Michigan vs Ohio State Football – Looking Back – 1986

The fifth and final installment of this year’s series looking back at the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry takes us to 1986. The national economy was booming, the Mets won an absolute classic of a World Series, President Ronald Reagan was dealing with the Iran-Contra controversy, and Microsoft Corporation issued its initial public offering of shares. In college football, Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh guaranteed that his team would beat archrival Ohio State. Guaranteed.

The history of sports guarantees has been checkered over the years. Joe Namath made his legend when the New York Jets fulfilled his guarantee of victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, but Patrick Ewing guaranteed that his New York Knicks would defeat numerous opponents, and his guarantees almost always fell flat on their face. So when Harbaugh guaranteed a Michigan victory in “The Game”, it grabbed sports headlines with the subtle attraction of a magnet. Harbaugh’s guarantee assured only one thing: Either his legend would be defined, or he would look like a fool.

As it turns out, he came very close to looking like a fool. Fortunately for Harbaugh and all the Maize & Blue faithful, the Michigan defense had his back, particularly when it counted most. With Ohio State driving in the final minutes, Buckeye quarterback Jim Karsatos threw a long pass for the end zone, and had a man open, but Michigan safety Ivan Hicks got his hand on the ball and knocked it away. Then, on a third down, Karsatos connected with Cris Carter, who headed for the first down marker, but was tackled a little more than two yards shy of the first down by Erik Campbell, who went on to became an excellent wide receivers coach. The yardage necessary was more than Ohio State coach Earle Bruce was comfortable with, and he sent out Matt Frantz to try a 45-yard field goal. Almost immediately, Frantz’s kick started to hook, and it veered wide of the goal posts, allowing Michigan to run out the clock for the victory.

Michigan finished the season with an 11-2 record. Oddly, the Wolverines had one regular season game left on the schedule after Ohio State, and they enjoyed their trip to sunny Honolulu, beating Hawaii 27-10. The Rose Bowl wound up being a disappointment, as the Wolverines fell to Arizona State, 22-15. Harbaugh was named to the All-America team, as were Garland Rivers and Jumbo Elliott, an offensive tackle who went on to a tremendous career in the NFL. Ohio State rebounded nicely to top Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, 28-12.

This year, as we approach The Game, the atmosphere is more somber. An Ohio State student passed away during the school’s annual student tradition of jumping in Mirror Lake during the week leading up to the Michigan game. Please keep that student’s family and loved ones in your thoughts and prayers. We’d also like to thank the Ohio State and Michigan State football teams, who showed tremendous compassion and support for Chad Carr during his fight against cancer.

Thanks to CBS Sports and youtube poster Wolverine Historian. As always, I own nothing, nobody profits off this blog post, and everything here is done strictly for your enjoyment.


About Jeff Cummins

Jeff Cummins has written about football since 1998, including nine years with The Record of Hackensack, N.J. He frequently contributes feature stories to Touchdown Illustrated, an insert in the national college football game program, published by University Sports Publications, and he has also written the official pregame stories for the game programs of the Rose Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Gator Bowl, and the BCS National Championship game. He has written the preview story for the official program for the NHL Winter Classic at MIchigan Stadium, and numerous college basketball feature stories for College Hoops Illustrated, another game program insert published by University Sports Publications. In addition, he has written stories about theater, music, physical therapy, and newsletter marketing. He’s an avid Michigan football fan and long-time New York Jets season ticket holder, and he can be reached at jeffcummins@optonline.net.