The first installment of this year’s series looking back at the Michigan-Ohio State football rivalry takes us back to 1966. It’s not often when both teams enter The Game with mediocre seasons, but in ’66, neither rival had accomplished much. It was a testament to the devotion inspired by the rivalry that more than 83,000 showed up at Ohio Stadium to watch two old foes wrap up a non-descript season. Still, the winner was bound to remember 1966 more fondly than the loser, and in this rivalry, that’s more than enough motivation.
Michigan’s fortunes had suddenly changed just four weeks before the game against Ohio State. With a 2-3 record, the Wolverines rose up and mauled Minnesota, 49-0, to seize both the Little Brown Jug and the season’s momentum. Entering the Ohio State game, Michigan had suddenly won three of the last four, and they were determined to send Woody Hayes into the offseason with a scowl on his face. After the teams traded field goals, Michigan began to take control of the game in the second quarter with its ground game. Running back Jim Detwiler scored on a 7-yard run to put the Wolverines up by a touchdown at halftime, and they extended the lead in the third quarter when Quarterback Dick Vidmer connected with Clayton Wilhite on a 28-yard touchdown pass to make the final score 17-3 in favor of Michigan. The scoring doesn’t tell the whole tale, though. Michigan stopped Ohio State on a fourth down at the Michigan 38-yard line, with the Buckeyes needing only inches for a first down. Ohio State’s momentum was stopped, and the play enabled Michigan to stay in the game until the Wolverines could establish their running game. In all, Michigan gained a net total of 272 yards on 44 carries, for an average of more than six yards per rush. Ohio State attempted the exact same number of running plays, 44, but gained only 146 yards on the ground.
Michigan finished the season with a record of six wins and four losses, while Ohio State finished with four wins and five losses, its first losing season since 1959. For all intents and purposes, the national championship was decided that same day in East Lansing, where Michigan State and Notre Dame played to an infamous 10-10 tie in which Notre Dame played it safe with 34 seconds remaining, running two plays into the middle of the offensive line to preserve the tie, with little risk and little sense of daring.
In the end, Michigan and Ohio State played a game with passion, despite the fact that 1966 was the rare year in which neither team made much of a splash in either the Big Ten or the national college football landscape. There was also a UFO sighting 1966 on a farm in Dexter, Michigan. Nobody is certain, but it’s entirely possible that much of Michigan’s offensive production might have disappeared onto that UFO.
Sadly, I wasn’t able to locate any video clips of the 1966 game, but a link to the official box score is below. Thanks to umich.edu. As always, I own nothing and I do not profit from this in any way. This article is strictly for the enjoyment of readers.