EDITOR’S NOTE – As we prepare for the Jan. 2 Fiesta Bowl between Ohio State and Notre Dame, this is the latest in a continuing series on the history of the rivalry between these two tradition-laden schools.
The 1935 Ohio State-Notre Dame game is still known far and wide as The Game of The Century.
The two schools had a return match one year later, though, in South Bend, Ind. But there hasn’t been much myth, mystique or hype about that 1936 game, although the result was largely the same – another five-point win for Notre Dame over Ohio State.
Notre Dame rode a strong defensive effort to a 7-2 win over Ohio State in the rematch, staged before a crowd of 50,017 on Oct. 31, 1936, at rain-soaked Notre Dame Stadium.
For historical perspective, this game was played three days before President Franklin Roosevelt’s landslide election win over Kansas Gov. Alf Landon, a win that gave Roosevelt the second of his unprecedented four presidential election wins.
The Buckeyes would go on and finish the year 5-3 overall and 4-1 in the Big Ten. They stumbled into this meeting at South Bend at 2-2 after dropping close games to Pittsburgh and Northwestern.
Notre Dame came in 3-1 with the only blemish a 26-0 loss at Pittsburgh. The Irish would go on to finish 6-2-1, closing with a 13-13 tie at USC. (Yes, the Irish and Trojans were even rivals way back when.)
OSU’s defense set up its only score of the day early in the second quarter. Team captain Merle Wendt recovered a fumble by ND’s Steve Miller at the Irish 18-yard line.
The Buckeyes were unable to score, turning the ball over on an interception of Nicholas Wasylik’s pass by ND’s Joe “Red” Gleason at the Irish 1-yard line.
On fourth down, ND’s Jack McCarthy attempted a punt from his own end zone. But OSU tackle Charles Hamrick led a charge through the line and blocked the kick out of the end zone for a safety – the Buckeyes had again scored first against the Irish, leading 2-0.
A poor Ohio State punt, which sailed out of bounds on OSU’s 35-yard line, gave the Irish good field position. But four plays later, ND’s Larry Danbom was short on a 53-yard field goal attempt.
The Buckeyes took over on their own 20 and moved the football as halfback Jim McDonald completed a 27-yard pass to Wendt. The Irish defense stiffened, though, and the Buckeyes were forced to punt away.
Notre Dame coach Elmer Layden replaced quarterback Andy Pupils with backup Chuck O’Reilly, and the change worked as the Irish drove 76 yards for the game’s only touchdown just before halftime.
McCarthy, at halfback, completed passes of 11 and 35 yards to end Joe O’Neill, moving the ball down to the OSU 10-yard line.
After Danbom was thrown for a three-yard loss and the Irish were assessed a 5-yard penalty, McCarthy hit Nevin “Bunny” McCormick with a pass at the OSU 4-yard line.
Notre Dame employed a bit of deception on its decisive touchdown play. The Irish placed its backfield to the left side of the formation. The maneuver momentarily confused OSU’s defenders, allowing McCarthy to scoot around left end and into the end zone for the 4-yard touchdown before they could adjust.
ND’s Danbom added the extra point and the Irish led 7-2 just before halftime.
After the intermission, Ohio State twice pushed into Notre Dame territory in the third quarter. The passing combination of McDonald to Wendt moved the Buckeyes to a first down at the Irish 40. But quarterback Tippy Dye was intercepted by ND’s Bob Wilke two plays later.
Then, after an Irish punt rolled dead at the Notre Dame 38, the Buckeyes took over but lost possession on downs just before the third quarter ended.
As the game clock wound down, the Buckeyes pulled out all of the stops in an effort to snatch the game in the closing moments – just as Notre Dame had done the year before.
OSU’s Wasylik masterfully executed a fake punt, rolling down to the Irish 41-yard line with just over two minutes left in the game. He then hit John Bettridge with a 13-yard pass before connecting with Joe Williams for a 16-yard gain down to the ND 12-yard line.
Wasylik attempted two more passes into the Notre Dame end zone, but both fell incomplete. Notre Dame took over on downs in the closing seconds and ran out the clock.
OSU’s best weapon for the day was the lateral pass. OSU used the lateral pass seven times, picking up 54 yards and three first downs. But Notre Dame outgained OSU 219-153 in total offense.
The Irish vaulted into the Associated Press rankings at No. 13 the following week. And, after upsetting Northwestern 26-6 on Nov. 21. NU finished the year ranked eighth.
OSU rallied from that loss to post three shutout wins in its final three games over Chicago (44-0), Illinois (13-0) and Michigan (21-0). The Buckeyes finished second in the Big Ten that year.
Following the game, The Columbus Dispatch featured a wire story from Cleveland, where members of the Cleveland OSU Alumni Association had sent OSU head coach Francis Schmidt a telegram. It read:
“The Cleveland Ohio State alumni want you and the boys to know they have been with you in your courageous fight in all your games this season. We send you our pledge of support and best wishes for the remaining games,” they wrote.
“Win, lose or draw, we’re with you.”
Several days after the 1936 OSU-Notre Dame game, Columbus Dispatch reporter Irven C. Scheibeck lamented the end of the OSU-Notre Dame series in his “Roaming the Campus” column.
“Whether Ohio State and Notre Dame will renew relations on the gridiron is now a question no one seems ready to answer,” Scheibeck wrote. “But if it’s real gridiron drama officials of both schools are seeking, it can be had by an early renewal of a relationship which has been all too brief.
“Notre Dame, over the last weekend, was the perfect host. From the time the first Ohioan set foot on the campus until the last of 30 special trains had chugged its way to the four points of the compass, there was reflected a warmth of greeting, the like of which Ohio has seldom encountered even in the camps of older and more traditional foes.”
Little did Mr. Scheibeck know, but it would take some 59 years until these Midwestern college football giants would collide again.
Here are the archives from the previous installments of our look at the history of the OSU-Notre Dame rivalry:
OSU-ND Rivalry Overview
Look Back At 1935 “Game Of The Century”