This is the fourth of a series in which BuckeyeSports.com provides an overview of the second season as head coach at Ohio State for six of Urban Meyer's predecessors. We began with Francis Schmidt and continued with Paul Brown and Woody Hayes. John Cooper and Jim Tressel to follow this week.
Ohio State Football Year 2 Overview: 1980
Coach: Earle Bruce
Previous season record (finish): 11-1, 8-0 Big Ten (1st)
Defensive backs Todd Bell, Ray Ellis and Vince Skillings, flanker Doug Donley, tailback Calvin Murray, offensive lineman Joe Lukens, linebacker Marcus Marek, defensive tackle Jerome Foster and kicker Vlade Janakievski were all named first-team All-Big Ten that season. Donley, Murray, Ellis and Keith Ferguson served as captains.
Also among the returning starters were sophomore split end Gary Williams and junior Art Schlichter, who returned for his third year as the starter at quarterback.
After starting the season 3-0, second-ranked Ohio State had a 14-game regular season winning streak snapped with a 17-0 loss at No. 11 UCLA.
A week before losing to the Bruins, the Buckeyes beat No. 20 Arizona State 38-21 as Schlichter threw three touchdown passes, including two to Donley and one to Williams.
Ohio State rebounded from the loss to UCLA by scoring a modern OSU record eight rushing touchdowns while pounding Northwestern 63-0 in Evanston, then played host to a 4-1 Indiana squad coached by Lee Corso. The Buckeyes beat the Hoosiers 27-17 as Murray ran wild. The senior piled up 224 yards rushing and scored a pair of touchdowns for the Scarlet and Gray.
One of the most memorable games in Ohio State history occurred Nov. 8 when Illinois visited Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes gained 498 yards, including 284 through the air via Schlichter, but their offense and quarterback were overshadowed by the Fighting Illini and signal caller Dave Wilson, who completed 43 of 69 passes for an NCAA then-record 621 yards. Against a defensive secondary coached by a young Nick Saban, Wilson and the Illini set still-standing Ohio State opponent records for completions, yards passing, passing touchdowns (six), first downs (36) and total yards (659). The Buckeyes prevailed 49-42 thanks in large part to forcing seven turnovers, including three interceptions.
Other developments (strategy, injuries, etc.):
Ohio State continued to evolve from the “Three yards and a cloud of dust” days of Woody Hayes as Schlichter broke his own single-season school record with 1,930 yards passing. His favorite target, Donley, also broke his own one-year-old school single-season record with 800 yards receiving on 37 catches.
The Buckeyes’ running game remained strong, however, as they led the Big Ten by averaging 268.7 yards per game on the ground during Big Ten play. Murray ran for 1,217 yards on 195 carries and was named the team MVP. His 916 yards rushing during Big Ten play led the league. Ohio State also led the conference in scoring at 37.4 points per game.
Marek led the team with 140 tackles and earned Academic All-America honors.
After the season, Bruce fired Saban along with defensive coordinator Dennis Fryzel and line coach Steve Szabo. The trio had overseen a unit that allowed more points (252 in 12 games) than any in the previous 91 seasons of Ohio State football.
How’d it end up?
Ohio State shook off the loss to the Bruins to run off seven consecutive Big Ten wins. The Buckeyes rose to No. 5 in the national polls and played host to Michigan hoping to clinch a second straight Big Ten title and trip to the Rose Bowl. That was not to be, however, as the 10th-ranked Wolverines put the clamps on an Ohio State offense that entered the contest averaging 36.5 points per game. The Buckeyes managed only a Janakievski field goal while Michigan countered with a field goal by Ali Haji Sheikh and a touchdown pass from John Wangler to Anthony Carter.
The loss to Michigan sent Ohio State to the Fiesta Bowl, where the 11th-ranked Buckeyes lost 31-19 to No. 10 Penn State. The Buckeyes built a 19-7 lead in the second quarter before yielding 24 unanswered points. PSU tailback Curt Warner accounted for 155 of the Nittany Lions’ 351 yards rushing and scored on a 64-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. Schlichter threw for 302 yards in the loss but was intercepted three times. Both Donley and Williams eclipsed the century mark in receiving yards in the same game for the third time that season.
The Buckeyes finished the season 9-3 overall and 7-1 in Big Ten play, good for second in the conference. They ended the season ranked 15th in both national polls.