Looking Back is a Special Feature Highlighting
Key Rivalry Games by Jeff Cummins
The second installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between MIchigan and Ohio State takes us to 1977. Four years earlier, Woody Hayes and his band of Buckeyes attempted to tear down the M Club banner. This year, this Wolverines were ready. Before the game, a cadre of Wolverine graduates, dressed in street clothes, fended off the Buckeyes as they attempted to attack the banner. This time, Ohio State didn’t fare so well in its attack on the banner.
If Woody Hayes wasn’t concerned by the fact that the Michigan men thwarted the attack, he certainly should have been. Things only got worse for Ohio State after that. After driving deep into Michigan territory, Ohio State was forced to settle for a field goal. The momentum changed in the second quarter when UM quarterback Rick Leach connected with running back Roosevelt Smith to give Michigan a first down and goal at the Ohio State 9-yard line. Two play later, Smith punched the ball over from the 1-yard line, and Michigan never trailed again.
In the third quarter, Michigan hit Ohio State running back Ron Springs hard, causing Springs to fumble, and Michigan linebacker Ron Simpkins pounced on the ball immediately, giving Michigan possession at the Ohio State 20-yard line. Three plays later, Leach scored on an option play, and the Wolverines led, 14-3. Ohio State kicked a field goal to trim the lead, setting up the dramatic final quarter.
With four minutes left in the game, Ohio State had a first down and goal to go at the Michigan 8-yard line. Michigan linebacker John Anderson then drilled Buckeye quarterback Rod Gerald, knocking the ball loose, and Derek Howard recovered it for Michigan. The Wolverines then ran out the clock, while Hayes punched an ABC cameraman on the sideline.
The victory earned Michigan the Big Ten championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl, while Ohio State was relegated to the Sugar Bowl. Michigan fell to Washington in the Rose Bowl, but the lasting memory of the 1977 season is the throng of Michigan fans who stormed the field after the win over Ohio State.
Many thanks to ESPN Classic for the film of this game. As always, we own nothing, and this film and blog post are intended strictly for the enjoyment of readers.