However, the Wolverines had one thing in their favor coming into the 1964 season, maybe the most important thing: They had a lot of talented players coming back.
The first and final installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State takes us back to 1964. Lyndon B. Johnson was now president. The national economy was growing, unemployment was dropping, and The Beatles appeared on the “Ed Sullivan Show” and took the nation by storm. And back in Michigan, the Wolverines were quietly returning a pretty good group of football players, including a pair of All-Americans, Robert Timberlake and William Yearby.
When the Wolverines arrived in Columbus, they knew it wouldn’t be easy to beat the Buckeyes. Sure enough, the game started in very slow, plodding fashion.
Finally, late in the second quarter, the patience paid off. After Ohio State muffed a punt, John Henderson pounced on the ball for Michigan at the Ohio State 20-yard line. Two plays later, Timberlake threw a 17-yard pass to Jim Detwiler, who literally landed on the goal line to give Michigan a 7-0 lead.
After Ohio State missed a pair of field goals in the first half, the Wolverines clamped down on the Buckeye attack in the second half. Rick Volk intercepted an Ohio State pass in the fourth quarter and the Wolverines took over at their own 28, with a little more than five minutes left to play. On Ohio State’s next possession, the Buckeyes drove to the Wolverines’ 43-yard line, but the drive stalled, and Michigan took over possession and ran out the clock, shutting out Ohio State 10-0, in Ohio Stadium, a feat that’s not easily accomplished in any era.
With the win, Michigan advanced won the Big Ten championship and advanced to the Rose Bowl, where the Wolverines trounced Oregon State, 34-7. The Wolverines finished the season with a record of 9 wins and 1 loss, and were ranked No. 4 in both the AP poll and the coaches’ poll. In retrospect, only a failed two-point conversion against Purdue prevented a perfect season and a likely national championship. In all the 1964 Wolverines rank as one of the most under appreciated teams in the school’s illustrious football history.
Thanks to YouTube and YouTube poster WolverineHistorian for the highlight film of this game. As always, neither I nor anyone involved with umgoblue.com own anything and do not profit in any way from this blog post, which is intended strictly for the enjoyment of readers.