The second installment in the series looking back at the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry takes us to 1976. Jimmy Carter was elected president of the United States, and the nation was celebrating the bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence, which gave Americans something to smile about, which was desperately needed in the 1970s.
On the gridiron, the Wolverines were desperately in need of a win against archrival Ohio State. The Wolverines had not beaten the Buckeyes since Billy Taylor ran around right end in 1971 and Bob Ufer famous screamed “Touchdown, Billy Taylor! Touchdown, Billy Taylor!” Growing up in the ‘70s, that stretch of non-victorious seasons seemed like an eternity, something that was accentuated by the sports media in an era before cable TV had taken over.
The Wolverines had entered 1976 with National Championship aspirations, but narrow loss at Purdue in Week Nine ended that dream. Two weeks later, the Wolverines charged onto the turf at Ohio Stadium, determined to capture at least a share of the Big Ten championship. While Michigan was favored against the Buckeyes, Ohio State had an undefeated conference record up to that point, and had clinched at least a share of the Big Ten championship. For Michigan, the surprising loss to Purdue meant that sharing the conference championship was all the Maize & Blue could hope for, at least in the regular season.
The first half proved frustrating for the Wolverines and their supporters, as the teams went to their respective locker rooms with the score tied at zero. Bad memories of recent disappointments plagued everyone who cheered for Michigan.
Things changed dramatically in the second half. While the Michigan defense continued to stifle the Ohio State offense, the Michigan offensive line began to pound away at the Buckeyes, who were determined to stop quarterback Rick Leach on the option, as well as halfback Rob Lytle. That obsession with stopping Leach and Lytle opened the way for fullback Russell Davis (“Lytle deep and Davis close”, famously intoned by Bob Ufer). David scored a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter, and as the fourth quarter began, it was clear that the Wolverines were in command. The game ended with Michigan players giving Bo Schembechler a ride off the field on their shoulders, and Wolverine fans celebrated a long-awaited win over their fierce rivals.
We hope you enjoy the video clips below. Many thanks to ABC Sports, youtube, youtube poster Wolverine Historian and youtube poster “Dr. Sap.” As always, I own nothing, and what is posted is done so strictly for your enjoyment.