Ohio State

1949 - 53 Buckeyes
(Authentic Reproduction)



If ever a school's football program earned the moniker "The Graveyard Of Coaches", Ohio State would be at the top of the list. In 1941 when Ohio's best high school coach, Paul Brown of fabled Washington High School in Massillon became the Buckeyes head man and immediately had 9-1-1 and 9-1 seasons, the faithful were satisfied and ecstatic as one of their own was leading the pride of the state to football prominence. Brown had played QB for Ohio State as a frosh but realized he was too small to take the pounding of Big Ten football and transferred to Miami University, joining the ranks of what became a myriad of successful high school and college coaches that gave the Oxford, Ohio school the nickname, “The Cradle Of Coaches.” He was so successful at Massillon that many of the other Ohio high school coaches were more than just a little happy that Brown had moved to OSU and out of the high school ranks as he had so dominated their world to the tune of a 58-1-1 record in his final six seasons at Massillon. His 1940 team literally pounded opponents, scoring 477 points while giving up but six! The effect of World War II hit hard, depleting available manpower in '43 as Ohio State fielded a team of forty-four players, none over 200-pounds, only five who had played previously, and the remainder consisting of seventeen-year old freshmen. The 3-6 record of the "Baby Bucks" was preferable however, to dropping football completely as many had been forced to do. On April 12, 1944, Paul Brown reported for active military duty at Great Lakes Naval Training Center but remained "head coach in absentia" with his assistant Carroll Widdoes named as "interim coach." Widdoes came to OSU from Massillon with Brown in '41 and his quiet, reserved style contrasted sharply with his mentor's. The Bucks caught a break before the start of the '44 football season when Les Horvath was discharged from active duty and while studying dentistry at State, was granted a year of eligibility. Joined by guard Bill Hackett who was deferred from service, and otherwise surrounded by freshmen, Horvath led the team to a resounding 26-6 victory over Brown's Great Lakes Naval team, a 9-0 record, the Big Ten and mythical National Civilian Championship, and a number-two ranking to Army. In the process, Horvath won the Heisman Trophy and Widdoes was named National Coach Of The Year. The Buckeye fans were shocked when Brown, upon his discharge from the service, decided that he would not return to coach Ohio State and instead agreed to become the head coach of the new Cleveland team in the All American Football Conference. Feeling that the support they had given him had been unrequited, many in the Ohio State community wrote Brown off as a traitor. The 7-2 mark of '45 that Widdoes, now the "full time" head coach, put together was quite good under the circumstances but Widdoes, a quiet, religious man who did not enjoy the spotlight, requested a return to an assistant's position so that he could be at home with his wife and children instead of addressing alumni groups. Thus on January 2, 1946, Paul Bixler, a Widdoes' assistant, was named head coach as the two men essentially switched roles. Bixler's 4-3-2 record was decent but he resigned at the end of the year to take the head job at Colgate. Some campaigned to bring Brown back as coach but just as many were still feeling the sting of what they perceived as his rejection of Ohio State and Wes Fesler, a former nine-letter winner for the Buckeyes, got the nod. He had coached successfully at Connecticut Wesleyan, Princeton, and Penn but more importantly, “Wessey” as he was known as a player, was a three-time All American and Big Ten MVP at end and fullback. Considered by most to be the greatest athlete to don the scarlet and gray for the Bucks, he added the honors of being a three-time All Conference basketball player and a first-baseman who was good enough to receive Major League offers. Many alumni still recalled his baseball performance against Illinois in an 11-6 win where he established a Conference record of having driven in all of the Ohio State runs, hit for sixteen total bases, and smashed two doubles and three home runs, two of them grand slams. As a Phi Beta Kappa student he was a popular choice and immediately expectations were high. Fesler's debut team in '47 was hurt by numerous defections to the pros and he finished at 2-6-1 but in 1948, the team was revived, improving to a 6-3 record while enhancing what had been an anemic offense. HB Jimmy Clark was the big gun and the season included a 20-0 win over tough USC and a well-played 13-3 loss to undefeated Michigan.


The Riddell plastic RT helmet, a white shell with a one-inch red center stripe was introduced to the squad in 1949. Another significant change was the move of assistant coach Widdoes from the Buckeyes to become the head coach at Ohio University, despite the fact that his son Dick was a star in the Buckeyes’ defensive secondary. Soph HB's Vic Janowicz and Ray Hamilton stepped in to help immediately, Janowicz especially tough as an outstanding safety. With injuries knocking out the ends, All American basketball player Dick Schnittker joined the team and even when injured, Jimmy Clark remained a dangerous HB and future Detroit Lion Jack Lininger was team MVP at center. Led by All Big Ten end, team MVP, and future Viking coach Bud Grant, Minnesota dealt the Bucks a 27-0 loss, their only one of the season and they finished with ties against USC and Michigan, earning the vote to go to the Rose Bowl. Invoking yet another of the come-from-behind victories that marked the 1949 season, they beat the third-ranked Cal Bears 17-14, this time with 1:56 remaining. FB Fred “Curley” Morrison was the game MVP and the number-one draft choice of the Bears, enjoying an eight-year pro career in Chicago and Cleveland. The Buckeyes’ 7-1-2 record was good for a number four national ranking but Fesler was vocally unhappy about the pressure and abuse associated with the job. Using both a T-Formation and Single Wing, Janowicz would play QB in the T and remained at TB in the Single Wing so that he would be the primary ball handler and he was immediately spectacular in 1950 with Ray Hamilton as his HB. All Americans, center Bob McCullough and tackle Bob Momsen who played two seasons in the NFL, led the line and the 6-3 record included a lopsided 83-21 win over Iowa with Janowicz scoring forty-six of those points. At 6-1 they were upset by Illinois and ended the season in the famous "Snow Bowl" game against Michigan where 50,503 fans braved the elements in a full-scale blizzard. Michigan won 9-3 without earning one first down in a battle of first and second-down punts and the Bucks lost the conference title!  An amazing Janowicz was All American and the Heisman Trophy winner on the strength of his all around play. Two weeks after the season ended Fesler resigned citing the pressure of being the Ohio State coach and entered the real estate business but a month later, he became the head coach of Minnesota.



Some of the biggest names in football sought the OSU vacancy. Paul Brown was one of those names but there was ill feeling with many because Brown had signed a number of Buckeye players to his 1946 pro team when they still had eligibility remaining after their military service. Missouri's Don Faurot accepted the position on February 10, 1951 but on the 12th, he called from Missouri to say he was staying with the Tigers. On the 18th, the job was offered to and accepted by Wayne Woodrow “Woody” Hayes, the head coach at Miami University in Oxford. After his collegiate career at Denison University, a successful term as a high school coach, active duty in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Theater, and three years as head coach at Denison, Hayes spent two years at Miami where his '50 squad lost but one game and beat Arizona State in the Salad Bowl. With Heisman winner Vic Janowicz assumed to be the showcase athlete as the season began, more than 4-3-2 and a 7-0 loss to Michigan was expected. However, Janowicz was under-utilized, the players were slow to adapt to Hayes full-time use of the T-Formation, and what was described as an "aggressive and demanding" style of coaching negatively affected the team's attitude. Ray Hamilton was moved to end and was outstanding and other position changes were made after a 1-2-1 start, accompanied by a lot of grumbling about the harsh practice sessions. The offense remained limited for the season, scoring but 109 points despite good play from QB Tony Curcillo and end Sherwin “Sonny” Gandee who played DE and LB with the Lions from ’52-1956. Janowicz remained a two-way threat before graduating to baseball's Pittsburgh Pirates for two seasons and then putting in two with the Redskins. An automobile accident curtailed his athletic career but he was a successful businessman and state administrator and was voted "Ohio's Most Outstanding Athlete" for the past fifty years, in 1992.





The athletic ability and incredible versatility possessed by Vic Janowicz was evident at Elyria High School. A gifted baseball and basketball player, Janowicz also excelled on the gridiron, leading the team to the Lake Erie League Championship while scoring 101 points his senior season. As a High School All American and All State halfback, continuing his academic and athletic career at Ohio State University was a natural choice for an Ohio boy. As a freshman, Janowicz’s abilities were obvious but even as a sophomore, head coach Wes Fesler wasn’t quite certain how to best use those talents. Laboring primarily as a defensive back, Janowicz took charge of the defense and in the January 2, 1950 Rose Bowl game against Cal, he helped secure the Buckeye victory with two interceptions, one returned for forty-one yards. Using both a T-Formation in addition to their standard Single Wing, the staff finally figured out that it was best to allow Janowicz to remain on the field as long as possible in each game. He averaged fifty minutes per contest as a tailback in the Single Wing and as the quarterback when the offense switched to the T-Formation. He ran, passed, caught, blocked, punted, and place-kicked. Against Iowa he was responsible for the scoring of forty-six points, he threw for four TD’s versus Pitt, and boomed a ninety-yard punt against Minnesota. He was an All American and deservedly won the Heisman Trophy. In 1951, new head coach Woody Hayes moved Janowicz to halfback and he barely handled the football, rushing for only 376 yards and throwing but twenty-five passes. Still, in both the East-West Shrine game and Hula Bowl, he was named MVP. After a year in the military service, Janowicz gave Major League Baseball a try and was with the Pittsburgh Pirates for 1953 and ’54. Lagging as a hitter, he joined the Washington Redskins late in the 1954 season. In 1955 he was their starting halfback and lost the NFL scoring title to Doak Walker on the final day of the season. Unfortunately, as training camp began for the 1956 season, Janowicz was severely injured in an automobile accident. Lying in a coma for thirty days, he recovered but some brain damage left him partially paralyzed, thus ending his athletic career. He became a successful businessman and broadcaster before working in an administrative position for the State Of Ohio. A member of the College Football Hall Of Fame, Janowicz remains one of the all-time Buckeye greats. 



With '51's lack of offensive productivity, Hayes introduced the Split-T Formation for the 1952 season, a formation that was designed to give better blocking angles to the offensive linemen. Tony Curcillo moved from QB to LB, and wound up playing as a two-way HB for the Cardinals in ’53, and eligible freshman HB Howard "Hopalong" Cassady scored three TD's in his first game. Improvement to 6-3 with a 27-7 spanking of Michigan was due to the fine work of John Borton, switched from LB to QB and included five TD passes against Washington State. The running and receiving of HB Fred Bruney who played with the Forty Niners, Steelers, Rams, and AFL Patriots after serving in the armed forces helped as did the blocking of guard Mike Takacs, an All American, who paved the way up front. Despite Hayes early reputation as a "running coach" Borton set a new school passing record with 1555 yards. One-platoon football was back in ‘53 and Ohio State adapted well, standing at 5-1 before they dropped two of the last three to finish at 6-3. Borton suffered a serious injury against Illinois and was never the same. Cassady and HB Bobby Watkins, the Buck's leading scorer, ran behind new QB Dave Leggett but the poor finish included a loss to underdog Michigan which left Hayes in a critical situation with the OSU fans.

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