Ohio State 17
By Dwain Esper
The Big Red made up for the blues of 30 years on New Year's Day 1971.
With Jim Plunkett fashioning an explosive aerial bombardment and a clutch second half defense making the big plays, Stanford exploded for a stunning 27-17 victory over mighty Ohio State Friday before 103,839 spectators and a nation-wide television audience in the 57th Rose Bowl game.
Much maligned because of an 8-3 regular season record and a history of disintegration in the major assignments, the Indians forced their critics to take cover on another magnificent day of football in Pasadena.
Plunkett guided Stanford to a quick 10-0 first quarter lead. But the Buckeyes, who had won 27 of their last 28 games, came back to forge a 14-10 halftime advantage.
Trailing117-13 going into the final period, the Indians rose to super heights for the two touchdowns that knocked the Buckeyes out of the national championship.
It was Stanford’s first Rose Bowl win since 1941.
The heroes were many on this day of days for the Big Red. But nobody contributed so much as the magnificent Plunkett, the peerless passer.
No matter what Ohio State did on defense, Plunkett countered with shrewd audibles on the line of scrimmage. His strong, right arm pierced vital holes in the previously unviolated Buckeye barricade. Plunkett threw 30 times for 265 yards and one touchdown. Another 35 yard strike set up the go-ahead score in the fourth period. In addition Plunkett called his own signal on the quarterback draw plays for three good gains in key situations.
“No, I don’t think he ever played a better game," said Stanford coach John Ralston, enjoying his first bowl win in seven tries as a player and coach. "This really was a fine performance by Jim."
Even Woody Hayes, the gruff Ohio State coach, had to agree.
"Yes, he's a great passer,” Hayes admitted. "But, remember, he’s got great receivers, too."
Hayes is usually correct. Randy Vataha Stanford's slick rabbit sneaked his way clear for six receptions and a touch down that put the game away. Bob Moore, the tight end, caught five for a whopping 113 yards. Included in his bag was a fantastic grab for 35 yards to the Buckeye two, paving the way for a touchdown. Demea Washington, the split end, also grabbed six for 80 more yards.
There were more heroes.
How about Steve Horowitz, who boomed a Rose Bowl record 48-yard field goal and added several long distance kickoffs. And Jack Schultz, the South Pasadena safetyman, who choked off Ohio State's last bid for victory with a diving interception of a Rex Kern pass. This, too, led to a touchdown.
And there was Glendora's Ron Kadziel, who smashed back Ohio State's burly fullback, John Brockington on a fourth down play at the Stanford 20. Kadkiel's tackle snuffed out a long Buckeye drive that threatened to put the game out of Stanford's reach.
They all wore the Big Red with pride.
"Of course, it's one of our big wins," said Ralston, who has taken his share of criticism over the years. "But never would I call it bigger than our 24-14 victory over USC."
The Trojans had victimized the Indians for 12 straight years before that memorable afternoon in Stanford Stadium.
Nevertheless, subsequent developments diminished the triumph over Troy. But nothing can obscure the victory achieved at the expense of Ohio State, rated by many as one of the great collegiate teams of all time.
Momentum swung back and forth across the line of scrimmage in this vicious, struggle. Stanford had it first after the initial Buckeye drive sputtered to a stop on the Indian 41.
Ralston cooked up a dazzler for the first Indian play of the afternoon. Flanker Eric Cross took a reverse from Plunkett and romped down the east sidelines for 41 yards to the Buckeye 18. Plunkett then passed to Bob Moore for an apparent touchdown. But an illegal procedure penalty nullified the score.
Refusing to let the momentary setback obscure his target, Plunkett worked the quarterback draw for 13 yards. And he induced five more yards when an eager Buckeye piled on.
"The key to the draw was where Jim Stillwagon (State middle guard) went," said Plunkett. "Our center, John Sande, took him where he wanted to go and I went to the other side.”
On second down from the four, Jackie Brown followed a block by guard Dan Lightfoot around right end to the end zone Horowitz added the extra point and Stanford led 7-0 after less than five minutes of play.
The Indian defense then hurled Ohio State back for one of the few times during the afternoon. Three straight passes carried to the Buckeye 19. But Ohio State forced Stanford back, bringing on a 37-yard field goal by Horowitz.
Down 10-0, the Buckeyes claimed the kickoff on their own 35. Came then a surprise by Hayes- a pitchback from Kern to the split end Bruce Jankowski around the right side. Jankowski galloped for 37 yards to the Stanford 28.
“They never used that play before," said Ralston, shuddering as he recalled.
The slick Kern rolled right end for 23 yards to the Tribe five. Three plays later, Brockington pounded over from the one for the touchdown.
And this brought back some bitter memories for Pacific-8 supporters. USC led Ohio State 10-0 two years ago. But the Trojans couldn't stand the prosperity and succumbed 27-16.
“Yes, I remembered that game," said Ralston.
Fred Schram kicked goal to narrow Stanford's lead to 10-7 with four minutes to go in the quarter.
Obviously inspired by the score, the Buckeye defense solved Plunkett on the next series, forcing a Stanford punt to the Ohio 45.
Kern immediately got off on a 32-yard keeper around right to the Indian 28. Operating out of the Wishbone triple option T formation and the fullhouse T., Kern was able to exploit the confused Stanford defense for great gobs of yardage
“One of the reasons Kern hurt us so much in the first half was we were so eager," said Stanford defensive-guard Larry Butler. "We overran him on those keepers, and he cut back for big gains."
Kern gained 99 of his 139 net yards before-intermission in an unbelievable display of option running.
The Buckeyes powered their way to the go-ahead touchdown which once again was scored by Brockington from the one.
So four plays into the second period, Ohio State was on top 14-10.
The Buckeyes pieced together another drive from their own 40 to the Stanford three
But, Schram's attempted 20 yard field goal was blocked by Benny Barnes.
Plunkett unloaded a march from his 20 to the Buckeye five on passes to Moore (23 yards) and Washington (twice for 15 and 32). But with a third down on the seven, Moore took a handoff on the end around play. Moore fumbled when hit by safetyman Mike Sensibaugh with Mark Debeve recovering for the Buckeyes.
"That was a hard one to accept," said Plunkett. "If Bob could have gotten by Sensibaugh, I think it would-have been a touchdown."
Disappointed, but not discouraged, the Indians went to the dressing room on the short the end of the score. They had given up 226 rushing yards to Kern's tricky and powerful arsenal. Some changes had to be made.
"We went over our option responsibilities," said Ralston, "That was a problem for us. We told our defenders that they should not let up. If they were to make a mistake, make it aggressively."
Offensive tackle Steve Jubb, the Muir product, wasn't worried.
"Our offense had shown it could move the ball," said Jubb. "I felt we were on top all the way."
The Indians were apprehensive as they came out for third quarter.
"This was a key quarter for us," said Ralston. "We impressed on our team that Ohio State had outscored its opponents 90-9 in the third quarter during the regular season."
Stanford got the jump by taking the kickoff on the 35 and riding two Plunkett passes to the Buckeye 38. But the Buckeyes stiffened, bringing on Horowitz for his 48 yard field goal, which broke the Rose Bowl record of 44 by Washington's George Fleming against Minnesota in 1961.
Still ahead 14-13, Kern retaliated with another crunching march from the Ohio State 31 to the Stanford 15. Schram got the three points back with a 32-yard field goal.
When Steve Murray punted out of bounds on the Ohio State six, Stanford supporters exploded with a resounding cheer. But Kern had a quick answer for them with a nifty 23 yard lob pass to Leo Hayden to the 40. Executing his options with precision and deceptiveness, Kern kept up the pressure until he reached the Stanford 20 with down third and one to go.
First, Dick Galbos tried to smash right tackle, but Butler was there to hold him for no gain.Then the hard-charging Brockington tried right tackle. There was Kadziel to make the stop inches short of the first down.
"Sure it was our goal line defense," said Ralston. "You don't have to be brilliant to know that Brockington would carry the ball either.”
Said Hayes: "When we were stopped on the Stanford 20, that had to be the turning point."
Of course, the Indians still were a long 80 yards away.
While the huge throng thundered its approval, Plunkett opened fire with a six yard strike to Washington. Then 10 more to Washington. He added 10 on a quarterback draw.
"He called at least 25 audibles during the game," said Ralston.
"Ohio State had all kinds of defenses," said Plunkett. I tried to call the right play, and I think I did a good job in that respect."
Right down the field came the Indians until they reached the Buckeye 28. Here Vataha was called upon to pass after taking a reverse from Plunkett. But the Buckeyes read the play perfectly, with Sensibaugh executing a safety blitz to nail Vataha for a nine-yard loss.
"The safety blitz was something they hadn't done before,” said Ralston.
So Plunkett was faced with a third-and-15 at the 37. He dropped to pass hoping that Vataha would break clear in the left zone. Unfortunately, Vataha was covered. Flushed out of the, pocket, Plunkett rolled to his right. Then he lofted a long bomb down the field to Moore, closely covered by Sensibaugh. Somehow Moore made the catch over Sensibaugh and he came to the turf at the two.
"That mad-dog pass to Moore should never have happened,” snapped Hayes.
Said Moore: “When Jim had to move out of the pocket, I went deep. I knew somebody was there, but he laid the ball out there perfectly. Either I catch it, or it goes out of bounds.”
Three plays later, Brown broke over right end for the touchdown from the one. After Horowitz’ conversion, lo and behold, the underdog Indians were leading 20-17 with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
But a big play was yet to come.
On third down from his own 18, Kern tried to pass to Jankowski in the left zone. Schultz stepped in front of Jankowski and made a diving interception at the Ohio State 25.
“We were in an inverted zone defense," recalled Schultz, who co-captains the Stanford team along with Plunkett. "I read Kern's eyes, and it looked like he might throw. So I fell back. Luckily, I got my hand on the ball.”
"Jack made a real big play," said Ralston, in a master of understatement.
Not one to cast away opportunity, Plunkett immediately passed to Vataha for 11 yards. On third down from the 10, he rifled another one to Vataha for the clinching touchdown (video).
Said the Rabbit: “It was just a simple curl pattern. I gave their halfback (Harry Howard) a fake step to the right. Then I cut over the middle. And the ball was right there."
Suffering from a charley horse and a severe pounding from the Stanford defense,
Kern shared quarterback duties with Ron Maciejowski for the remaining 6 ½ minutes. Neither could promote a Buckeye threat.
And, as the seconds ticked Ohio State into doom, the elated Stanford players pounded each other into the Rose Bowl sod. And their supporters, frustrated and humiliated over the past three decades, cascaded down from the stands to join in the celebration.
In the dressing room, Jim Plunkett was mobbed by members of the media. Asked how this compared with winning the Heisman Trophy, the poised Indian quarterback softly declared: "I consider them both team victories.”
The Big Red will miss this man. He gave them some moments they'll never forget. Especially, New Year's Day 1971.
|Jim Plunkett||John Brockington|
|Randy Vataha scores final TD.|
Plunkett fires pass downfield.