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Just keep cool, baby, and run those fat tackles
Mervin Hyman
October 21, 1968
Those were the instructions on the Ohio State blackboard, and the Buckeyes followed them perfectly as they locked up Leroy Keyes, held shocked Purdue scoreless and avenged Woody Hayes
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October 21, 1968

Just Keep Cool, Baby, And Run Those Fat Tackles

Those were the instructions on the Ohio State blackboard, and the Buckeyes followed them perfectly as they locked up Leroy Keyes, held shocked Purdue scoreless and avenged Woody Hayes

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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.

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.

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