THE GAME – Michigan vs Ohio State Football – Looking Back – 2003

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

By the early 2000s, the landscape had changed in the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. Ohio State had suddenly claimed a National Championship, and reversing the Buckeyes’ momentum would be a tall order.

Enter John Navarre. Standing every bit of 6 feet, 6 inches, Navarre possessed a quiet persona, and had excellent leadership qualities. The other leader was running back Chris Perry, who fought through plenty of adversity during his time in Ann Arbor. At one point, head coach Lloyd Carr advised him to transfer, but a heart-to-heart conversation with his mother convinced Perry that his best move was perseverance. Perry matured significantly in the 2002 season, and by 2003, he was ready to produce serious results.

The fifth and final installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State takes us back to 2003 for the 100th game in the series. Despite the Wolverines’ offensive firepower, it was their defense that established the tone. Michigan safety Ernest Shazor’s tackle of Ohio State tight end Ben Hartsock prevented an easy first down, forcing the Buckeyes to punt. Then the Michigan offensive line seized the momentum. Perry gashed the Ohio State defensive line for sizable gains, and suddenly the Wolverines were at the Ohio State 3-yard line, facing a 3rd down and goal to go. Steve Breaston, usually a receiver, lined up at quarterback and scored a 3-yard touchdown to give the Wolverines the early lead. The Wolverines extended that lead when Navarre connected with Braylon Edwards for a 64-yard touchdown pass highlighted by a broken tackle. Once Edwards freed himself from the defender, he went all the way for the touchdown to give Michigan a two-score lead. Navarre and Edwards connected for a 23-yard touchdown pass later in the second quarter to give Michigan a 21-0 lead. The Wolverines had a comfortable cushion, or so they thought.

Ohio State kept plugging away, and after Lydell Ross scored on a 2-yard run early in the fourth quarter, the Wolverines’ lead was only a touchdown. Undaunted, Michigan went back to basics. Perry completed a drive that lasted almost four minutes by scoring on a 15-yard run to make the final score Michigan 35, Ohio State 21. After another eight minutes, Michigan claimed victory over the Buckeyes, along with the 2003 Big Ten championship. For his efforts, Perry was named to both the All-America team and the All-Big Ten team. He was joined on the All-Big Ten team by Navarre, Edwards and offensive lineman Tony Pape.

The next season, the Wolverines welcomed a bumper crop of recruits, including running back Mike Hart, quarterback Chad Henne and offensive tackle Jake Long. But, for now, it was enough to revel in the 2003 Big Ten championship, a hard-earned victory that reestablished Michigan as the ultimate power in the Big Ten. Thank you to ABC Sports, WJR, and YouTube poster Jordan Swavel for the broadcast of this game. As always, we own nothing and we do not profit from this blog post, which is provided strictly for the enjoyment of readers.

THE GAME – Michigan vs Ohio State Football – Looking Back – 1998

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

The fourth installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State takes us back to 1998. The late 1990s became the modern “golden era” of Michigan football, punctuated by Michigan’s victory over Washington State in the Rose Bowl, clinching a perfect season and the AP National Championship. On top of that, Charles Woodson won the Heisman Trophy and the regents chose to add 5,000 seats to Michigan Stadium, reestablishing it as the largest collegiate stadium in the country.

Unfortunately, problems frequently develop when celebrations last too long. The hunger that fueled the relentless drive Michigan felt the previous season was replaced by a dangerous feeling of satisfaction.

Michigan had suffered the usual departures due to graduation, and Charles Woodson left to continue his football journey in the NFL. The 1997 team had achieved impressive success, but it was a very different team that began the 1998 season.

The Wolverines opened the 1998 campaign with a pair of losses, but Ray returned by midseason, and dominant victories over Penn State and Wisconsin proved that Michigan was playing solid football again, just in time for the trip to Columbus.

The Wolverines were greeted by a typically ornery crowd at Ohio Stadium, to put it kindly. Ohio State jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter on touchdowns by Michael Wiley and Dee Miller, putting Michigan in a deep hole. The Wolverines fought back gamely in the second quarter as Jay Feely kicked a 27-yard field goal and Tom Brady connected with Tai Streets for a 3-yard touchdown pass, but Michigan trailed at halftime, 21-10. Ultimately, Michigan lost, 31-16. A season that appeared to hold so much promise provided Michigan with a sobering reality: Glory is fleeting.

Still, there was reason for Michigan to be proud of its performance, even in defeat. After starting the season with two losses, the Wolverines rededicated themselves and persevered, producing some impressive victories along the way. The season ended with a 45-31 win over Arkansas in the Florida Citrus Bowl, the first of four consecutive wins over SEC opponents in bowl games. As the 1998 campaign ended, hopes were restored, and the following year would, once again, begin with considerable promise.

Thanks to ABC Sports, YouTube, and YouTube poster SteelBuck 6 for the highlight video of this game. We claim no ownership and do not profit from the video on this blog post.

THE GAME – Michigan vs Ohio State Football – Looking Back – 1991

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

The third installmenf of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State takes us back to 1991. By this time, Bo Schembechler had retired, turning the reins over to trusted lieutenant Gary Moeller. In one of his final seasons, Schembechler was asked who would replace some of the tremendous receivers he had, and he mentioned the name Desmond Howard.

In the late 1980s, high school football recruiting had yet to become an obsession, and Howard wasn’t a household name. His performance against Ohio State crushed the spirit of the Buckeyes, and made him an icon in college football lore.

Any drama in this game ended after the opening kickoff. Michigan won, 31-3, punctuated by Desmond Howard’s 93-yard punt return for a touchdown, ending with Howard’s famous “Heisman Pose.” Keith Jackson bellowed “Hello Heisman!” and Howard became a legend for the ages.

In hindsight, the 1991 team never received the proper amount of adulation from Michigan fans. The Wolverines absolutely dominated the Buckeyes. They beat Notre Dame in dramatic fashion, courtesy of an amazing touchdown by Howard. They beat Michigan State comfortably. Howard was joined by linebacker Erick Anderson and linemen Greg Skrepenak and Matt Elliott on the All-America team. Maybe the most important point of all, the Wolverines went undefeated in the Big Ten, winning all eight conference games and capturing the Big Ten championship. It’s fair to say a season of that magnitude would satisfy many Michigan supporters.

Thanks to ABC Sports, YouTube, and YouTube poster RXwolverine for the broadcast of this game. I own nothing and we do not profit off this blog post, which is published strictly for the enjoyment of readers.

THE GAME – Michigan vs Ohio State Football – Looking Back – 1978

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

The second installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State takes us back to 1978. Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat signed the Camp David Accords. Resorts International Casino opened in Atlantic City, N.J., the first casino to open on the East Coast.

In college football, Michigan was in the 10th season of coach Bo Schembechler’s tenure, and he had the Wolverines firing on all cylinders. Senior quarterback Rick Leach directed Michigan’s option offense, and opposing defenses had their hands full every game. If defenses concentrated too much on Leach, running backs Harlan Huckleby and Russell Davis were poised to strike, as were receiver Rodney Feaster and tight end Doug Marsh. On defense, junior linebacker Ron Simpkins spearheaded an attacking group of players who swarmed to the ball. In the simplest of terms, the 1978 Wolverines had very few weaknesses.

Ohio State started the season slowly, but the Buckeyes reeled off five consecutive victories heading into “The Game,” giving them plenty of momentum. Even more worrisome for the Wolverines, the game would be played at Ohio Stadium; always a daunting venue for Michigan.

There was even more reason for concern when a Bob Atha field goal gave Ohio State a 3-0 lead in the first quarter. The Wolverines maintained their composure and responded with a dominant drive that covered 70 yards in just four plays. Leach culiminated the scoring drive by connecting with Feaster for a 30-yard touchdown pass. After Ohio State took the lead, Michigan repsonded little more than a minute later. The Wolverines extended their lead in the third quarter when junior tailback Roosevelt Smith caught an 11-yard scoring pass to give Michigan a 14-3 lead. From that point, Michigan’s defense took control of the game. It was a rare when a Bo Schembechler-era Michigan defense surrendered a double-digit lead. This game marked the third consectuive contest vs Ohio State where the Buckeyes failed to score a touchdown vs Michigan, a point that wasn’t lost on Ohio State coach Woody Hayes, who greeted a reporter angrily when he was questioned about the streak after the game. Including the 1978 game, Michigan had surrendered only nine points to Ohio State over the last three meetings between the two rivals.

The win also marked Michigan’s third consecutive triumph in the series, and enabled Michigan to claim a share of the Big Ten championship.

Thanks to ABC Sports and YouTube poster Pizza Pizzichetti for the broadcast of this game. There’s an extra treat: The video was synced up with the audio from Bob Ufer’s radio broadcast!

1978 Michigan vs Ohio State with Bob Ufer

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.