This year, for the first game of the “Looking Back” series on the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, we’ll go back to 1957. Dwight D. Eisenhower was our president, the Korean War had ended several years before, the Vietnam War had yet to begin, and Americans enjoyed a rare combination of peace and affluence. A new phenomenon called “Rock and Roll” was appealing to American youth, and cities were experiencing a mass exodus, as many Americans entered the middle class for the first time and bought homes in the suburbs, and inevitably had children, lots and lots of children. And then there were the automobiles. Detroit certainly enjoyed the ‘50s, as the suburban American required an automobile to go almost everywhere.
Americans also found their attention increasingly turning to football. The 1957 iteration of “The Game” was notable, from a Michigan perspective, for only one thing: It marked the first time in the series that game attendance exceeded 100,000, which later became the standard for the rivalry.
As for the game itself, Michigan actually fared very well in the first half, leading at halftime, 14-10. The second half belonged to the Buckeyes, who scored three touchdowns to win, 31-14, but the game wasn’t the romp that score would seem to indicate. The Wolverines, led by Jim Pace, took a 7-0 lead when Pace scored on a 16-yard run. Ohio State responded promptly and tied the game on a Dick LeBeau run. (Yes, that Dick LeBeau, long-time Steelers defensive assistant.) Ohio State kicked a field goal a three-point lead, but when Jim Van Pelt connected with Brad Myers for a touchdown, Michigan went in at halftime with a 14-10 lead. Early in the third quarter, LeBeau put Ohio State ahead for good. Pace led Michigan with 164 yards on 22 carries, but it wasn’t enough, as the Buckeyes’ victory sent them to the Rose Bowl, where they beat Oregon 10-7, to claim the national championship, while Michigan finished with a 5-3-1 record.
So the ’57 football campaign ended poorly for everyone in the Great Lakes State, right? Well, not really. For once, Michiganders got a boost from their NFL team, and they rejoiced as their Lions trounced the Cleveland Browns, 59-14, to win the NFL championship. The championship also served to soothe the Wolverines’ loss to Ohio State, if not serve as outright revenge.
Couldn’t find any video of that game, so that will have to wait until next time.