14-11 in another all-out war, the defense again was keyed by the linebacking core of All American Gradishar, Kogel, and Rick Middleton who had moved from TE. Two sophs, Neal Colzie and Doug Plank provided secondary excellence. The USC Trojans overwhelmed the Bucks 42-17 in their return to the Rose Bowl to win the National Championship and drop Ohio State to number nine in the final rankings. Despite the heartbreak of the Rose Bowl loss, Hayes knew he had a stacked deck going into ’73.
The '73 Buckeyes may have been Hayes' best team ever, scoring 413 points and giving up only sixty-four while leading the nation in scoring defense. Other than the 10-10 tie against Michigan, no one was close. A conference vote gave the Rose Bowl berth to OSU instead of Michigan, much to Bo's shock, and they reversed the contest of the previous year against USC by beating the Trojans 42-21 in a 10-0-1 season. A switch from Hayes standard variations of the T-Formation to an I-Formation, designed to take advantage of Griffin’s abilities, gave the offense a dream season. With a team total of 3908 rushing yards, it was obvious that soph Archie Griffin had a huge performance, setting a Big Ten record with 1577 yards on the ground and eleven consecutive games with more than 100. As an All American, Griffin was the first soph to be the Conference MVP. When Champ Henson went out for the year with a knee injury, young Pete Johnson from Long Island’s Long Beach H.S. moved in as the back-up behind former LB Bruce Elia at the spot, with Elia finishing in a tie with Wisconsin's Billy Marek for the Big Ten scoring title. Even playing behind Elia, Johnson tallied three TD’s in the Rose Bowl victory. Morris Bradshaw’s 4.4/40 speed and the presence of Griffin placed him at receiver instead of what had been his usual backfield position and he became a valued wide-out for the Raiders from 1974-’81, playing in New England to complete his career in 1982. QB Cornelius Greene ran the show and while he had passing ability, it wasn’t truly needed as a primary weapon. Tackle Hicks was a consensus All American for the second time and won the Outland Trophy as well as finishing second to John Cappelletti in the Heisman race. He was elected to the College Football Hall Of Fame and was the Giants first-round pick, playing from ’74 through 1977. Hicks became the first State gridder to play in three Rose Bowl games. All Big Ten tackle Kurt Schumacher and All Conference center Steve Myers were a bit overlooked because of Hicks but formed a great blocking combo with TE Fred Pagac who played a few seasons with the Bears and Bucs and whose son was a Buckeye standout years later. The defense was exceptional with weight-trained and All Conference DT Pete Cusick making eighty-nine tackles teamed with Arnie Jones inside, and All American Van DeCree at DE, but it was the LB's and secondary that really stood out. All American and College Football Hall Of Famer Randy Gradisher was also an Academic All American and the leader on the field. He had 134 tackles and Hayes called him “the best linebacker I ever coached”. He played for ten successful years with the Broncos and made seven Pro Bowl squads, being named the NFL Defensive Player Of The Year in 1978. Ohio State presents the Randy Gradishar Award to their best linebacker every season. Rick Middleton, the Saints number-one draft choice who played with them and the Chargers, and Kogel who put in time with the Bengals and in San Diego were impressive from the first game to the last. The secondary boasted All American Colzie, Doug Plank, Tim Fox, and Craig Cassady, son of all-time Buckeye great Howard and they were everywhere the ball was.
After suffering a heart attack in June of 1974, Hayes watched his team compile a record of 10-1, the only stumble coming against Michigan State in a 16-13 loss. His third straight trip to the Rose Bowl found USC getting a revenge win at 18-17, but it was still another spectacular year. It was punctuated by junior TB Archie Griffin's Heisman Trophy award. The Buckeyes finished fourth nationally, behind Michigan, a tough pill to swallow as they had beaten their despised rival 12-10, and outscored their foes by 437-129. Griffin, the Big Ten MVP for the second year in a row with 1695 yards rushing extended his total of consecutive 100-yard games to twenty-two, the ongoing assault of ground-gaining carnage stopped in the Bowl contest by USC whose defense held him to seventy-five on the ground. FB Johnson, even with an injured ankle, QB Cornelius Green, and WB Baschnagel (9.2 yards per carry) joined Griffin in ringing up an incredible 5252 total yards behind a super line that featured All American Schumacher, the Saints first round draft choice, C Steve Myers, and OT Doug France. France too was a number-one pick, going to the Rams and then playing in LA from '75 to '81 with two Pro Bowl appearances before he finished his career with a year in Houston. The versatile Baschnagel was first-team Academic All American and a potential Rhodes Scholar. Tom Skladany was an All American punter and added to the strength of the defense. DE DeCree, DB Colzie, and weight-trained DT Cusick ('75 with the Patriots) were named as All Americans. Colzie, left OSU as the Raiders number-one choice and played nine years with three NFL teams, while fellow DB's Plank had a solid career with the Bears from '75 through 1982, and Tim Fox enjoyed a great junior season. Ironman Bruce Elia who spent his career swinging from LB to FB and was terrific at both, had four years with the Dolphins and 'Niners. Lost in the shuffle was FB Champ Henson. A favorite of Hayes, the strong fullback never fully recovered from his injury and was relegated to a minor role afterwards. He was drafted by the Vikings in the fourth round but never suited up for them, instead making the Bengals active roster and getting eleven carries for the ’75 season. This was the total of his professional career. In all, thirteen members of Hayes’ senior class were drafted by NFL teams.
As the number-four team in the nation, the '75 Buckeyes could have had it all, running the regular-season table at 11-0 but they were bushwhacked by UCLA 23-10 in the Rose Bowl. Despite the need to do some rebuilding, the squad was awesome with Griffin a two-time Heisman winner, Maxwell Award recipient, the Conference MVP, and UPI Player Of The Year. His thirty-one consecutive regular season 100-yard games was a new NCAA record and he finished his career with 5177 rushing yards. He went on to an eight-year career with the Bengals and returned to OSU as an associate AD, and a member of the College Football Hall Of Fame. QB Greene who had directed the awesome offense took his Big Ten MVP Trophy and slashing running style to the CFL while FB Johnson came into his own leading the country in scoring with twenty-six TD's and adding 1059 yards on the ground. Baschnagel finished a fine career before going to the Bears as both a receiver and DB for nine seasons. All American OG Ted Smith and OT Chris Ward who was All Conference as a sophomore, led the line. The secondary overflowed with ability. All American DB Tim Fox was the Patriots number-one draft pick and went on to a great pro career with New England, the Chargers, and the Rams. He teamed with Archie's brother Ray who was converted from tailback, and Craig Cassady, Hopalong's son who registered nine INT's, to form a solid secondary. Cassady showed enough moxie to play with the Saints in 1976 and ’77. DE Bob Brudzinski was a standout and All Big Ten while quick MG Aaron Brown controlled the middle and led the team in sacks. Punter Tom Skladany again was All American and his 46.7 yard average was the best in OSU history.
SPOTLIGHT ON ARCHIE GRIFFIN:
The storied history of Ohio State football presents a legacy that borders on the fantastic; great names, Hall Of Fame performers, numerous professional players, and a number of coaches who rate as the very best the game has known. Yet if there is one individual who stands alone as “Mr. Ohio State Football” it is Archie Griffin. Pacing his Columbus Eastmoor High School team with senior year totals of 1737 rushing yards and twenty-nine touchdowns in their ten-game season, he was a “must-have” recruit for Woody Hayes. Running backs coach Rudy Hubbard tipped the rest of the staff to the young man’s enormous talent early and it took only until his second varsity game as a freshman for the talent to shine as he shredded North Carolina for a new OSU single-game rushing record of 239 yards. Things only improved from there as the College Football Hall Of Famer was two-time Big Ten MVP, became the first player to make four Rose Bowl starts, and won two consecutive Heisman Trophy awards, a singular honor that leaves his college career in very rarified air! He can only be described with superlatives for every annual performance but his senior season brought him not only the Heisman, but the conclusion of a glorious four years that had him total 5589 yards rushing, an NCAA record at that time, and 6559 all-purpose yards. He led his team to a remarkable four-year record of 40-5-1 and was the National College Player Of The Year. The Maxwell Trophy and the Sporting News Man Of The Year Award joined his two Heisman Trophies and his number 45 was retired. He was an inspirational leader on the field, beloved by his teammates due to his positive and humble attitude. Head Coach Woody Hayes stated it best when he proclaimed that “He’s a better young man than he is a football player, and he’s the best football player I’ve ever seen.” His seven-year career with the Bengals was solid if not spectacular and perhaps suffered in comparison to his college heroics, yet he was a professional who was dependable. Griffin retired from pro football to serve Ohio State in a number of capacities including Assistant Athletic Director and is currently the President Of The Ohio State Alumni Association. Whenever Ohio State football is mentioned, it is impossible to avoid the image and legacy of Archie Griffin, the greatest Buckeye of all.
With the so-called "Golden Era" over, a four-year run that marked a 40-5-1 record, the primary word for 1976 was "rebuild" but a 9-2-1 record, Orange Bowl victory over Colorado, and sixth place national ranking would have been absolutely great at any time and at any school. Coffeyville JC transfer Ron Springs and Jeff Logan pretended to be Archie Griffin and did quite well. Using Logan, the smaller and shiftier runner at FB was a departure from Hayes’ usual ground-‘em-out with the fullback tactics but it worked with the under-publicized back rushing for 1248 yards. The other FB, Pete Johnson, completed his Buckeye career as OSU's all-time scoring leader with 348 points and fifty-eight TD's and became a short-yardage plugger for the Bengals from 1977 through '83 and then split a final year between the Chargers and Dolphins. OT Ward was All Big Ten for a second time and made All American. The defense, which gave up 149 points, was paced by leading tackler Tom Cousineau, a muscular LB out of Cleveland area Lakewood St. Edwards High School who had 184 stops. He teamed with All American Bob Brudzinski who was the Rams number-one draftee and a mainstay for four years before moving on to the Dolphins for another solid nine seasons. Aaron Brown completed one of the best linebacking corps in the Conference if not the nation. The secondary play of Ray Griffin was establishing him as quite a bit more than just “Archie’s little brother.” Punter Skladany finished as a three-time All American and then moved to the pros, playing mostly with the Lions. 1977’s best offense in the Big Ten ran up 4815 yards and 343 points with All Big Ten TE Jimmy Moore a huge 6’5”, 260-pound target but as always Hayes' squad was run-oriented. QB Rod Gerald passed for 1016 yards but was just as good on the ground. HB Springs put up a Big Ten leading 1166 yards, motoring behind two-time All American OT Chris Ward who became the Jets first-round choice and played with them from '78 through '83 before finishing with the Saints. Ward was on the "other end" of the NFL's so-called Alzado rule as Raiders DE Lyle Alzado ripped off Ward's helmet and threw it at him, a league no-no after that incident. The defense featured All Americans S Ray Griffin who had a better career than his more heralded brother with the Bengals, playing well from 1978 to '84 as their number-two draft choice. Griffin showed his versatility by playing tailback, his original OSU position, against Minnesota after injuries depleted the offensive backfield. MG Aaron Brown was also an All American but remained somewhat bereft of publicity with the more well-known members of the team getting the headlines but he was always solid and in the pros, had a similar understated but lengthy career, playing ten seasons with the Bucs, Eagles, and Falcons. All American LB Cousineau tallied 149 tackles. Promising track star and former Ohio “Mr. Football” in his senior year of high school Todd Bell played well at a corner position. The big games were a 29-28 heartbreaking loss to highly ranked Oklahoma and a tough 14-6 defeat by Michigan to leave the Bucks at 9-2. Hayes once again lost his temper, lunging at a camera man on national television as he exited the field after the Michigan game. This action earned him a one-year probation from the Big Ten. The Bucks still received a Sugar Bowl bid against number-two Alabama which ended in a third loss, 35-6. Scoring but twelve points in their last two games soured the season.
The suspension helmet era and the career of Woody Hayes wound down in 1978, Hayes' in a sad moment of impulse, the suspension helmet to progress with technical improvements in materials and design. An "era of the forward pass" was supposed to denote Ohio State's offense as the reins were handed to heralded freshman QB Art Schlichter. Perhaps the country’s most highly recruited player, Schlichter was Ohio’s High School Player Of The year and totaled what was for the time period, an incredible 3400 passing yards and thirty-seven TD’s in two years of prep ball. He threw for 1250 yards in his OSU varsity debut season, and ran the option just as often as he threw, protected by All Conference guard Ken Fritz. His twenty-one INT’s indicated he still had to adapt to the college game. Doug Donley, originally a HB and a future Dallas Cowboy was his most effective wide receiver. TB Ron Springs finished his OSU career, played well for the Cowboys for six seasons and another two with the Bucs and then had the pleasure of seeing his son Shawn star at DB for the Buckeyes in the mid-nineties. Effective Tim Vogler became a mainstay on the O-line for the Bills for ten seasons and kicker Uwe Von Schamann, an effective weapon, plied his trade with the Dolphins for five years. TE Jimmy Moore managed some time with the Colts, and in future years, QB Schlichter would have a checkered pro career, plagued by gambling problems. LB Cousineau again paced the defense, finishing as an All American and with a whopping career total of 647 tackles. Cousineau spurned the Buffalo Bills to play in Canada where he was an immediate star but returned to the NFL with the Browns from '82 through '85 and then started for the Forty-Niners in 1986 and '87. Todd Bell improved at the corner and took his exceptional track speed and jumping ability to the Bears and Eagles. Thus, the great players played well but the year finished at 7-3-1 with the Bucks losers of the OSU-Michigan game and relegated to the Gator Bowl against Clemson. Bo bested Woody in what would be the final chapter in the "Ten Year War" between them, and the Buckeyes stumbled along against a good 10-1 Clemson Tiger team. With a chance to win on a late field goal, Ohio State was driving for better field position. It was third-and-five for the Bucks on the Clemson twenty-four yard line when Donley broke open but Schlichter instead threw to Clemson LB Charlie Bauman who was run out of bounds directly in front of the Buckeye bench with but 1:59 to play. In full view of the spectators and a national television audience, Hayes wound up and punched Bauman and had to be restrained by his players and assistant coaches. The game ended in a 17-15 Clemson victory and also ended Hayes' fine career, one that earned him a place in the College Football Hall Of Fame despite being forced to resign. The season ended at 7-4-1, a disappointing finish to Hayes' 205-61-10 career mark that included thirteen Big Ten championships, three National Championships, three Heisman Trophy winners, and fifty-one first team All Americans. Always a stickler for academics, Hayes' teams consistently had a very high graduation rate and though he remains to this day a controversial figure, he is also recognized as one of the game's greatest coaches.
Former Ohio State Assistant Earle Bruce who had revived programs as the head man at Tampa and Iowa State took the helm and he too had enormous success, winning .755 percent of his games from 1979 through 1987 and turning out numerous NFL stars. His body of professional work, especially at Ohio State earned Bruce entry to The College Football Hall Of Fame. The winning tradition of Ohio State remains today, and under the leadership of head coach Jim Tressel who took the Buckeyes to the National Championship in 2002 and challenged for it in 2006, the Ohio State silver helmet and immediately identifiable striping remains a lasting sign of excellence.
If interested in any of these OSU helmets please click on the photos below.