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When the game was over and his team had been soundly beaten, Ohio State Coach Wayne Woodrow Hayes consoled himself 1) by slamming a reporter who got in his way into a concrete wall; and 2) by opining grudgingly to the surviving press: "This is definitely the best West Coast team we have played since I have been coaching. I don't even want to look at the statistics. They must be terrible."
For Ohio State the statistics were terrible: USC had scored 17 points, Ohio State 0; USC had 301 yards rushing, Ohio State 84; USC had 23 first downs, Ohio State 11. The defeat was, to put it mildly, decisive.
But not even the extent of the defeat and the fact it had come against a Big Ten team and might move the USC Trojans into contention for the No. 1 spot in national ranking was as sweet to West Coast rooters as the fact It had come against Coach Woody Hayes, a man popularly regarded in the West as football's answer to Mack the Knife.
In 1955, just after his Big Ten champions had maimed USC in the Rose Bowl 20-7, Hayes was a laughing winner who took to the pressroom podium to claim the vanquished Trojans would be lucky to finish fifth in the Big Ten.
In 1958, just after his 20-point-favorite Buckeyes had barely escaped with their lives against Oregon in the Rose Bowl 10-7, Woody scaled his hat into the postgame press conference and crowed sweetly: "The better team always wins, always. And we won."
It was small wonder that before last Friday night's game in the Los Angeles Coliseum, the customarily matter-of-fact coach of USC, Don Clark, festooned his team's dressing room and coaching office with copies of a framed plaque reading: "After the 1955 Rose Bowl game Coach Woody Hayes said: 'The Trojans were pretty good for a West Coast team. They wouldn't finish higher than fifth in the Big Ten.' " And then, just before game time, a wire conveniently arrived in the Trojan locker room from a nonadmirer in Chicago. Signed anonymously, OLD BUCKEYE, it read: ONCE AGAIN, THE BIG TEN WILL RUN OVER A DEFENSELESS AND OFFENSELESS PACIFIC COAST TEAM. IT WILL BE WORSE THAN IOWA OVER CAL LAST WEEK.
"Old Buckeye" couldn't have been more helpful if he had been an Old Trojan. The USC football squad, the best seen on that campus since the halcyon days of the late Coach Howard Jones, had to file past the telegram on its way to the football field. It was grimly resentful when it lined up to kick off to the young Buckeyes.
Although Coach Clark, in his typically laconic scouting report to his Trojans, had freely predicted, "We're going to have to fight for our life inside," shortly thereafter it was the Ohioans who were righting for their lives inside and out. Ohio ball carriers disintegrated into the middle of the USC line as thoroughly as though they had stepped into vats of boiling grease. It was soon apparent to Woody Hayes, fretting on the sideline, that the West Coast worm had turned and his players were on the field against a very good football team indeed. By the half, Ohio State had gained only 25 net yards rushing and 13 yards passing, and the pretty pearl-gray pants and white shirts of Hayes's heavier but slower team had been caked with the brown dirt of the Dodgers' baseball infield as soon as they had scrimmaged. Even the Buckeyes' incomparable Bob White, who, the Trojans had been warned, had never lost a yard in his collegiate career, barely lived up to his reputation, with an average of only two yards-plus per carry.
Ohio, of course, played typical head-knocking Big Ten football and the Trojans were hardly running away with the game, but a field goal from the State 10-yard line by Don Zachik and a kangaroo catch by Trojan End Luther Hayes, with five seconds to go, made the half-time score 9-0.
The second half was even more of a disaster for the proud Hayes, who fumed on the sidelines as his squad took a physical as well as a scoreboard beating. Once when the Buckeyes mounted a drive against the USC second unit that carried to the USC 13-yard line, Clark sent his first team back into the game, and Fullback White was stopped for his first two yardage losses. USC took over the ball on its 6 and shortly thereafter had another touchdown and a two-point conversion. Probably the finest tribute to USC was the fact that Hayes's team, which has been taught that throwing a forward pass is about on a par with playing with dolls, something a grown football player never indulges in, went to the air 12 times.