clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ohio State football history: Buckeyes best Ducks in the 1958 Rose Bowl

The Buckeyes have faced off with the Ducks with a national title on the line before, in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 1958.

The Buckeyes have never lost to Oregon in football. These teams have faced each other eight times since 1958, and the Buckeyes have won each matchup. The very first time Ohio State met Oregon (known at the time as the Webfoots) on the gridiron was the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 1958, and it was for a national title.

Ohio State's 1957 season had gotten off to a rocky start with a 18-14 loss at home to Texas Christian University, but had gone undefeated for the remainder of the season, outscoring opponents 243-67. They went into the Rose Bowl ranked first in the Coaches' Poll and second in the AP Poll behind ineligible Auburn, whose program was under sanctions for recruiting violations at the time.

Oregon, on the other hand, was projected to finish seventh in the Pacific Coast Conference, but exceeded expectations throughout the season, and pulled off a some close wins under weird circumstances, like the time a dog ran on the field and distracted the Washington State kicker just as he attempted a game-winning field goal. Oregon State actually won the PCC after a 10-7 victory over Oregon, but the Beavers had represented the conference in the Rose Bowl the previous season, and the PCC had a no-repeat rule at the time.

The Webfoots entered the game ranked as 19-point underdogs, and nobody gave them much of a chance to beat Ohio State. "Tomorrow, David goes out to battle Goliath," wrote George Pasero of the Oregon Journal. "No other description is more fitting." It served as motivation for Oregon's players.

The Buckeyes took an early lead, with a 79-yard drive on their first possession that culminated in a touchdown. However, Oregon's defense was stout against the Buckeyes, and Ohio State struggled to contain Oregon's high-speed, dynamic offense. Two interceptions by Ohio State's Joe Cannavino and two Oregon fumbles kept Oregon from running away with it. The Webfoots added a touchdown to tie the game before the half.

In the second half, it came down to a missed field goal by Oregon's Jack Crabtree which kept the score tied. A fourth quarter Buckeyes field goal gave Ohio State a 10-7 edge, one that would hold until time expired. Despite the final score, Oregon's quarterback, Jack Crabtree, was named the MVP of the game, even though Oregon lost.

A friendly wager had been made prior to the game, although in the years since the details of whether or not the bet was between university presidents or Oregon and Ohio's governors. Oregon had pledged to send a Douglas fir to The Ohio State University if the Webfoots had lost, and Ohio State was to provide a buckeye tree to the University of Oregon should the Webfoots earn the victory. The Ohio State University, so rightfully impressed by Oregon's Rose Bowl performance, sent the buckeye tree despite the Buckeyes' victory.

The buckeye tree, planted as a sapling in April 1958, stands tall and proud on Oregon's campus today. It was planted by Len Casanova, Oregon's coach at the time, as well as Jack Crabtree, other members of the 1957 team, and an Oregon cheerleader. The university added a plaque and commemorated the tree in a ceremony in 2013.

As far as the Douglas fir that was promised as Oregon's part of the bet, it can be found at the Ohio governor's mansion.