Michigan vs Ohio State Football – Looking Back – 1989


Looking Back is a Special Feature Highlighting
Key Rivalry Games by Jeff Cummins

The third installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State takes us back to 1989. The 1980s were heady economic times in the United States, and the world looked on as the Berlin Wall was knocked down. Changes were starting to accelerate, but in the Big Ten, Michigan used an old school philosophy, and it proved to be just as effective as ever.

Ohio State entered Michigan Stadium with a new coach in 1989. John Cooper was an outsider, born and raised in Tennessee. He began to recruit many speed athletes to the Buckeyes, a slight change in Ohio State’s offensive attack. By contrast, Bo Schembechler, in his final year at Michigan, still believed in two running backs, using both the pro set and the I-formation. Early in the game, Michigan was allowing Ohio State to hang around a little too long. That’s when Bo put the game on the backs of his offensive line. Few drives in Bo’s 21-year tenure screamed “Michigan football” like the drive that started at the Wolverines’ 19 yard line midway through the second quarter. The drive began with Leroy Hoard knocking several Buckeyes on the rear ends as he bulled his way for a 16-yard gain on first down, and ended when running back Allen Jefferson, lined up as part of a full house backfield, took the ball two yards around left end for the touchdown. Michigan drove 81 yards on 13 plays, with not one passing play in the lot. There was no emphasis on speed in the open field; this drive was simply about old fashioned blocking, and the Wolverines used massive maulers like left tackle Tom Dohring and guard/center Steve Everett, one of the most spirited Wolverines of all time. The final score was 28-18, Michigan, but the tenor of the game was determined on that 81-yard drive, which gave the Wolverines a two-score lead and established how the game was going to unfold.

The 1989 iteration of The Game was Schembechler’s last; he retired after the season. But there was little concern for the future of the program, because both offensive coordinator Gary Moeller, who took the head coaching job in 1990; and defensive coordinator Lloyd Carr, who took the head coaching job several years after that, were accomplished coaches. Fans enjoyed the Big Ten championship that Michigan won in 1989, but few could have imagined what the team would accomplish eight years later.

Thanks to ABC Sports, YouTube, and YouTube poster expressfan. As always, I own nothing and I do not profit from this blog post in any way.

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.