The mood in Columbus the night before Ohio State played Purdue was low key—or even low Keyes. The patrons in Benny Klein's were more interested in watching the belly dancer run her patterns than in what patterns might be run in the next day's football game. The Caravel Lounge in the Sheraton-Columbus Motor Hotel was empty. There was a little action in the Knaves' Cave of the Imperial House, where the Purdue team and many of its rooters were quartered. Yet there, when the entertainers called for someone to come up and lead the crowd in the Purdue fight song, nobody volunteered. Maybe that was because as late as last Thursday the motel still had WELCOME OREGON—Ohio State's opponent the previous Saturday—on its marquee.
Even Woody Hayes, the usually grim and volatile Ohio State coach, was quiet. Never mind that Purdue had already wrecked Virginia, Notre Dame and Northwestern and was the No. 1 team in the nation. Or that Leroy Keyes, the Boilermakers' All-America, was one of the best this-that-and-everythings around. Or that Mike Phipps, the cool quarterback, could hit a needle in the eye with a football at 40 yards. Or that the Purdue defensive line was as forbidding—and maybe as heavy—as the Berlin Wall.
But if Hayes was relaxed, he was far from casual about Purdue. Indeed, he had thought of precious little else since the day a year ago that the Boilermakers mashed his Buckeyes 41-6 After that one, Hayes had thanked Coach Jack Mollenkopf for not pouring it on his ruined team. "It was horribly humiliating," Woody kept telling people.
It is not a good idea to humiliate Woody Hayes. The elephant of Columbus doesn't forget. So it was not surprising that Hayes spent most of spring practice getting ready for Purdue. The week before the Oregon game he even used three practice days working on offensive and defensive maneuvers specially designed for the Boilermakers.
October 20, 1968
Purdue's Mollenkopf, meanwhile, was concerned about Ohio State's pass defense. "They've used two different ones in their two games," he said, "and who knows what Woody will come up with tomorrow?" In that case, would he use Keyes more as a runner? "Well, I just don't know," he said. "We'll just have to see how it goes."
How it went Saturday afternoon as a record 84,834—minus 74 Purdue boosters whose chartered plane was grounded by the weather back in West Lafayette—watched in Ohio Stadium was lousy, at least when seen from Mollenkopf's seat. Ohio State's small but quick defense stopped the powerful Boilermakers cold—passing and running. The Buckeyes held Keyes to a mere 19 yards in seven carries and limited him to only four pass receptions, his worst day on offense since kindergarten, and they hit Phipps with a tidal wave of a pass rush, the likes of which he had never drowned under before. When the Buckeyes were done, their 13-0 victory had looked absurdly easy.
Although the Ohio State offense piled up 411 yards, the victory applause belonged to the defense. It was well tuned and well coached. Purdue, which had averaged better than 41 points and 437 yards a game, was held to 57 yards rushing. Phipps alone was thrown seven times for 58 yards in losses. It also was the first time in three years that a Purdue team was shut out. Chiefly responsible for this first-class beating down of No. 1 were Dave Whitfield, a 185-pound end, Paul Schmidlin and Brad Nielsen, a pair of 220-pound tackles, and Jim Stillwagon, a sophomore middle guard. Primarily because of them, Phipps could manage only 10 completions in 28 attempts before he was shaken up and removed from the game with about 12 minutes to play. Meanwhile, Cornerback Jack Tatum and Halfback Ted Provost took turns playing Keyes when he lined up at flanker, which was most of the time, and they were never more than a breath away from Leroy.
Ohio State's game plan was simple. It was chalked in large letters on a blackboard in the OSU dressing room: KEEP COOL BABY and RUN THOSE FAT TACKLES TO DEATH. The Buckeyes followed both orders exceptionally well. Sophomore Quarterback Rex Kern, one of nine sophomores in the starting Ohio State lineup, supplied the cool and Fullback Jim Otis ran the tackles for 144 yards in 29 carries.
Kern, the son of a Lancaster", Ohio, barber, was on almost every college coach's recruiting list during his senior year of high school. It was no coincidence that Woody Hayes used to make the 26-mile trip to Lancaster once a week to get his hair cut. Hayes and Fred Taylor, the Ohio State basketball coach who also wanted Kern, finally persuaded him to come to OSU.
An impish redhead who likes to gamble on the football field, Kern enjoys an independence that Ohio State quarterbacks have rarely had under Hayes, including permission to call some of the plays. He called one in the SMU game that says all one needs to know about him. With fourth and 11 on the SMU 41-yard line and his team leading 20-7 late in the first half, Kern brusquely waved off a punter Hayes sent into the game and ran the ball himself—for 16 yards and a first down. A moment later he threw a 25-yard touchdown pass.
Kern not only has gall, he has courage. He underwent a spinal disc operation in June, but by the first week in September he had beaten out Bill Long, who was the starting quarterback the past two years. Kern got a helmet in the jaw in the Oregon game and spent last week wearing a bird cage on his sore chin and eating mush, which off his performance—eight of 16 passes for 78 yards and 45 yards rushing—might mean mush replaces sirloin at the OSU training table. On three occasions in a scoreless first half his runs and passes led the Buckeyes down the field, but each time OSU kickers missed field goals.
The Ohio State defense took matters into its own hands in the second half. On the fourth play of the third quarter, Provost picked off one of Phipps's passes on the Purdue 34-yard line and ran it back for a touchdown. Ten minutes later a second interception, this one by Still-wagon on the Purdue 25, set up another score. Otis plunged for nine yards and then seven, but Kern was hit for a six-yard loss back to the 14 and suffered a bruised shoulder on the play. He was replaced by Long, who faded to pass but was unable to find an open receiver so he ran—right up the middle for a touchdown. The extra point made it 13-0.
After that Ohio State set out to protect the lead the way Woody Hayes knows best—fullback inside the tackles and never mind the dust. The Buckeyes did not throw another pass and Otis hammered away at the weary Purdue line.
The Boilermakers had one good chance to score after recovering a fumble by Otis on the OSU 34 early in the fourth quarter. They moved to a first down on the eight, but for some reason Keyes did not get the ball in the next four plays, and Purdue died. Keyes' role for the entire day, in fact, was something of a mystery. He suffered a back bruise around midweek, but Mollenkopf said later this did not hamper him. When USC gets in trouble O. J. Simpson carries 47 times. But with Purdue in trouble, Keyes carried only seven times.
When it was all over Mollenkopf was roaming the field looking for Woody Hayes to congratulate him, but Woody was busy being lifted to the shoulders of some of his stalwart young athletes. Mollenkopf finally found him, and this time Hayes wasn't saying thank you for taking it easy. The chimes, which ring out whenever OSU wins in Ohio Stadium, began to sound and they never sounded sweeter to Woody.
Later, his silvery hair tousled, his short-sleeved white nylon shirt hanging out of his trousers and his tie askew, Hayes struggled to get the plastic cover off a container of Coke in the Ohio State dressing room. "That was the finest defensive effort I've ever seen," he said happily. "It was unbelievable the way our little kids just overpowered their big blockers. But I had nothing to do with it. I don't monkey with the defense. The credit goes to the kids and our four defensive coaches—Lou McCullough, Bill Mallory, Lou Holtz and Esco Sarkkinen. They're the ones."
Over in the Purdue dressing room Mollenkopf, his team's No. 1 ranking gone and his hopes of winning the Big Ten championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl all but gone, tried to explain why Keyes didn't carry the ball more than seven times, and only once in the second half.
"We thought we could do a lot of things, but they wouldn't let us," he said glumly. "That defense was magnificent. We kept Leroy at flanker because their ends were taking his running game away from him. They were coming straight in and their good linebackers were filling in beautifully. There was nowhere for him to run. I think Woody outcoached me."
Over the years, Woody Hayes has done that to a lot of people.