Jack Park, a leading Ohio State football historian, checks in each week during the college football season with a retrospective about the Buckeyes.
Ohio State will make its second appearance in the Orange Bowl, where it will face Clemson for the second time. The Buckeyes defeated Colorado 27-10 in the Orange Bowl of Jan. 1, 1977, and lost to Clemson 17-15 in the Gator Bowl on Dec. 29, 1978. Friday night’s clash will mark, to the day, the 11th anniversary of Ohio State’s 31-24 double-overtime victory over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl to win the 2002 national championship.
Sophomore Rod Gerald, an option-style quarterback, started the first seven games of Ohio State's 1976 campaign but missed the rest of the regular season after suffering a back injury during a 23-3 homecoming victory over Purdue on Oct.23. Senior Jim Pacenta, a drop-back passer, ably replaced Gerald and directed the Buckeyes to a3-1 record in the season’s last four games.
Pacenta started the Orange Bowl, but after Colorado jumped out to a 10-0 lead, coach Woody Hayes changed his offense to a “quick backfield set” instead of his regular power game. Gerald, now fully recovered, entered the game at the 3:54 mark of the first quarter and immediately created a spark with a 17-yard scamper on his first carry. With Ron Springs positioned at tailback and Jeff Logan shifting to fullback, the speedy trio completely revitalized Ohio State’s offensive attack. OSU scored the game’s last 27 points.
Colorado was coached by Bill Mallory, an Ohio State assistant coach under Hayes from 1966 through '68. Linebacker Tom Cousineau and defensive tackle Nick Buonamici were outstanding on defense as the Buckeyes limited the Buffaloes to 37 rushing yards in the second half.
Senior co-captain Tom Skladany effectively handled the punting and kickoffs and was the game’s leading scorer with two field goals and three PATs. Ohio State finished the 1976 season as Big Ten co-champion with a record of 9-2-1, good for sixth place in the final Associated Press poll.
The 1978 Gator Bowl is best remembered for “the punch” that ended Hayes’ 28-year head-coaching career, yet the game itself was an exciting, well-played contest. Completely forgotten in all of the media attention following the game was the Ohio State basketball team’s stunning upset of top-ranked Duke, 90-84, earlier that evening in Madison Square Garden.
Clemson Tigers was coached by Danny Ford, who had been elevated to the top job just three weeks earlier after head coach Charlie Pell left Clemson for the same position at Florida. Ford, 30, was working as a head coach for the first time at any level.
Clemson led 10-9 after a well-played first half. The third quarter belonged to the Tigers, who used a 19-play, 84-yard touchdown drive to increase their lead to 17-9. OSU freshman quarterback Art Schlichter scored his second TD of the game with a 2-yard run in the final quarter to cap an 88-yard drive. The Buckeyes trailed 17-15 with 8:11 remaining.
Ohio State middle guard Tim Sawicki gave his team new life when he recovered a Clemson fumble at the OSU 24-yard line with 4:22 remaining. Schlichter quickly moved his team downfield. On a third-and-five at the Clemson 24, Schlichter fired a short pass over the middle intended for Springs. Tiger middle guard Charlie Bauman intercepted and was run out of bounds in front of the Ohio State bench with 1:59 to play.
In an obvious fit of frustration, Hayes struck Bauman -- and the rest is history. Ironically, one of Hayes’ good friends, retired Clemson coach Frank Howard, sent Hayes a pair of boxing gloves as a gag gift. The gloves had been presented to Hayes at the Gator Bowl luncheon the day before the game.
Announcer Keith Jackson called ABC-TV’s play-by-play of the '78 Gabor Bowl. One evening in early January 1979, Jackson was a guest on John Gordon’s nightly sportstalk call-in show on WBNS Radio (1460 AM) in Columbus, giving his view of Hayes’ last game.
On the fateful down when Schlichter’s pass was intercepted by Bauman, Jackson explained that ABC had one of its isolated cameras focused on OSU flanker Doug Donley. Watching the replay in the TV booth, Jackson discovered that Donley was wide open 10 to 15 yards beyond the Clemson secondary. Apparently the Tigers defense had completely missed Donley.
Jackson told the WBNS audience that “had Schlichter seen Donley he likely would have thrown to Donley for an easy touchdown.” Ohio State would have won the game, there would have been no Bauman interception and Woody Hayes would likely have been Ohio State’s head coach the following season.