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A Lesson In Penn State-Ohio State History

(Ed. - In what has become somewhat of an annual tradition around here, enjoy this BSD classic on the history between Penn State and Ohio State.)

The year was 1912. Penn State was coming off of an 8-0-1 season in 1911, their greatest record to date. They had made the jump from a respectable team to an eastern power that was beating traditional eastern powers like Pitt, Penn, and Cornell. Under the direction of head coach Bill Hollenback Penn State was facing unprecedented success. But Hollenback had bigger ambitions. He wanted to take Penn State from being an eastern power to a national power. To do that, he looked west.

Ohio State was set to join the Western Conference (which would later become the Big Ten Conference) starting the following year. While they had enjoyed several successful years in the Ohio Athletic Conference, many questioned their worthiness to join the Western Conference due to the poor level of competition. Ohio State coach John Richards felt that a win over an eastern team would give his team more prestige and quiet their critics.

So on November 16, 1912 the two schools of Penn State and Ohio State met for the first time in Columbus, Ohio not realizing how intense this rivalry would become nearly 100 years later.

When the Penn State players arrived in Columbus they were shocked by the greeting they recieved. The local media gave them little respect arrogantly predicting a two touchdown victory for the scarlet and gray. And the local fans were equally rude and disrespectful. (Some things never change.) Before the game Hollenback shared several headlines from the local papers with the team. They all predicted a rout in favor of Ohio State. By the time kickoff came around the Penn State players were ready to rip someone's head off.

As the players took the field the 3,500 Ohio State fans in attendance laughed at the small town hicks from the Pennsylvania farmer school. They especially had a good laugh at the Penn State quarterback named "Shorty". Shorty Miller stood five-feet-five-inches tall and weighed just 145 pounds. But what Ohio State didn't realize was that Shorty was an old school version of Derrick Williams, a small player with darting speed that could cut on a dime. Had OSU known Shorty Miller would one day have a place in the College Football Hall of Fame along with his teammates Pete Mauthe and Dex Very, they probably wouldn't have been laughing so hard.

When the game started Penn State showed Ohio State how they played football back east. They blocked, they tackled, they pushed, they shoved, and they may have thrown a few elbows and fists. This was nothing new to Penn State. This was typical violence associated with the game to teams back east. But Ohio State and their fans cried foul. The Lions jumped out to a quick 16-0 lead off of a 30 yard touchdown run by Shorty Miller to close out the first quarter.

Ohio State head coach John Richards complained to the officials about the unnecessary roughness from the Penn State players. But the officials ignored his pleas saying there was plenty of rough play by both sides. The second quarter was extremely bloody with Penn State's Al Wilson getting knocked out cold and losing several teeth. Red Bebout (who later died in World War I) was severely lacerated from being stomped in the face. But hey, it's not like Ohio State was playing dirty or anything. Both men sucked it up and got back in the game.

At halftime the Penn State players decided to rest under a nearby tree since the dressing rooms were a very far walk from the field. Fans came down out of the stands and circled the Penn State players taunting them and even threatening them. It only served to make the visitors from the "farmer school" even more angry.

The second half started with Ohio State's quarterback fumbling the ball. Dex Very picked it up and ran it back 35 yards for the touchdown. Then just before the end of the third quarter Shorty Miller picked up a botched handoff from the center and darted 35 yards for his third touchdown and a 30-0 Penn State lead.

Early in the fourth quarter Penn State was down at the one yard line about to score again when one of Ohio State's star linemen challenged Miller to run the ball in his direction. Miller warned, "All right, cocky, here she comes," and he gave the ball to Pete Mauthe who smashed through the line for another score. The extra point was good and Penn State took a commanding 37-0 lead.

With about nine minutes left in the game State kicked off. On the return Dex Very completely layed out an Ohio State player with a particulary vicious hit. "That's enough," said coach Richards. "Illegal block. Illegal block. We're outta here." He pointed toward the dressing room and Ohio State walked off the field with nine minutes to go in the game as the partisan fans booed and jeered the Penn State players.

As the victorious team began to walk off the field the judge (who was probably a scarlet and gray fan) informed them the rules stated they would have to remain on the field until the clock expired in order to claim the forfeit. So the Penn State players walked about the field as the hometown fans threw insults and debris at them. One spectator came down out of the stands and began to rush them, but he got no further than assistant coach Dick Harlow who knocked him out cold with a single right fist. Police rushed the field to surround the Penn State players and protect them as fans grabbed some blue and white bunting under one of the goalposts and set it on fire.

Finally after five minutes expired the referee signaled the game was over and Penn State got the hell out of dodge. Ohio State officials met with the Penn State team at the hotel the next day to apologize, but the damage was done. The game was such an insult  to both teams that it would be another 44 years until the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions would meet again.

Officially the game was scored a 1-0 forfeit, but anywhere you see the game in Penn State record books (or on the game ball on dispay in the Penn State Football Hall of Fame room) it is recorded as a 37-0 victory.

(HT to the amazing Penn State Football Encyclopedia by Lou Prato)