Michigan vs Ohio State Football – Looking Back – 1973

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

The third installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State takes us to 1973, one of the most interesting years of the 20th century. TV viewers watched the Watergate hearings in the afternoon, the United States continued to face challenges related to Vietnam, the Mets rallied to top the Cincinnati Reds and win the National League pennant, and Yankee Stadium closed for two years to undergo renovations.

The college football world was just as interesting in 1973, as Michigan and Ohio State both entered “The Game” with perfect records. This was the midpoint of the “Ten-year War” between Bo Schembechler and Ohio State coach Woody Hayes, and tensions were at an all-time high. Before the game began, Woody and his troops fanned the flames of the rivalry by tearing down the M Club banner that Michigan players traditionally ran under to enter every home game.

The game itself was divided into two very different halves. In the first half, Ohio State grabbed a 10-0 lead. Michigan was not without big plays, but the shame is that Michigan’s biggest play of the first half was wiped out by a clipping penalty. Gil Chapman took an Ohio State kickoff two yards deep in his own end zone, and zig-zagged his way to the Ohio State 28-yard line before he was tackled. Unfortunately, the ball was brought all the way back to the Michigan 12-yard line, seriously damaging a Michigan scoring opportunity.

Ohio State led, 10-0, and the halftime break, but the second half was all Michigan. In the fourth quarter, the Michigan offense started to hit its stride. Quarterback Dennis Franklin connected with tight end Paul Seal for a 27-yard gain, a play that probably should have been used more often. Then, on 4th down and 1 yard to go at the Ohio State 10-yard line, Franklin kept the ball and darted through the Ohio State defensive line for a 10-yard touchdown, and after Mike Lantry kicked the extra point, the game was tied.

And that’s how it ended, as well. Lantry, who did three tours of duty in Vietnam, missed a pair of field goal attempts in the final minutes, and the final score was Michigan 10, Ohio State 10. Most observers felt that Michigan got the better of the play, having outgained Ohio State in yardage, 333-234. Michigan had 16 first downs to nine for Ohio State. Then there was the passing. Michigan completed nine passes for 99 yards, while Ohio State did not complete one pass. Not one.

Still, it was a tie. On the possession following Franklin’s tying touchdown, he left the game with a fractured collarbone after being hit hard by Ohio State defensive end Van DeCree. In the event of a tie, the Big Ten athletic directors voted on which team should represent the conference in the Rose Bowl. In a vote shrouded in secrecy, Ohio State was named as the representative for the Big Ten Conference. Among the many things that irk Michigan fans is that this happened in a year when Michigan had the type of team that was built to beat the champion of the Pacific 8 conference, USC. Instead, the Wolverines wound up sitting at home on New Year’s Day.

Long forgotten by most people is the fact that this Michigan team went undefeated, finishing the season with a record of 10 wins, no losses and one tie. In addition, both the National Championship Foundation and the Poling System recognized Michigan as co-national champions for the 1973 season. Thanks to the Big Ten Network for the broadcast of the game. As always, we own nothing, and this blog post is intended purely for the enjoyment of readers.


Michigan vs Ohio State Football – Looking Back – 1977

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.

Michigan vs Ohio State Football – Looking Back – 1968

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

The first installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State takes back to 1968. Richard Nixon had just been elected president, the nation watched nightly TV reports on the Vietnam War, and, well, you probably already know that Ohio State routed Michigan, 50-14.

But the truth is, that’s just the outer edges of the story. Anyone who thinks the ’68 Wolverines were bad simply doesn’t see the whole picture. The 1968 team had a roster that was loaded with talent, including running backs Ron Johnson and Grave Craw, tight end Jim Mandich, defensive back Tom Curtis, defensive linemen Tom Goss (future UM AD) and Henry Hill, offensive lineman Dan Diedorf, and junior end Mike Hankwitz, who went on to become one of the best defensive coordinators in college football. After suffering an opening day loss to Cal, the Wolverines reeled off eight consecutive victories, including back-to-back shutouts against Northwestern and Illinois.

The Game occurred on Nov. 23, 1968, and in the first half, Michigan was competitive, with the game tied at 14. Then Ohio State overwhelmed Michigan, and after their final touchdown, the Buckeyes went for two points, and failed. If anything, the attempted two-point conversion may have ignited a spark in the Wolverines for the following season. Shortly after the season ended, Michigan coach Bump Elliott accepted the positions of associate athletic director, and Bo Schembechler was named head coach on Dec. 26, 1968, leading to one of the most interesting offseason in Michigan history.

Thanks to YouTube, ABC Sports, and YouTube poster Dr. Sap for the video clips below. As always, I own nothing and do not profit from this blog post in any way.