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Ohio State Buckeyes football history: Ohio State vs. Illinois, 1943

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A surprise overtime led to one of the most unusual wins in Ohio State history, a 29-26 victory over the Fighting Illini in 1943.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The Buckeyes will welcome the Illinois Fighting Illini to Ohio Stadium on Saturday. These two teams have developed a long and storied history against each other since facing off for the first time in 1902. Ohio State holds a significant edge on the all-time series with an overall record of 65-30-4.

One of the more interesting matchups in this series came in 1943. It was an odd year for college football with so many young men off serving their country in World War II. Freshmen were granted the opportunity to play varsity football by the Big Ten, which allowed the member universities to actually field complete teams.

The 1943 matchup was Ohio State's homecoming game. The Illini scored late in the second quarter to establish a 19-13 lead at the half, but the Buckeyes were undeterred, scoring 13 unanswered points in the second half to make the score 26-19, and the Illini added a touchdown late in the game to tie the score at 26-26.

With just ten seconds remaining in the game, Illinois halfback Eddie McGovern fumbled on the Illinois 23-yard line, giving the Buckeyes just enough time and putting them in prime position to put some points on the board and win the game. Quarterback Bobby McQuade's pass intended for halfback Ernie Parks was incomplete, and the official fired his gun to signal the end of the game. Both teams headed to their respective locker rooms, and the bulk of the 36,000-plus fans in attendance filed to the exits, with everything thinking the game had just concluded in a 26-26 tie.

However, an Illinois player had been offsides on what was assumed to be the final play of the game, and a flag was thrown, but it went unnoticed by most people, including the other referees. Paul Goebel, the official who threw the flag, informed the other referees, and they agreed that they could not allow the game to end on a defensive penalty. A referee met with Buckeyes head coach Paul Brown in the locker room and informed him that the Buckeyes could have one extra down.

About ten minutes after the game had presumably ended, both teams put their equipment and uniforms back on and took the field for one final play. Johnny Stungis, a freshman who wouldn't have been playing if not for the Big Ten making changes to accommodate the absence of so many young men serving in World War II, kicked a field goal, one that narrowly made it over the crossbar, to give the Buckeyes a 29-26 victory.

It was a difficult way for Illinois to lose, and when asked about it years later, Ray Eliot, the Illinois head coach in 1943, said that if he had known why referee Irish Krieger had knocked on his team's locker room door, "I would never have let him in the dressing room to talk with us."