THE GAME – Michigan vs Ohio State Football – Looking Back – 1956

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

The first installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State takes us back to 1956. The national economy was roaring, having reached $400 billion. Low unemployment combined with strong income disbursement led many young people to start families, and purchase homes and automobiles.

On the gridiron, Michigan had fallen to Ohio State the two previous seasons, sparking a determination in coach Bennie Oosterbaan and his players to reverse this disturbing trend. The 1956 Wolverines were led by tight end Ron Kramer, a consensus All-America selection who was later named to the College Football Hall of Fame. Jim Van Pelt played quarterback, and most of the running was done by senior halfback Terry Barr. As the two rivals took the field, each team wore its home uniform, an interesting custom maintained to this day by USC and UCLA.

Operating from the T-formation, the Wolverines wasted little time establishing their attack. Their backs pierced the Ohio State defensive line for small but certain gains, forcing the Buckeyes to concentrate on stopping the run. Van Pelt exploited this, connecting with Barr on a 21-yard swing pass to give Michigan a 7-0 lead. Michigan recovered an Ohio State fumble on the ensuing kickoff, but the Buckeye defense immediately stifled any threat. Undeterred, the Wolverines recovered another fumble on Ohio State’s next possession, and this time Michigan cashed in. Unable to find an open receiver, Barr sprinted for a 4-yard touchdown on an option play to give Michigan a 13-0 lead.

From that point, the Michigan defense took control of the game. The Wolverines tacked on another touchdown in the fourth quarter, but the Michigan defense was the real star. The Wolverines intercepted two passes, while allowing Ohio State to complete just one pass, essentially shutting down the Buckeye passing attack. Michigan won, 19-0, and finished the season with a record of seven wins and two losses. There was no bowl game, but a victory over the Buckeyes is always worth celebrating.

Thanks to YouTube poster College Football Historian for the film of this game. As always, we own nothing and this blog is published strictly 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