Archie Griffin remembers his touchdown run in the 1974 Rose Bowl like he broke it off yesterday.
“It was an off-tackle run on John Hicks’ side,” Griffin says. “I got out in the secondary and actually made a couple of people miss. We always said the best way to the goal line was a straight line, so after I made those guys miss, I just cut it straight upfield and tried to get over that goal line as best I could.”
The 47-yard touchdown run by Griffin—the capper on a 42-21 demolition of the highly-regarded USC Trojans in 1974—stands today as the signature Rose Bowl moment in the legendary career of the man who was the first player in NCAA history to start in four straight Rose Bowls.
College football’s only two-time Heisman winner, Griffin recently had another laurel laid at his feet: he has been named the Rose Bowl’s All-Century Player.
“I’m surprised and extremely honored to be named the player of the century,” Griffin says. “I wasn’t sure it would happen to me, since we only won one of the four Rose Bowls that I was in, so it was surprising to me.”
The victory by the Buckeyes in 1974 over USC was a rematch of a 1973 game that went to the Trojans by a 42-17 score. A rubber match went to USC by an 18-17 score in the 1975 Rose Bowl, and Griffin’s Rose Bowl career ended on a disappointing note with a 23-10 loss to UCLA in 1976.
Griffin remembers the 1974 Rose Bowl as a chance to get even with USC for the loss in 1973. It was also a chance for the Buckeyes to prove they belonged after a controversial vote by Big Ten athletic directors had placed Ohio State in the Rose Bowl that season, following a tie against Michigan that left the teams with identical records.
“It was big-time redemption for us,” Griffin says. “We had something to prove on a couple of different counts. We needed to prove that the confidence of the athletic directors in us wasn’t misplaced, and we needed to prove we could beat what was truly a great, extraordinary USC team.”
Griffin said the four straight trips to the Rose Bowl in the 1970s gave the guys on his team an appreciation for Pasadena, its people and traditions. “We were out there enough that we developed friends and relationships with people who lived out there,” Griffin recalls. “We really looked forward to going out there, and it became an annual thing for us. The Rose Bowl people really took care of you.”
Another Buckeye receiving special recognition from the Rose Bowl Committee is former Ohio State coach Woody Hayes, who was named the coach of the 1950s on the decade-by-decade team named earlier this year. Hayes had a record of 4-4 in the Rose Bowl as his squads won games in 1955, 1958, 1969 and 1974.
Griffin’s selection as the player of the century means he will be honored on the field at halftime of the 100th Rose Bowl on January 1. Griffin will appear along with John McKay Jr., the son of the former USC coach who was named All-Century Coach.
The latest honor for Griffin is more than just a trip down memory lane, it also means a prime seat in a convertible for a New Year’s Day ride in the world-famous Rose Bowl Parade.
“I’ve never been in the parade before so that’s going to be fun,” Griffin says. “I’ve always watched it, but never had the honor.”