The prospective laurels of college football—conference titles, national ranking and bowl bids—can do strange things to men. Take Ohio State's Woody Hayes. Ohio State, with the Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl bid at stake, was playing Michigan, its traditional rival, and it needed a victory, a big victory.
With only 34 seconds remaining in the game and many in the crowd of 80,444 grouped along the sidelines, waiting to assault the goal posts, Ohio State had its big victory 42-20. It also had the ball on its own 20-yard line, so that a simple plunge into the line would end the game and Michigan's suffering. But State's quarterback, Joe Sparma, acting on the advice of Hayes, dropped back and threw a 50-yard pass to Halfback Paul Warfield, who was run out of bounds at the 10. Sparma then passed to End Sam Tidmore in the end zone for a touchdown. As an ultimate insult, Sparma again threw to Tidmore for a 2-point conversion. The final score was 50-20, making the victory even more impressive.
As far as State fans were concerned, that last touchdown settled a grudge that had stood since 1948 when Michigan Coach Fritz Crisler ordered a 13-yard field goal in the last two minutes to beat Ohio State 58-6. But revenge was not the reason State's Woody Hayes wanted to rack up more points.
"We were going for national recognition," he said, after getting a cold shoulder, palm-brush handshake from Michigan Coach Bump Elliott. "Let's not kid ourselves. It was a question of being the No. 1 team in the country (in place of idle Alabama) or No. 2. One or two extra touchdowns aren't going to hurt Bump Elliott or Michigan."
If the Buckeyes miss the Hayes-aspired national recognition this week, it won't be for the lack of an all-out effort by 217-pound Bob Ferguson, the nation's finest fullback. Ferguson drove into the Michigan line 30 times for 152 yards and four touchdowns. When he wasn't carrying the ball, he was faking beautifully into the line so that alternating Quarterbacks Sparma and John Mummey would have a split-second edge on their hand-offs, bootleg runs and passes.
Although State's victory gave it an undefeated season (including a first-game tie with TCU) and a possible No. 1 national ranking, it did not insure clear-cut championship of the Big Ten and a trip to the Rose Bowl. For that Ohio State had to await the result of the Minnesota-Wisconsin game, since Minnesota, too, was undefeated in the Big Ten.
It was a pleasant wait. Earlier in the season Minnesota Quarterback Sandy Stephens made the mistake of saying that his team had three tough games left—Michigan State, Iowa and Purdue. Keyed up by large placards bearing Stephens' words, Wisconsin beat Minnesota 23-21, the winning points coming on a 31-yard field goal by Jim Bakken.
Wisconsin's strategy was simple: it let Quarterback Ron Miller throw the ball almost every time he got it, usually toward his 6-foot-5-inch End Pat Richter. Miller completed 19 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns. Richter caught six of the passes, including the two for touchdowns.
It was with barely three minutes left that Bakken made his held goal, and certainly it was a lesson in perseverance. Already Bakken had tried and missed five field goals. His sixth attempt went cleanly through, and Wisconsin had a 23-15 lead. It needed those points, too, as Minnesota came back to score a touchdown and make it 23-21. But Stephens' pass for two points and a tie was batted down by none other than Mr. Bakken.
Thus, compliments of Wisconsin, Ohio State won its fourth Big Ten title in 10 years and a certain invitation to the Rose Bowl. UCLA will play State, having earned that dubious honor by defeating Southern California 10-7. It was the first time since 1952 that these teams played for the right to represent the West Coast in the Rose Bowl, and in spite of a hard, steady rain and mediocre records, 57,580 people watched the game.