Michigan vs Ohio State Football – Looking Back – 1997

The fifth and final installment of the series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State takes us back 20 years, to 1997. The economy was roaring, the world was starting to take an interest in this new thing called the Internet, and Michigan entered the season facing arguably the toughest schedule in the country, while critics snickered not so quietly that the Block M stood for mediocrity.

The good news is that everyone in Maize and Blue heard that criticism, and by the beginning of the season, they were seething with anger, and they were absolutely determined to prove their critics wrong. Lloyd Carr, who proved to the best master motivator in 1997, had just finished reading “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer, a book about a harrowing ascent of Mount Everest in the most dangerous storm in the history of Mount Everest climbs. Carr found out that Lou Kasischke, a member of the climbing party, lived nearby, and he persuaded Kasischke to talk to the Michigan team about the challenges he faced while climbing Everest.

Michigan entered the game with a perfect record, while Ohio State entered with the perfect opportunity for revenge. The last two seasons, Michigan had ruined perfect seasons for the Buckeyes by upsetting Ohio State. Throw in the fact that Ohio State wide receiver David Boston had taken a potshot at Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson in the media, and it’s easy to see why there was so much tension in the pre-game build-up.

Midway through the second quarter, the game was locked in a scoreless tie when Michigan quarterback Brian Griese found Woodson on a post-pattern for a 37-yard gain. Two plays later, freshman Anthony Thomas crossed the goal line to give Michigan the lead. By the middle of the third quarter, the Wolverines had extended that lead to 20-0. That’s when things got a little bit nerve-wracking. Boston finally beat Woodson for a touchdown, and then OSU linebacker Jerry Rudzinski forced a fumble from Griese, and all of a sudden, Michigan’s lead was down to 20-14. That’s when every Michigan fans started to sweat during a game in which the temperature was in the low 20s.

Fortunately for Michigan, the defense stood tall at the most critical moments, and a huge hit by Marcus Ray on Boston changed the momentum. Just a few minutes later, Michigan’s defense had held, and Griese took the snap and ran out the clock.  The final score was Michigan 20, Ohio State 14. The win gave Michigan the Big Ten championship with an 11-0 record, and Michigan went to the Rose Bowl, where the Wolverines topped Washington State to finish the perfect season and capture the Associated Press National Championship.

In my 54 years, that was the biggest Michigan-Ohio State game of them all, and I doubt I’ll see any victory bigger than that one in my lifetime. That win serves as the bar for every Michigan win over Ohio State.

Thanks to ABC Sports and YouTube posters Stephen Barnett and Dr. Sap. As always, we own nothing, and this blog and video are posted strictly for the enjoyment of readers.


Michigan vs Ohio State Football – Looking Back – 1978

The fourth installment of the series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State takes us to 1978. This was an unusual time in America, and particularly in southeastern Michigan. The automobile industry was undergoing changes and facing significant competition from foreign manufacturers. People wanted desperately to feel optimistic, but there was an uneasy sense in the nation. For Michigan students, alumni, and fans, the UM football team provided a temporary escape from their concerns.

While head coach Bo Schembechler always preached the importance of focusing on the team, there’s no denying the fact that quarterback Rick Leach was the face of those Michigan teams from 1976 through 1978. Sure, Michigan boasted its usual staunch defense and pulverizing offensive line, but Leach grabbed most of the headlines as he slashed his way through defenses. In 1978, Leach led Michigan back to Ohio Stadium, where the Maize and Blue had routed the Buckeyes two years earlier. This time, it would be a little more challenging. Michigan running back Harlan Huckleby didn’t play and fullback Russell Davis was sick. Compounding that was the fact that Leach pulled a hamstring in the second quarter. So, how did Leach respond? He threw a pair of touchdown passes, one for 30 yards to Rodney Feaster and one for 11 yards to Roosevelt Smith, to lead the Wolverines to a 14-3 win over their rivals from Columbus.

Still, any report on this game would be remiss if it didn’t mention the Michigan defense. The Wolverines held the Buckeyes to just 48 passing yards, and Michigan’s third down efficiency was impressive, to say the least. Michigan allowed Ohio State to convert only four of 16 third down opportunities, ushering the Buckeye offense off the field swiftly. Linebacker Ron Simpkins led the Wolverines with 15 total tackles, and middle guard Mike Trgovac had two tackles for loss.

The win marked Michigan’s third consecutive triumph over Ohio State, and it was the 10th and final game between Bo and Ohio State coach Woody Hayes. The series continued to be intense in subsequent years, but it lacked the galvanizing coaching personalities that marked that 10-year period, which many consider to be the height of the rivalry.

Thanks, as always, to ABC Sports, and to YouTube posters WolverineHistorian and Dr. Sap. I own nothing and this blog and the accompanying videos are posted strictly for the enjoyment of readers.

Michigan vs Ohio State Football – Looking Back – 1989

The third installment of the series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State takes us back to 1989. The Wolverines had a fair number of talented players in the secondary that season, including safeties Vada Murray, Tripp Welborne, and Corwin Brown. But on this day, the defensive star was cornerback Todd Plate.

Don’t go scouring old game programs for information on Plate; you won’t find much. The ’89 iteration of The Game was his signature performance. Plate intercepted two passes that day as the Wolverine defense welcomed Ohio State coach John Cooper to Ann Arbor for the first time.

Of course, Michigan’s 28-18 win wasn’t strictly defense. Michigan used an old-fashioned ball control running game to take control of the game for good, highlighted by a 13-play, 81-yard drive that consisted entirely of running plays, which was only appropriate, since this was the last time that Bo Schembechler would coach in The Game. Allen Jefferson capped the drive with a short touchdown run into the south end zone, giving the Wolverines a 14-0 lead, and Schembechler was an expert when it came to preserving a lead.

With the victory, the team gave Bo the sendoff present that mattered most to him: The Big Ten championship of 1989.

Thanks to ABC Sports and YouTube poster expressfan. As always, I own nothing, and this blog and video are posted strictly for the enjoyment of readers.

Michigan vs Ohio State Football – Looking Back – 1996

The second installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State takes us back to 1996. On the morning of the game, I was driving up to Buffalo, N.Y. with my wife to watch the worst Jets team in history take on the Buffalo Bills. On the radio while we were driving, someone on the radio referred to The Game, and noted that Ohio State was the favorite. He added that he expected OSU fans to sing “Buckeye Battle Cry” many times after the end of the game.

That’s exactly when I knew Michigan was going to win.

Yes, that sounds corny. Call it what was defined in “Star Wars” as a “tremor in the force.” Sure, that sounds even cornier, but the fact is that I just had a sudden feeling that Michigan was going to win that day. By the time we checked into our hotel room in Hamburg, N.Y., the game was down to the final play, and sure enough, Marcus Ray intercepted a Joe Germaine pass and eventually came to a sliding halt. Man, those were the days!

In retrospect, when you watch the game on YouTube, Ohio State had the better of play in the first half, but the 9-0 half time margin was far from commanding. Then came the second half. Brian Griese entered the game, and the beginning of the Griese legend was about to take shape. Griese connected with Tai Streets on a post pattern that produced a touchdown, and it was evident that Michigan was determined to play the role of the less-than-cooperative underdog. Oddly enough, Michigan wound up losing to Alabama in the Outback Bowl. Still, in my mind, many of the seeds for that glorious 1997 season were planted on that day in Columbus, Ohio.

Thanks, as always, to ABC Sports and YouTube poster j bakkar. I own nothing and this blog and the attached video are strictly posted for the enjoyment of readers.