The fifth and final installment of the series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State takes us back 20 years, to 1997. The economy was roaring, the world was starting to take an interest in this new thing called the Internet, and Michigan entered the season facing arguably the toughest schedule in the country, while critics snickered not so quietly that the Block M stood for mediocrity.
The good news is that everyone in Maize and Blue heard that criticism, and by the beginning of the season, they were seething with anger, and they were absolutely determined to prove their critics wrong. Lloyd Carr, who proved to the best master motivator in 1997, had just finished reading “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer, a book about a harrowing ascent of Mount Everest in the most dangerous storm in the history of Mount Everest climbs. Carr found out that Lou Kasischke, a member of the climbing party, lived nearby, and he persuaded Kasischke to talk to the Michigan team about the challenges he faced while climbing Everest.
Michigan entered the game with a perfect record, while Ohio State entered with the perfect opportunity for revenge. The last two seasons, Michigan had ruined perfect seasons for the Buckeyes by upsetting Ohio State. Throw in the fact that Ohio State wide receiver David Boston had taken a potshot at Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson in the media, and it’s easy to see why there was so much tension in the pre-game build-up.
Midway through the second quarter, the game was locked in a scoreless tie when Michigan quarterback Brian Griese found Woodson on a post-pattern for a 37-yard gain. Two plays later, freshman Anthony Thomas crossed the goal line to give Michigan the lead. By the middle of the third quarter, the Wolverines had extended that lead to 20-0. That’s when things got a little bit nerve-wracking. Boston finally beat Woodson for a touchdown, and then OSU linebacker Jerry Rudzinski forced a fumble from Griese, and all of a sudden, Michigan’s lead was down to 20-14. That’s when every Michigan fans started to sweat during a game in which the temperature was in the low 20s.
Fortunately for Michigan, the defense stood tall at the most critical moments, and a huge hit by Marcus Ray on Boston changed the momentum. Just a few minutes later, Michigan’s defense had held, and Griese took the snap and ran out the clock. The final score was Michigan 20, Ohio State 14. The win gave Michigan the Big Ten championship with an 11-0 record, and Michigan went to the Rose Bowl, where the Wolverines topped Washington State to finish the perfect season and capture the Associated Press National Championship.
In my 54 years, that was the biggest Michigan-Ohio State game of them all, and I doubt I’ll see any victory bigger than that one in my lifetime. That win serves as the bar for every Michigan win over Ohio State.
Thanks to ABC Sports and YouTube posters Stephen Barnett and Dr. Sap. As always, we own nothing, and this blog and video are posted strictly for the enjoyment of readers.