When the game was over and his team had been soundly beaten, Ohio State Coach Wayne Woodrow Hayes consoled himself 1) by slamming a reporter who got in his way into a concrete wall; and 2) by opining grudgingly to the surviving press: "This is definitely the best West Coast team we have played since I have been coaching. I don't even want to look at the statistics. They must be terrible."
For Ohio State the statistics were terrible: USC had scored 17 points, Ohio State 0; USC had 301 yards rushing, Ohio State 84; USC had 23 first downs, Ohio State 11. The defeat was, to put it mildly, decisive.
But not even the extent of the defeat and the fact it had come against a Big Ten team and might move the USC Trojans into contention for the No. 1 spot in national ranking was as sweet to West Coast rooters as the fact It had come against Coach Woody Hayes, a man popularly regarded in the West as football's answer to Mack the Knife.
In 1955, just after his Big Ten champions had maimed USC in the Rose Bowl 20-7, Hayes was a laughing winner who took to the pressroom podium to claim the vanquished Trojans would be lucky to finish fifth in the Big Ten.
October 11, 1959
In 1958, just after his 20-point-favorite Buckeyes had barely escaped with their lives against Oregon in the Rose Bowl 10-7, Woody scaled his hat into the postgame press conference and crowed sweetly: "The better team always wins, always. And we won."
It was small wonder that before last Friday night's game in the Los Angeles Coliseum, the customarily matter-of-fact coach of USC, Don Clark, festooned his team's dressing room and coaching office with copies of a framed plaque reading: "After the 1955 Rose Bowl game Coach Woody Hayes said: 'The Trojans were pretty good for a West Coast team. They wouldn't finish higher than fifth in the Big Ten.' " And then, just before game time, a wire conveniently arrived in the Trojan locker room from a nonadmirer in Chicago. Signed anonymously, OLD BUCKEYE, it read: ONCE AGAIN, THE BIG TEN WILL RUN OVER A DEFENSELESS AND OFFENSELESS PACIFIC COAST TEAM. IT WILL BE WORSE THAN IOWA OVER CAL LAST WEEK.
"Old Buckeye" couldn't have been more helpful if he had been an Old Trojan. The USC football squad, the best seen on that campus since the halcyon days of the late Coach Howard Jones, had to file past the telegram on its way to the football field. It was grimly resentful when it lined up to kick off to the young Buckeyes.
Although Coach Clark, in his typically laconic scouting report to his Trojans, had freely predicted, "We're going to have to fight for our life inside," shortly thereafter it was the Ohioans who were righting for their lives inside and out. Ohio ball carriers disintegrated into the middle of the USC line as thoroughly as though they had stepped into vats of boiling grease. It was soon apparent to Woody Hayes, fretting on the sideline, that the West Coast worm had turned and his players were on the field against a very good football team indeed. By the half, Ohio State had gained only 25 net yards rushing and 13 yards passing, and the pretty pearl-gray pants and white shirts of Hayes's heavier but slower team had been caked with the brown dirt of the Dodgers' baseball infield as soon as they had scrimmaged. Even the Buckeyes' incomparable Bob White, who, the Trojans had been warned, had never lost a yard in his collegiate career, barely lived up to his reputation, with an average of only two yards-plus per carry.
Ohio, of course, played typical head-knocking Big Ten football and the Trojans were hardly running away with the game, but a field goal from the State 10-yard line by Don Zachik and a kangaroo catch by Trojan End Luther Hayes, with five seconds to go, made the half-time score 9-0.
The second half was even more of a disaster for the proud Hayes, who fumed on the sidelines as his squad took a physical as well as a scoreboard beating. Once when the Buckeyes mounted a drive against the USC second unit that carried to the USC 13-yard line, Clark sent his first team back into the game, and Fullback White was stopped for his first two yardage losses. USC took over the ball on its 6 and shortly thereafter had another touchdown and a two-point conversion. Probably the finest tribute to USC was the fact that Hayes's team, which has been taught that throwing a forward pass is about on a par with playing with dolls, something a grown football player never indulges in, went to the air 12 times.
ALUMS ON THE PROWL
Like all great football squads, this one of the Trojans did not unexpectedly show up at the USC registrar's office. Two years ago, their teeth on edge over a succession of humiliations at the hands of the Big Ten and a plethora of penalties handed down by the NCAA and their own moribund conference, USC alums took to the hustings of prep football not only in California but all over the country. "Army, Navy, Notre Dame, Georgia, Air Force and everyone else are out looking in our backyard for football players. We have as much right to go into theirs," was the attitude expressed by a university spokesman and seconded by the new and football-minded university president, Dr. Norman Topping. The result was the extension of the Los Angeles city limits to include suburbs like Natick, Mass. and Union City, N.J. and the wholesale raid on that incubator of good football players, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Stirred with a vintage crop of southern Californians, this mixture will prove a heady potion indeed for opponents.
At USC the student body has reacted with an ebullience and cockiness more commonly associated with extrovert California than the hangdog, timorous mien of the past decade. When the Trojans were clobbering Pittsburgh, a good football team, 23-0 two weeks ago, the rooting section responded in the fourth quarter by chanting derisively, "Bring on the Rams." When Ohio State was reeling under the Trojan line charge, the stands hooted, "We're No. 1 now." Later it taunted Ohioans with the innocent needle, "What's a Buckeye?"
The new Trojans have brought about a revival of the pre-World War II after-dinner joke, "What are the top three teams in the country?" Answer: "The USC first team, the USC second team and the USC freshmen." It is hyperbolic, to say the least, but hearts are high in the card-stunt sections of the Coliseum for the first time in the memory of the new millions who have migrated to the megalopolis of Los Angeles. And all the old clichés of the great days when Jones's teams were hailed by the press as "The Thundering Herd" are abroad, supplanting the ironic parody which substituted "blundering" for "thundering."
A CHARGE FOR 'MARY'
Is the metamorphosis for real or is USC just riding for a giddy fall? The answer, for West Coast seers, seems to lie in the coaching wiles of Don Clark and the dedication of perhaps the best staff of assistants on the West Coast. The Trojan horses are undoubtedly there. The ferocious McKeever twins, Mike and Marlin, spearhead a line charge that could turn the Queen Mary sideways. A savage blocker and tackier named Albie Bansavage will probably be the only All-West Coast lineman from Union City, N.J. The Rams are already interested in Tackle Dan Ficca who is only a junior. The back-field lost the brilliant Willie Wood but has four quarterbacks of relatively equal skill to replace him.
But Don Clark is not a man to resort to psychological props to keep his team at big-game pitch. It is difficult for anyone not a denizen of the Coliseum to understand the depths of the Coast inferiority complex about the Big Ten and other Midwest powerhouses. So regional pride alone can fire the Trojans in games against those opponents, but the more cautious observers wonder whether the incentive will be as powerful against, say, Washington and or Cal. And, good as they are, the Trojans have no place to go. Their energetic recruiting in Pennsylvania and New England found them poaching on the preserves of, among others, Duke Coach Bill Murray. The NCAA promptly banned them from the Rose Bowl for the third time in the past four years. It is expected the Arroyo Seco will be full of the tears of the California rooters this year as they see the best football team on the West Coast watching the Rose Bowl slaughter from the stands.
After he had composed himself and undoubled his fists—by locking himself and his team in the dressing room for half an hour after the game—Woody Hayes drew magnanimous attention to the changed status of his old patsies. "I would like to set the record straight," he said when his historic denigrations of West Coast football had been brought up anew. "Five years ago when I said that, you didn't have a good football team out here. You had a 150-pound linebacker, and 150-pound linebackers don't stop good teams. Now you have got a defense. This is a whale of a defensive team. I think you have an excellent team out here. You didn't have depth in the Rose Bowl. Now you have depth."
As Hayes talked, the USC tackle Dan Ficca, a native of Atlas, Pa., stood on the fringe of the press corps, munching an apple. He stared hard at Hayes, trying to catch his eye. He had earlier rattled the locked doors furiously, trying to get in and taunt the Buckeye coach. Asked if Hayes knew him, Ficca looked scornfully around. "He knows me all right. He tried his damnedest to get me."
As Hayes rattled on, Ficca began to utter audible asides, calling attention to what he considered the high aromatic content of Hayes's line of conversation. Hayes finally permitted himself to look up and spot Ficca. "Hello, Dan," he said mildly. "How do you like it out here on the West Coast? I guess you must like it real well." Ficca stared at him evenly. "I like it even better after tonight," he said spitefully. And he turned and walked off into the night, satisfied. Hayes flushed, shrugged and abruptly terminated the press interview, ignoring the aggrieved Pasadena reporter, Dick Shafer, who was holding his own press conference to explain how Hayes had slammed him into a wall with a punch in the back.
A sports columnist surveyed the scene wryly. "I have a feeling," he drawled. "I just have a feeling I wouldn't like to be the guy who has to play Woody Hayes if he comes to the Rose Bowl this year."