Before it happened, Ivy Williamson would smile his sad smile when he heard the folk tale about the Ohio State jinx. True, Wisconsin last won in Columbus 36 years ago. True, Ivy's teams fell to Ohio State in four of the five years he's coached at Wisconsin. But, Ivy would say: "They've beaten us because they played better football."
Jinx or no, last Saturday Ohio State did it again, 31-14, ended the Badgers' four-game victory string, and, barring a miracle, their chances for a Big Ten title plus a day in the Rose Bowl.
Unbeaten Ohio State did it again by hobbling Alan Ameche, the Horse. Ameche had been good for an average of 5.4 yards until "Columbus Day." That day he gained a net of only 42 yards in 16 tries, an average of 2.6.
Ohio's Howard (Hopalong) Cassady, a 168-pound red-headed left half, intercepted a pass deep in his own territory and ran 88 yards to a touchdown in the third period. Then in the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter Ohio State made three more touchdowns and the contest collapsed.
This defeat was the worst State ever visited upon the Badgers. But history aside, Wisconsin had not previously this fall been scored upon in the second half. Whither did the defense, that allowed only 27 points in four games, vanish?
Coach Woody Hayes had a simple answer. "We used about 50 out of 55 players. We 'out-substituted' them."
Williamson, meanwhile, on the other side of the field, was "down." Said Ivy much later: "We made errors of commission and you just can't do that against a good ball club." Ivy didn't say anything about a jinx.
Ohio State and Michigan straddle the Big Ten heap with four and three conference wins, respectively, against no defeats. If nothing gives until they clash in Columbus on Nov. 20, millions on a nationwide TV hookup will see the most important game of the year. To preserve undefeated conference status, the Buckeyes must get by Northwestern and Purdue, while the Wolverines must beat Indiana, Illinois and Michigan State. Wisconsin and Minnesota are still in contention, but Minnesota, the early wonder, did not look wonderful losing 34-0 to Michigan.
Purdue stands 1-1 in the conference. The Boilermakers could blow off some steam in their four remaining conference games if Lenny Dawson keeps connecting with those touchdown passes. But it looks like Roses for the Buckeyes if they can overcome that Michigan jinx.
Only two independents still look impressive: Notre Dame, rolling well, if not brilliantly, and Cincinnati on a 14-game winning streak. You know, I think that I'll just go out to Cincinnati this weekend and try to find out what makes the team click.