Michigan vs Ohio State Football – Looking Back – 1973

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 to 1973, one of the most interesting years of the 20th century. TV viewers watched the Watergate hearings in the afternoon, the United States continued to face challenges related to Vietnam, the Mets rallied to top the Cincinnati Reds and win the National League pennant, and Yankee Stadium closed for two years to undergo renovations.

The college football world was just as interesting in 1973, as Michigan and Ohio State both entered “The Game” with perfect records. This was the midpoint of the “Ten-year War” between Bo Schembechler and Ohio State coach Woody Hayes, and tensions were at an all-time high. Before the game began, Woody and his troops fanned the flames of the rivalry by tearing down the M Club banner that Michigan players traditionally ran under to enter every home game.

The game itself was divided into two very different halves. In the first half, Ohio State grabbed a 10-0 lead. Michigan was not without big plays, but the shame is that Michigan’s biggest play of the first half was wiped out by a clipping penalty. Gil Chapman took an Ohio State kickoff two yards deep in his own end zone, and zig-zagged his way to the Ohio State 28-yard line before he was tackled. Unfortunately, the ball was brought all the way back to the Michigan 12-yard line, seriously damaging a Michigan scoring opportunity.

Ohio State led, 10-0, and the halftime break, but the second half was all Michigan. In the fourth quarter, the Michigan offense started to hit its stride. Quarterback Dennis Franklin connected with tight end Paul Seal for a 27-yard gain, a play that probably should have been used more often. Then, on 4th down and 1 yard to go at the Ohio State 10-yard line, Franklin kept the ball and darted through the Ohio State defensive line for a 10-yard touchdown, and after Mike Lantry kicked the extra point, the game was tied.

And that’s how it ended, as well. Lantry, who did three tours of duty in Vietnam, missed a pair of field goal attempts in the final minutes, and the final score was Michigan 10, Ohio State 10. Most observers felt that Michigan got the better of the play, having outgained Ohio State in yardage, 333-234. Michigan had 16 first downs to nine for Ohio State. Then there was the passing. Michigan completed nine passes for 99 yards, while Ohio State did not complete one pass. Not one.

Still, it was a tie. On the possession following Franklin’s tying touchdown, he left the game with a fractured collarbone after being hit hard by Ohio State defensive end Van DeCree. In the event of a tie, the Big Ten athletic directors voted on which team should represent the conference in the Rose Bowl. In a vote shrouded in secrecy, Ohio State was named as the representative for the Big Ten Conference. Among the many things that irk Michigan fans is that this happened in a year when Michigan had the type of team that was built to beat the champion of the Pacific 8 conference, USC. Instead, the Wolverines wound up sitting at home on New Year’s Day.

Long forgotten by most people is the fact that this Michigan team went undefeated, finishing the season with a record of 10 wins, no losses and one tie. In addition, both the National Championship Foundation and the Poling System recognized Michigan as co-national champions for the 1973 season. Thanks to the Big Ten Network for the broadcast of the game. As always, we own nothing, and this blog post is intended purely for the enjoyment of readers.


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.