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125 seasons of Buckeye football

August 25, 2014

This fall, Ohio State celebrates 125 seasons of Buckeye football. This timeline takes you from a vastly different game played in 1890 through the decades of game day traditions, seven national championships and every Heisman Trophy to present day. Check out coverage all season long via #GoBucks125.

The first game vs. today's game

On May 3, 1890, students from The Ohio State University rose before sunrise to begin a 20-plus-mile journey north by horse and buggy over unpaved roads.

Several hours away sat their ultimate destination: a lush green meadow adjacent to the rushing waters of Delaware Creek, found on the northern edge of the campus of Ohio Wesleyan University.

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At 9:30 a.m., the young Buckeyes and their foes from OWU played the first game of football in Ohio State history, stepping from the dewy field into the pages of history.

And while Ohio State emerged victorious by a 20-14 score – a familiar enough sight on the scoreboard to all today who cheer on the Scarlet and Gray – the game played that day in front of 700 fans was a far cry from the college football we now know.

From the recollections of two men who played in that contest — a 1938 interview given by Ohio State player George Cole and a 1948 letter written by OWU player C. Rollin Jones — we know the game was closer to British rugby than what is played today. 

The ball itself was more round and melon-shaped, and the players wore no pads or headgear. The huddle had not yet been invented. A scrum — when opposing teams group together with heads down and arms interlocked, pushing against one another like in rugby — took place on every play.

There was no forward passing, however, the ball could be lateraled sideways or passed backward. Dropkicking was a big part of the game. During this first game, play had to be halted several times to retrieve the ball from the waters of the Delaware Creek after errant kicks.

Plays were run by signals given from a captain on each team. However, near the goal line the captain simply called out “old hickory,” and a desperate push to cross the goal line ensued. Touchdowns were worth only four points, and extra-point kicks were worth two. 

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