Somewhere back in the history of college football there was a stereotyped coach, complete with growl, baggy canvas pants, baseball cap and whistle around the neck who conjured up the myth that freshmen cannot play varsity ball because they are inexperienced and undeveloped. Innocently, the world has lived with that myth for quite a while, without questioning it, except during the periods of the Second World War and the Korean involvement. Freshmen cannot play. Not ready yet. That's it.
Well, here we all now sit in Ohio Stadium, all 86,000 of us, right here on the banks of Woody Hayes' Olentangy River in Columbus, in utter and complete shock at the whirling, dashing sight of 18-year-old Archie Griffin, freshman tailback, three days in classes at Ohio State, who has just ripped off a record 239 yards inside a 50-year-old cement edifice that has seen the cleats of the very best. Archie Griffin has just spun off wicked runs of 55 yards and 32 yards and 22 yards and 20 yards and 11 yards and assorted runs of six and eight and nine yards. He has sneaked through tiny little holes in the line, and he has slid outside and tiptoed down sidelines. He has bumped into people from North Carolina and knocked them down. He has burst into the sunlight of the secondary and darted this way and that. He has scored a touchdown and set up other touchdowns and a field goal and won a game for the Buckeyes, the final score being 29-14.
This is essentially a fullback's ball park. Ohio Stadium belongs to all of those fellows from Woody Hayes' past who run a thing called the Robust-T arid who send thunder into the minds of visitors. This is a place where the 86,000 are accustomed to watching gentlemen like Hubert Bobo and Will Sander and Bob White and Matt Snell and Bob Ferguson and Jim Otis and John Brockington go bang-crash-crunch into people while most of them are wondering why they keep coming out to see it and agree that they probably wouldn't if Woody's teams didn't always win much more than they lose.
But into this fullback's paradise, and in front of the roaring crowd, came this teen-ager last Saturday to break a 27-year-old Buckeye rushing record with astonishing ease, and break the Tar Heels along with it. As North Carolina's Bill Dooley said afterward, "We came here not even knowing Archie Griffin existed, and now you tell me he's a freshman!"
Griffin was most likely a happy surprise to Woody Hayes himself, although Woody outfought Navy and Northwestern to recruit him last spring. Probably talked him into staying home during lunch one afternoon at Woody's favorite eatery, the Big Bear Supermarket.
Ohio State played an opening game two weeks prior to North Carolina, and in that 21-0 victory over Iowa, Archie Griffin, freshman, had appeared for only a moment. Toward the end. Now he's averaging 119.5 yards a game.
Anyone following Columbus high school football might have guessed on Friday evening that the weekend would belong to the Griffin family. James, who is a factory laborer, and his wife Margaret have eight children and live on Kenview Road, across town from the Ohio State campus. On Friday night in a smaller stadium and a smaller game, Ray Griffin, who is a high school junior, sped through the rain for touchdowns of 68, 19 and 16 yards, as Eastmoor High defeated Central High 30-14. So it would seem that Woody Hayes, as well as the football world, can look forward to seeing a lot of Griffins in the future. It would seem unthinkable now that Archie and Ray wouldn't want to play in the same Ohio State backfield.
Archie did not get in the North Carolina game last week until Ohio State trailed by 7-0, thanks to a blocked punt, and until starting Tailback Morris Bradshaw had shown he could not gain any yardage. Archie, who is only 5'10" and weighs 185, came in, just an insignificant No. 45 on your program, a tailback in the Power-I that Woody runs when he isn't in the Robust-T.
First play, Archie Griffin goes outside for six yards. Second play, Archie goes inside for six yards. Another play, Archie goes inside for six more yards. Griffin got the call only once after that, so Ohio State stalled. Ah, but the next time. On first down, there went Archie wriggling, turning on the speed, 32 yards. Ohio State was finally untracked.
A rare Hayes-ordered pass, from Quarterback Greg Hare to Rick Galbos, worked, and then it was Archie Griffin for six straight carries to what wound up being a field goal, mainly because Archie didn't carry anymore.