While Ohio State's strategy would involve probing the USC team for real or imagined weaknesses, the Trojans were almost complacent. Explained Houck, "Our game plan is to run right at them." Actually, the much-revered "game plan" is often not all that big a deal. For example, USC's was contained on a single page and simply listed the normal game situations and the plays the Trojan brain trust would like to see run. There were similar lists for bombs, short passes, two-minute offense, 25 yards in, 10 yards in and so forth. In comparison with the pages of computer printouts, it was a singularly unimposing document. But Trojan Quarterback Coach Paul Hackett said the only thing that had generally changed much in USC's game plan over the season was the deployment on long pass plays.
Not so on New Year's Day. Ohio State was effective in pushing USC out of its game plan and forced the Trojans to pass earlier in the game than they had anticipated. Watching Schlichter in action, Robinson thought to himself, "Now, he's going to get 21 points on us. We can't afford not to wheel and deal because we're not going to control him."
In the press box were four OSU coaches, hooked in to the other four coaches and an occasional player on the field by five phone lines; USC had a similar setup. It's the role of the people upstairs to get the down and distance correct, to spot openings, to note defensive adjustments, to make suggestions, to detect changes in the opponent's usual way of doing things, to scream, bang fists, cheerlead, knock over coffee and curse. Theirs is a fragmented and anguished three hours, for they see things coming before the players do but too late to do anything about them. The final decisions on plays and defenses are made down on the field. But despite the emotion up above, Trojan Offensive Backs Coach John Jackson says, "We strive to be businesslike."
First quarter, Tucker: "You watch the tight ends and tackles. Try to concentrate on what they're doing and...."
Carroll: "What was the Arkansas score?"
The Buckeyes got an early break when the Trojans couldn't punch it over with 10:53 to play in the first quarter. At fourth-and-one on the Ohio State five, Robinson called for Pass 22 Gut—a Quarterback Paul McDonald pass to Tight End Vic Rakhshani—an old reliable that had worked 12 out of 12 times over the past two years. It failed. Later in the first quarter, with USC ahead 3-0 on a 41-yard field goal by Eric Hipp, Schlichter served notice of his impending extraordinary performance (289 yards passing) on a third-and-five at his own 45-yard line.
Tucker: "Looks like Art is audibling."
Carroll: "Yeah, hey, Williams is deep. All right!"
Which it was, the ball settling into the soft hands of Split End Gary Williams at the 19, who then ran it to the Trojan two.
OSU's Mason: "Let's get it in there. Way to go, Bucks."