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TGS SPECIAL REPORT...SHOWDOWN MEMORIES IN THE BIG TEN
by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor


From this point forward, every Saturday is effectively a “Shakedown Saturday” in college football. The upcoming week is no exception, with a few very high-profile battles effectively serving as elimination games and likely having significant implications for the “Final Four” to be announced in early December.

For us at TGS, however, it’s not this week’s SEC LSU-Alabama or Big 12 TCU-Kansas State shootouts, but rather Saturday’s Ohio State-Michigan State Big Ten showdown, that gives us an opportunity to put in better context one of the great college football campaigns from the past...specifically 1966, our 10th season of publishing.

Rivalries involving Ohio State usually call to mind the annual hate-fest vs. Michigan. And Michigan State’s 1966 season is mostly remembered for the epic 10-10 draw vs. Notre Dame. But in retrospect, Michigan State-Ohio State ’66 still gives us goosebumps and also had a lot to do with how college football history would eventually be recorded...even if most gridiron historians have forgotten about that memorable midseason matchup in Columbus.

Duffy Daugherty’s 1966 MSU team needs no introduction, along with its 1965 predecessor still ranking among the greatest college teams in history. The mid ‘60s, however, were something of a flat period at Ohio State, where legendary HC Woody Hayes would come close to losing his job, as administrators began to chafe at the thought of the school being labeled as a football factory.

Woody was not winning big for much of the mid ‘60s, either. After Hayes’ 1964 team had ranked atop the polls for much of the season, it suffered crushing home shutout losses in November to Penn State and Michigan, sending the Bucks into a semi-tailspin. Hayes’ subsequent 1965 edition, while formidable, was also no match for Daugherty’s MSU powerhouse, which rolled the Bucks 32-7 in a midseason beatdown at East Lansing that would gnaw at Woody for the next year because it was the first time a Hayes-coached OSU team had been held to minus rushing yardage (-22, to be exact).

Woody obsessed about the ‘66 rematch through spring practice, when he employed psychological warfare by dressing his scout team in the Spartans’ green-and-white jerseys as a constant reminder to the Buckeyes about their pending planned ambush of Daugherty's troops in the fall. Hayes, a military history buff and avid admirer of General George S. Patton, also began special prep for MSU in spring, practicing against Spartan plays while drilling into his Bucks every move that was likely to be made by MSU for the October 15 revenge match. So Spartan-obsessed were the ‘66 Bucks that they were upset by Washington and Illinois in the run-up to MSU. As a result, OSU not only had revenge on its mind for MSU, but also anger at the idea of a 3-game losing streak (not to mention the players' fears at facing an increasingly-irritated Woody after another possible defeat). Hayes’ troops were thus primed for a kamikaze effort.

With most of their star players (including DE Bubba Smith, LB George Webster, QB Jimmy Raye, RBs Bob Apisa and Clint Jones, and WR Gene Washington) back from the ‘65 powerhouse, Daugherty’s Spartans would, not surprisingly, top the polls from the outset of ‘66. Though Ara Parseghian’s Notre Dame, reignited by soph QB Terry Hanratty, had moved quickly to the second spot in the rankings after several eye-opening wins, and was breathing down MSU’s neck by mid-October.

The trip to Columbus was nothing but trouble for the Spartans. When MSU flew in on Friday morning, it was greeted by torrents of rain that caused the Spartan charter to skid sideways to a stop on the runway. The deluge would not abate, and Woody, seeking an opportunity to negate the MSU speed, ordered the tarpaulin to be kept off of the field, guaranteeing a slow, heavy track for Saturday.

Thanks to Hayes, by kickoff time the field was more swamp than gridiron, and the rain was falling so hard at times that fans in the upper deck at the “Big Horseshoe” could barely see to the other side of the field. Players, taking their stances in the quagmire, would watch as water would cover their hands up to their wrists. Field conditions were thus more suited for tugboats than football. Running was not going to be easy; passing almost impossible. Moreover, gale-force winds of more than 35-miles-per-hour buffeted the big stadium on the banks of the Olentangy.

Within those impossible weather conditions, and the field having turned to muck, Hayes believed he had his best chance at revenge. And, as Woody reckoned, conditions negated the MSU speed. The slippery pigskin would result in seven Spartan fumbles; MSU lost only one, but could not sustain drives. The Bucks weren’t doing much either, but when an errant punt snap sailed over MSU P Dick Kenney’s head in the 2nd Q, it would result in a safety and a 2-0 OSU lead, which held through the rest of a brutal first half.

The second half wasn’t much prettier, though MSU caught a break in the 3rd Q when Hayes ordered a third-down punt from his own 24 that would carry only to the Buckeye 46. From there, QB Raye and the Spartans would swim to inside the OSU 10, but could only settle for a 27-yard FG by the barefooted Kenney to go ahead by a 3-2 baseball score that would carry into the 4th Q. Yet on the first play of the final stanza, after a poor Kenney punt, Hayes’ QB Bill Long would cross up a Spartan “D” massed, as usual, to stop a Buckeye run by instead throwing a slant to E Bill Anders, who slogged 47 yards through the muck for a go-ahead TD. The PAT by PK Gary Cairns would hit the crossbar to keep the score at 8-3, though the Big Horseshoe still shook as the rain-soaked 84,282 in attendance roared approval.

With the top ranking and undefeated record now in serious jeopardy, Spartan QB Raye, from his 16 yard-line after the kickoff, would uncork the drive of his life, against not only the aroused Buckeye “D” but the fierce elements. Raye would mix bootlegs and seven passes with the slippery ball, four of those complete, on the drive, until MSU would reach the OSU 2 yard-line. Three downs later, MSU had still not cracked the goal line. With only a foot or so to go on 4th down, Raye called “4 Veer Trap” and sent big FB Apisa crashing ahead into the waves of Buckeyes, who swarmed immediately...but not before the big Hawaiian had barely lunged over the goal line! The huge crowd, which saw Apisa violently thrown backwards, briefly erupted at the possibility that OSU held, and reacted angrily by throwing coins and soda pop bottles toward the field when Apisa was awarded the TD. Daugherty, desiring to push the lead from 9-8 to 11-8, gambled on a fake-kick PAT in which PK Kenney took a direct snap and passed the ball instead to another fellow Hawaiian, holder Charles Wedemeyer, for the two points.

MSU still had to hold on, however, as QB Long twice led the Buckeyes through the rain and deep into MSU territory. In the final moments, a diving interception by Spartan DB (and future Denver Bronco) Drake Garrett at the 10-yard-line would finally preserve the 11-8 win.

Pollsters of the era, however, were just as score-conscious as they are today. So when Notre Dame ran up a 32-0 triumph on North Carolina while the Spartans were fighting for their lives in Columbus, the Irish would assume the top ranking the next week, and stay there for the rest of the season that would include the eventual, epic 10-10 tie vs. MSU. Notre Dame could thank Ohio State for providing the help it needed to finally get atop the polls.

Now, let’s see if the ABC telecast mentions ‘66 MSU-OSU on Saturday night!

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POINTSPREAD STREAK UPDATE: In early November, we usually like to update the most pronounced pointspread winning and losing streaks, which often endure for the rest of the campaign. Wins: 9-Western Michigan; 6-Kansas State; 5-UMass, Rice; 4-Utah. Losses: 5-Northern Illinois, Old Dominion, Oregon State, Texas A&M; 4-East Carolina, North Texas, Oklahoma State, Virginia, Washington State.


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