It was the stuff of legend, the kind of performance which confirms and elevates an athlete’s greatness. Charles White was the central point of focus entering the 1980 Rose Bowl game for USC. The third-ranked Trojans prepared to face the No. 1 Ohio State Buckyes in a battle royale. They knew they would need the 1979 Heisman Trophy winner to be at his best.
Ohio State — whose 1979 coaching staff included a young assistant named Pete Carroll — knew that stopping White was the whole key to the game. It was no secret that USC would run the ball. The Trojans had an offensive lineman named Anthony Munoz, who would soon become the No. 3 pick in the 1980 NFL draft despite an injury which caused him to miss a large portion of the 1979 season. USC hoped to do what it did best in those days: Student Body Right and Student Body Left.
Could Ohio State stop Charles White when it really mattered?
White rushed for 247 yards, 71 on a late-game touchdown drive. He scored the touchdown with just over a minute left which — with the PAT added — gave USC a 17-16 win over Ohio State. The Trojans did not lose a game in 1979 (though they tied Stanford) and finished No. 2 in the polls, the third time in Charles White’s four USC seasons that the Men of Troy finished in the top two of the national rankings after the bowl games.
Here is the 1980 Rose Bowl Game, Charles White’s magnum opus: