I'm no authority on All-Americas but from what I saw looking through the rain and fog at the Rose Bowl, an Ohio State quarterback named Dave Leggett is an All-America if anyone is. Leggett was the man of the day, no question about that. He called a masterful game. He took advantage of every weak spot in the defense. He came up with the right call. He broke Southern Cal's heart whether he kept the ball or handed it off. He missed getting his first down on short yardage only once—and that was late in the game when it did not matter. This was my first look at the Buckeyes and at Leggett, but how the "experts" could leave him off any All-America beats me.
Usually when it comes up mud the way it did—in spades—at the Rose Bowl, you can expect everything to start all even. It was the kind of a rain that if Noah had been around he would have started the ark all over again. And that kind of water should throw the charts out the window. Only it didn't for SC. For one thing, even on a dry field, you ordinarily expect a team to fumble a few times. In a tricky offense like the split T where you sometimes flip the ball away just as you disappear in the loving arms of a couple of 220-pound linemen, you expect a few drops in the best of times. But Leggett and Ohio did not fumble once. That's the kind of thing that gets a coach talking to himself. Ohio's Coach Hayes must have had insurance.
Ohio State had a better-balanced team. Leggett was only one of the right men for the right job. Howard Cassady was slicing on those quick openers and pitch-outs like a straight-razor across the Trojan line. Bob Watkins and Jerry Harkrader did about everything you could ask of halfbacks, rip for those crucial yards in wholesale lots.
It's hard to tell whom the weather helped. Southern Cal has a lot of speed and a lot of spirit. Ohio State's got a lot of speed and a lot of poise. I will say this: Ohio had one system of offense, the split T, and they had that letter-perfect. That sure helps prevent fumbles because you've got guys who get in the right place at the right time like a well-rehearsed ballet. Southern Cal used the multiple offense and shifted to variants of the T-formation and to the single wing. That isn't conducive to the surest of ball-handling—any time. And Ohio played it real safe. They didn't use but about four plays in the first half. The only time they switched, Leggett threw a running pass—for a touchdown.
January 10, 1955
The Trojans had a rough time with the optional—which is understandable when you've got a guy like Leggett to hand-fight. But that end of theirs, Leon Clarke, played a magnificent game. Sometimes he was playing to stop either the keep or the optional. He'd drift with the play and make the quarterback commit himself, then make the tackle either way. It takes some doing. Southern Cal's fumbles were not disastrous but they seemed to get in the way of the Trojans being able to sustain a drive. A miraculous run kept them in the game. The score was 14-0 in the middle of the second quarter and it looked as though it would keep on going up. Then the Ohio kicker, Hubert Bobo, bobbled a pass from center and it looked like he was going to have to eat the football. Then it didn't. He got the kick off. The Trojans' Aramis Dandoy got it on the bounce on the 14-yard line and everybody scattered. Three guys bounced off him. No one but a superrunner would have even gotten started. But he did. All the way to the end zone. It was one of the prettiest runs you or I will ever see. It put SC in the game.
In the second half the Trojans went from the 6-2-2-1 defense to the 5-3-3. They were trying to slow up those optional end runs—sending one end in hard and letting the outside corner linebacker pile up the pitch-outs. They played a real resolute game. But Ohio presented hard-running backs who could move the ball. That Hopalong Cassady was a running son of a gun. Some people said maybe Leggett was just a good mudder. Well, on this day, that was a good thing to be.
It is hard to single out a lineman standout. For one thing, you couldn't tell one from another when they got the mudpack on. Ohio came out in those beautiful pearl-gray uniforms with the scarlet piping on them but they looked as alike as worms in the bottom of a fish can after the first pile-up. It looked to me as though that Ohio line was handling SC pretty good. Somebody was. But the SC boys weren't strictly catchers. Ed Fouch threw a block on Ohio's Bobo on Dandoy's run that knocked the water off Bobo's back till it like to drowned the boys behind them. And I thought I heard a few teeth loosening up on some other plays—on both sides of the scrimmage line.
I have been asked whether I thought my team could have done better against Ohio State. How can I tell? SC wasn't disgraced. They were in the game right up till the last few minutes. Jon Arnett ran from his own four-yard line to the Ohio 26 right after the Trojans stopped the Buckeyes and the score was still 14-7. A team that will do that is not discouraged, I will tell you one thing: SC will win the Coast Conference next year.
Ohio State simply dominated the game throughout. They had a simple, well-executed type of attack featuring good blocking in the line and a hard running set of backs—and a guy named Dave Leggett to steer 'em or lead 'em. That's tough to beat, rain or shine.