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The fifth and final installment of the look back at The Game takes us to 1973. Change was everywhere in ’73. We had to get used to Roger Moore play the role of James Bond in “Live and Let Die.” The nation watched Watergate proceedings on TV throughout the spring, and in the fall, a confident bunch of Cincinnati Reds roared into Shea Stadium to take on the New York Mets. Pete Rose and Buddy Harrelson started a bench-clearing brawl in Game 3, and when the dust from the series had finally settled, the Mets won the series in five games and landscapers had to work miracles to repair the field at Shea Stadium after fans trampled it and took home souvenirs of live grass.
On the gridiron, both Michigan and Ohio State cruised into The Game with perfect records. Ohio State QB Cornelius Greene played with a bruised thumb, while Michigan QB Dennis Franklin left the game after scoring the tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Ohio State owned the first half, sparked by a twisting, turning 38-yard run by Archie Griffin. Michigan roared back in the second half, and when Franklin scored on an option play on 4th down and inches from the 10-yard line, the Wolverines tied the score for good.
By today’s standards, some fans would consider the game almost dull. Both teams eschewed the pass, which irritated both quarterbacks, in spite of the fact that it had rained heavily prior to the game, and temperatures were chilly. Woody Hayes might well have limited the amount of passes that Greene threw because of the injury to his thumb, but Franklin completed a 35-yard pass to rangy, 6-foot-6 tight end Paul Seal, who posed a matchup problem for the Buckeyes due to his height, reliable hands, and ability to slip out of tackles. Despite that, Franklin and Seal didn’t connect often during the game, and it was left up to the left foot of Mike Lantry, twice. Lantry missed a pair of field goals, and the game ended in a 10-10 tie, with the athletic directors voting to send Ohio State to the Rose Bowl in a decision that remains controversial to this day. Ohio State went to the Rose Bowl the previous year, and most expected Michigan to represent the Rose Bowl this time. But with Franklin’s injury late in the game fresh in everyone’s minds, the athletic directors voted to send Ohio State as the Big Ten’s representative, leaving Michigan out of the bowl picture despite a record of 10 wins, no losses and one tie. Due to an archaic rule, the only Big Ten team that was allowed to go to a bowl game was the conference champion, leaving Michigan at home during bowl season while teams with lesser records advanced to the bowl season. Ohio State went on to rout defending national champion USC in the Rose Bowl, but the tie prevented the Buckeyes from winning the national championship, an honor that was split between Alabama and Notre Dame. Alabama captured the UPI National Championship, awarded by the coaches, and Notre Dame won the AP National Championship given by the writers with a record of 11-0. Ohio State’s win over USC left both Ohio State and Michigan with undefeated records at the end of the season. The following season, the Big Ten amended its rule to allow teams other than the conference champion to play in bowl games, which was cold comfort for Michigan fans that had hoped for a shot on the National Championship in 1973.
Thanks to WolverineDeVotee on YouTube and ABC for their wonderful footage of the game.