For those Heisman Trophy voters who did not cast their ballots a few weeks ago for tailback Charles White of Southern California, the 1980 Rose Bowl game must have been a severe embarrassement!
In knocking Ohio State from the ranks of the unbeaten (17-16) on New Year's Day before of a crowd of 105,526, the Trojans gave White the ball 39 times and got 247 yards and the winning touchdown in return. Charles was also named the game's most valuable player.
In scuffing up all that precious Pasadena real estate, White broke the Rose Bowl rushing record of 194 yards set by Iowa's Bob Jeter against the University of California in 1959.
Rose Parade Grand Marshal Frank Sinatra said after the game, or maybe it was Alfred Hitchcock, that White had a great sense of theater. Anyway, Charles waited until 13:28 had elapsed in the fourth period before making his most important travel plans of the day.
On USC's game-winning drive, Charles gained 71 of the 83 yards the Trojans needed to score. Included in that series were bursts of 32 and 28 yards, plus a dive- bomber attack from the one-yard line that was actually a pass play, since White threw both himself and the football into the end zone.
One thing you have to remember to fully appreciate White's accomplishments is that Ohio State is no ordinary football team, especially on defense. In two of the Buckeyes' 11 wins this year, they pitched shutouts. Against five other opponents they allowed eight points or less, and in the game OSU had to have to go to the Rose Bowl it beat powerful Michigan 18-15.
The point is, White didn't have any easy runs against Ohio State. He got most of his yardage inside; against a defense that never had to be told he was coming; and mostly on simple, straight ahead plays, where breaking a tackle is harder than breaking par with a broomstick.
Asked why White ignored most of his usual outside routes, which allow him to lose almost any defensive back one-on-one in the open field, a spokesman for the Trojans' coaching staff replied:
"Well, our original plans did include a lot of wide stuff for Charlie because that's primarily where he breaks his big runs. But when we got the ball and saw the way Ohio State was stretching its defense by continually overshifting to our strong side, we figured it would be better to adjust."
Basically Ohio State played well, scoring 16 points in succession after USC led 10- 0 at the start of the second period. Overall the Buckeyes got three field goals from Vlade Janakievski and a 53-yard scoring pass from quarterback Art Schlichter to Gary Williams.
"Even though we moved the ball and scored six points in the second half, Southern Cal obviously made some defensive adjustments during the intermission that hurt us," admitted Ohio State coach Earle Bruce. "They put a lot of pressure on us in key situations, especially late in the game when we needed field position. In fact, we never really overcame what was basically an increase in the amount of zone coverage they were using against us."
Bruce left himself wide open for the second guess in the fourth period when, with a three-point lead and a chance to go for the first down or possible TD in the shadow of the USC goal line, he went for the field goal instead. Even though Janakievski's 24-yard kick was good, it put Ohio State ahead by only six points, meaning they could still be beaten by a USC touchdown and conversion, which is exactly what happened.
But if Bruce at this point needs a mental bracer, all he has to remember is that seven of his defensive starters and eight of his offensive starters will be returning next season. Among these is Art Schlichter, probably the best sophomore quarterback in the country this season and already a leading candidate for the 1980 Heisman Trophy.
Whether Southern Cal by beating Ohio State is now the best college football team in the country is something the pollsters must decide.
But the fact that Bear Bryant's unbeaten Alabama squad trounced Arkansas rather convincingly in the Sugar Bowl (24- 9) is probably going to keep the Trojans in second place.
What is absolutely certain is that nobody in the country has more exciting runner than Charles White.