Another national championship this season would mean something special to this most cantankerous and yet fascinating of coaches. It would give him five such titles, tying him with people like Frank Leahy and Bernie Bierman as having the most ever—and it would put him safely and surprisingly up on a number of coaching geniuses like Bear Bryant, Knute Rockne and Wilkinson, who each won only three. And next year of course Woody would have a chance to make it six, given the good health of Rex Kern and Jack Tatum.
Kern was involved in three plays against Purdue that demonstrated precisely what kind of athlete he is. On one of them he proved he has as good an arm as anyone when he drifted back to throw that long touchdown pass to End Bruce Jankowski. The Purdue rush, big and tall, was bearing right into him, right there in his face, but Rex let sail a beauty that must have traveled 40 yards in the air and Jankowski never broke stride to take it between two defenders who were half a step late. This was the play that made the score 28-0, a runaway, for it also proved not only to Purdue but to the national television audience that Ohio State can beat you every way there is.
Kern does a lot of running on intentional option keeps but he rambles just as well when he darts out of a passing pocket and improvises. Doing both he got nearly 100 yards on the Boilermakers, but he gave back a whole bunch of it the one time the Purdue rush trapped him. Anyhow, there was this one special time when Rex came out of the pocket and steamed upfield and hurled himself headlong into a clutch of defenders. It took one of them a couple of moments to get up while Rex bounded back to the huddle clapping his hands.
The other time when Kern showed what kind of iron framework he has was when he unleashed a long incompletion under another furious rush. The instant the ball left his hand a big Purdue end, Bill McKoy, who happens to be 6'4", 230 and mean, popped him so hard Kern did an absolute backward flip and sort of skidded to a halt. At first it looked as if several things had been broken because Rex held his chest and moved slowly. In a minute, however, he was running as fanatically as ever, looking for somebody to hit.
Although he has splendid help from players like Otis and Leo Hayden and Larry Zelina, Kern is the player who gives Ohio State a great attack, just as Jack Tatum stands out among Lou McCullough's glittering array of defenders, which include the nose guard Jim Still-wagon, the other stars in the secondary such as Mike Sensibaugh, Ted Provost and Tim Anderson and Linebacker Phil Strickland. All of their headgear are littered with those leafy decals for valor. Buckeye leaves. They get them all kinds of ways, and as many as 42 have been awarded in a single game. They wear them only on the right, which may or may not have any significance.
The unfortunate thing about this Ohio State team, as we all know, is that it has no place to go on New Year's Day. Woody has said that if—if, he stresses—his team winds up No. 1, it will be a shame to hide it, this being the centennial year of college football. He would go back to the Rose Bowl if the Big Ten would waive the no-repeat rule, or he would even go somewhere else to play Texas or whoever winds up No. 2. The chance remains slim, however, that the Big Ten faculty representatives will permit it. College football might be 100 years old, but books and lectures are older.
And anyhow, it might not be so bad to spend the holidays the way Halfback Larry Zelina expects to spend them in Ohio.
"It might be kind of fun to sit by the fire on New Year's Day and watch all the games," Zelina said. "Knowing you're No. 1."