By Dr. Ken


Any visit to Cincinnati is enjoyable and successful because it will be marked by numerous bouts of gluttony at various Graeter’s Ice Cream outlets. A locally produced and distributed brand, my collegiate quest for gaining body weight and a certain success as noted in the increase from 150 to 232 pounds in approximately eighteen months had much to do with Graeter’s. Seeking out a quiet place to study, the close to campus Graeter’s store would often serve as a study hall and my reward for helping carry out the nightly garbage pails was most often an oversized shake. I have remained addicted to Graeter’s since, the only ice cream I find acceptable for consumption. Driving from New York to Cincinnati for my annual appearance at a football strength training clinic, I had great anticipation for the return home knowing my pickup truck would be loaded with a record number of Graeter’s containers packed in dry ice. Having driven from the New York City area to Cincinnati or to my in-laws’ home in Indiana frequently, there is for me, a calm that comes from driving through Ohio. Under any circumstances, Pennsylvania is a tough travel zone. As a former long haul tractor-trailer driver, I never looked forward to the mountains and bleak darkness of Western Pennsylvania nights or early mornings but the straight run, well maintained roads along Interstate 70 in Ohio was always a pleasure. Most importantly for a football fan, it still reminds one that this truly is football territory.


As a college freshman who had never been to Ohio, I was uninformed but quickly became immersed in their football culture. Especially in the early to mid-1960’s, Ohio could make the argument with Pennsylvania and Texas that they played the very best high school football in the nation. Florida was a non-factor with a population that had not yet grown to its current numbers or status. The shift in national demographics bears this out. When the industrial regions of Ohio and Pennsylvania mined coal, produced steel, and did other heavy manufacturing that supported the major industries in the United States, high school football was king and with Texas, were the national hot spots for stocking college rosters. Now, the statistics indicate that among the BCS schools, from 2004 through 2008, Florida outpaced all other states with 981 football scholarships granted, followed closely by Texas with 974, California at 826, Georgia with 481 and then, more or less limping in with 362 scholarship players, Ohio. Pennsylvania followed their neighbor with 281. More revealing is the fact that per capita the fall off in quality Division 1 players in the shuttered Ohio-Western Pennsylvania region has been startling. My memories of the area’s greatness has however, remained intact. The late night-early morning drive that passed nearby Uniontown, PA reminded me of Minnesota’s Sandy Stephens and Bill Munsey (to a lesser extent, Bill’s brother Harry better known as “Chuck” Muncie, see HELMET HUT http://www.helmethut.com/College/California/Muncie.html  ), and Nebraska’s Ben Gregory, all former Red Raiders.  


Washington County brought thoughts of Joe Montana and Donora made me switch to baseball, if only for a moment, as visions of the great Stan “The Man” and he truly was, Musial came to mind. Once I crossed into Ohio however, it was all football but instead of thinking of players, the exits off of I-70 reminded me of the many great coaches from the state. The small towns of Newark, Granville, and Wilmington produced visions of Woody Hayes, Bill Hess, and Paul Brown on the sidelines. Truly, in the era spanning the late 1940’s through mid-sixties, Ohio was “coaching central!”


Thinking of the great coaches brought me back to Friday night, October 15th of 1965. The University Of Cincinnati had suffered an unexpected 14-3 loss to cross town rival Xavier the week before but righted the ship against Gary Lyle and George Washington University ( see HELMET HUT http://www.helmethut.com/Dr.Ken38.html ) on the 15th. A 49-6 pounding from Tulsa on October 23rd, sealed the deal on what officially became “a disappointing season” but the 13-3 victory over GW was the focus on that fifteenth day of the month. Few away from UC however, were concerned with that specific game as the nation’s eyes were fixed on the match-up between Ohio State and Michigan State the following day. When one thinks of Big Ten rivalries or “big games” OSU vs. Michigan immediately comes to mind. Ohio State has a long and venerable history that includes exciting series with other schools but the annual clash with the hated Wolverines is at the top of the list. Michigan State has a football history that does not have to take a back seat to any of the nation’s other programs, dotted with many All Americans and their own heated rivalries with Michigan and Notre Dame. In 1965 however, the game between the Spartans and the Buckeyes would prove to be ground breaking. In the final year of Ohio State’s usual nine game schedule, the Buckeyes had lost the opener 14-3 to North Carolina, won their next two games, and came into the Michigan State game confident of victory. The backfield was loaded with Don Unverferth at QB and backs Tom Barrington, Will Sander, and Bo Rein. The offensive line was typical for Hayes’ grind-it-out offense with center Ray Pryor and guard Doug Van Horn leading the charge. The “names” however were in the linebacking corps, with a very tough Dwight “Ike” Kelley, an All American who was a special teams’ maniac for the Eagles for six seasons and Tom Bugel. The Spartans had a powerhouse with many players whose identities would be household names the following season. Charles “Bubba” Smith, George Webster, Clinton Jones, Gene Washington, and others were directed by quarterback Steve Juday Even at this early juncture of the Big Ten schedule, there was the possibility that the game would determine the conference champion and it did!



Gene Washington shows All American form with reception against

Buckeyes in 1965 game that determined Big 10 title



It seemed as if every other student on campus and most of the Bearcats football team had gone to high school or had a relative playing for the Buckeyes, thus, almost the entire campus was interested in the outcome of this important game. I was just beginning to “get it” regarding the entire football culture and this specific game was one that in a manner of speaking, won me over. I was already a Michigan State enthusiast (see HELMET HUT NEWS January 2009 http://www.helmethut.com/Features/Dr.Ken63.html )  so it didn’t take much to get me as revved up as the Midwestern natives. This truly was a game to remember. From Michigan State’s perspective, it remains a classic in their entire football history. For the Buckeyes, it has been remembered as “one of the most one-sided setbacks during Woody Hayes’ career.” Only in retrospect, even if that consideration came less than a week or two after the game, Ohio State knew it had been bested by what has been called one of the strongest teams in Big 10 history. The Spartans demonstrated their skill and dominance in every phase of the game in an unexpected 32-7 victory. Their 387 rushing yards with three touchdowns was outshone only by a defensive effort that limited Ohio State’s strong rushing attack to a paltry minus 22 yards! With All American halfback Jones putting the “icing on the cake” with his twelve yard touchdown pass reception, Ohio State could only wonder how they had been so easily steam rolled. There was little joy anywhere in Ohio and ultimately, the game proved to be Ohio State’s only Big 10 loss, leaving them with an enviable 6-1 conference record. The loss however left the Bucks one game behind the Spartans who were 7-0 in conference play thus leaving the crown to Michigan State. The 10-0 Spartans were also granted the National Championship for 1965, undefeated at the end of the season though the Rose Bowl game left them on the short end of the stick against UCLA. As noted by QB Juday, going week to week with the pressure of winning kept the team very focused. Having the time between the end of the season and the actual Rose Bowl game allowed the team to perhaps “read their press clippings” and their effort could not match the Bruins who prevailed 14-12 despite losing the opening game of the season to the same Spartans.

George Webster celebrates Spartan safety vs. Ohio State


My drive to Cincinnati brought this wonderful classic game to mind and I am certain that Spartans fans think of it often. My reminder of the great uniforms of the 1965 season also brought pleasant reflection. The externally padded helmets of the Buckeyes with the broad red foam insert (see HELMET HUT  http://www.helmethut.com/College/Ohio%20State/OHXOSU6565.html ) and the distinctive Michigan State helmet that had been altered going into the ’65 season ( see HELMET HUT  http://www.helmethut.com/College/MichState/MIXMSU6566A.html ) are still among the best from that era. The great names, the great uniforms, and the great tradition of the Midwest and Big Ten Conference remain alive and well but really, there is nothing like the time to reflect upon those earlier days.