This is the third 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. Earle Bruce, John Cooper and Jim Tressel to follow this week.
Ohio State Football Coaches Year 2 Overview: 1952
Coach: Woody Hayes
Previous season record (finish): 4-3-2, 2-2-2 Big Ten (fifth)
Notable players: Mike Takacs was named a first-team All-American while fellow guard James Reichenbach was picked first-team All-Big Ten along with teammates George Jacoby, Tony Curcillo and Fred Bruney. Curcillo, a senior, had been the Buckeyes’ quarterback but moved to linebacker to make room for John Borton, a sophomore from Alliance. Freshman halfback Howard “Hopalong” Cassady joined Bruney and John Hlay in the backfield. Bernie Skvarka served as team captain.
Notable games: Cassady, who would go on to help the Buckeyes to the 1954 national championship and win the 1955 Heisman Trophy, made his college debut in the season opener against Indiana. The Columbus Central High School product came off the bench to score three touchdowns as Ohio State rallied to defeat the Hoosiers.
A 23-14 victory at No. 1 Wisconsin on Oct. 11 marked Ohio State’s first defeat of the nation’s top-ranked team and the only time the Badgers have been ranked No. 1. Cassady caught a 45-yard touchdown pass and had runs of 45 and 46 yards on his way to amassing 113 yards rushing on just nine carries.
Borton completed 15 of 17 passes for a 312 yards in a 35-7 win over Washington State, becoming the first Buckeye quarterback to go over the 300-yard mark in a game. He also threw five touchdown passes to establish a single-game OSU record that has been equalled but never surpassed, and Borton’s 339.4 passer rating that day remains the school record and No. 3 in Big Ten history. This was the only 300-yard passing game by an Ohio State quarterback until 1981.
Other developments (strategy, injuries, etc.): Hayes installed a new split-T offense, and Borton had one of the more remarkable seasons in Ohio State history as he became the only quarterback in the first 90 years of Buckeye football to throw for more than 1,500 yards in a season. A master of the hook pass, the sophomore frequently found end Bob Grimes for consistent gains to march the Scarlet and Gray up and down the field.
Grimes rewrote the receiving record books as he notched Ohio State highs for catches in a game (12 against Pittsburgh) and season (39). His 534 yards receiving were also a single-season record, and his 187 receiving yards and four touchdown catches against Washington State both represented the the most by a Buckeye in one game. The single-game receiving mark stood for nearly three decades, and the single-game touchdown receptions mark has been tied twice (by Terry Glenn and Dane Sanzenbacher) but never broken. Grimes remained in the top five on the school’s single-game list for receptions and yards until the early 1980s.
Borton completed 75 of 135 passes for 961 yards during Big Ten play to become the first Buckeye to lead the conference in passing.
The offense put up unique numbers, but the defense was worth of headlines as well. The Buckeyes allowed 13.0 points per game in Big Ten play to lead the conference.
How’d it end up?
Hayes’ second team never really got rolling as the Buckeyes continued to cope with learning the ways of their new head coach and a new offensive attack. Ohio State never lost back-to-back games during the 1952 season, but it never won more than two in a row, either.
Purdue and Iowa handed the Buckeyes losses that left Ohio State in third place in the Big Ten standings, but Hayes’ second squad finished strong with a pair of 20-point wins against Illinois and Michigan.
Hayes largely had the forward pass to thank for his first victory over the hated Wolverines as Borton shredded the Michigan secondary for 151 yards passing and three touchdowns. Ohio State forced eight turnovers, including a modern OSU single-game record three interceptions by Bruney, who was named team MVP after the season.
The Buckeyes (6-3, 5-2 Big Ten) finished the season third in the Big Ten and ranked No. 17 in the AP poll.
Look for a more expansive look at the second seasons of Ohio State's head coaches of the past eight decades in the next print edition of Buckeye Sports Bulletin.