The first installment of this year’s series on the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry takes us to 1951. The United States was leading UN forces in the Korean War, the national economy was enjoying stable growth, and Ohio State welcomed a new head coach, Wayne Woodrow “Woody” Hayes. Woody went on to make quite an impact on The Game, but in ’51, the Maize & Blue welcomed him with an old-fashioned shutout, topping the Buckeyes, 7-0.
Michigan All-American Lowell Perry made his presence felt on defense, intercepting three passes and returning them for a combined total of 22 yards, and teammate Frank Howell intercepted still another pass and returned it 23 yards, giving the Wolverines four interceptions for the game, something that quite possibly left a lasting impression on Hayes, who despised the forward pass. In addition to being an outstanding defensive back, Perry was also an excellent receiver who caught 68 passes for 1,232 yards and 10 touchdowns in his career in Ann Arbor.
Despite the presence of Perry, the offensive star for the Wolverines was fullback Don Peterson, who was named the team’s Most Valuable Player that season. Peterson gained 70 yards on 19 carries on the ground, but more important, he scored the only touchdown in the victory.
The irony is that both Michigan finished with a record of four wins and five losses, a stark contrast to the previous season, when the Wolverines won the “Snow Bowl” against Ohio State and went on to win the Rose Bowl against Cal. Ohio State finished the 1951 season with a record of four wins, three losses, and a pair of ties, to Wisconsin and Illinois.
It could certainly be argued that this was not one of the most exciting games in the history of the rivalry, but it illustrated one point that has been proven time and again in this rivalry: Beware of the team that seems like a wounded animal. This rivalry tends to inspire a lot of players to deliver banner performances.
Thanks to the Bentley Library for their historical information on the game, which can be examined below.