Michigan vs Ohio State THE GAME — Looking Back — The 1987 Edition

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For the third installment of the Looking Back series, we’ll go to 1987. The country had enjoyed tremendous prosperity throughout much of the mid-1980s, but there was a brief hiccup on Wall Street in the fall of ’87 that caused substantial losses for many investors. “The Cosby Show” ruled the television world, but not too far behind was “Family Ties,” a show about a family raised by a couple of 1960s liberals with three children, including a conservative son, Alex P. Keaton, masterfully played by Michael J. Fox. Interestingly, the show was set in Columbus, Ohio, the epicenter of Ohio State Buckeye football, yet it seldom, if ever, made any reference to the Buckeyes. The show’s creator, Gary David Goldberg, who died in June, was a native of Brooklyn, N.Y. But I digress.

On the field, 1987 proved to be a frustrating season for both rivals. Michigan had already suffered three losses by the time The Game rolled around, leaving the Wolverines with a nondescript season. Ohio State was in much the same boat, but head coach Earle Bruce was in a tougher spot than Bo Schembechler was at Michigan. Bruce had succeeded Woody Hayes at Ohio State, and endured the inevitable comparisons that come with following a legend. By 1987, the faithful in Columbus were furious with Bruce, a good coach who walked into an impossible situation. But on this day, Bruce would go out on top, literally.

As Ohio State entered Michigan Stadium, Bruce’s fate was already known. Three consecutive losses in the weeks leading up to The Game left the Bucks with a 5-4-1 record, and Bruce was informed earlier in the week that he would not return as the Buckeyes’ coach in 1998, but he would be allowed to finish the season as head coach. As the teams took the field, Ohio State players could be seen with headbands that had “EARLE” scrawled across them in capital letters.

Sure enough, the headbands proved to be a good omen for Bruce and the Bucks. Ohio State played an inspired game, upsetting Michigan 23-20 in one of the underrated games in the series. For one game, the Bucks were revitalized, and one Buck, in particular, was revitalized for quite some time.

As Rob Oller noted in an outstanding story in The Columbus Dispatch (which is linked here), William Moxley, nicknamed “Buck,” was seated in the end zone at Michigan Stadium that day, while his son Tim played on the offensive line for Ohio State. Buck Moxley suffered a heart attack during the game and collapsed in his seat. Fortunately, a cardiologist was sitting nearby, and Moxley was rushed to University Hospital, where doctors used a then-experimental drug that fought strokes to save Moxley’s life. Even with the drug, Moxley had to be resuscitated several times, but he made it, thanks to Dr. Dan Beatty of East Liverpool, Ohio, who saved Moxley’s life at the stadium, and to Dr. Mark Sanz, who saved Moxley’s life at University of Michigan Hospital.

Earle Bruce? He went out a winner, on the shoulders of his players, and became a de facto ambassador for Ohio State football. All in all, not a bad way to go out.

Thanks again to OurHonorDefend on YouTube, ABC, and Rob Oller and The Columbus Dispatch.

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.

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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.