Michigan-Ohio State: Rivalry Changing Moments

Since 1935, when the two teams first began their annual end of the season meetings, Michigan and Ohio State have regarded the final game of the regular season as most important. This fact is something that Michigan and Ohio State fans have known, understood, and relished for years. While the rivalry has seen its share of ebb and flow, the importance of The Game has never wavered. Big Ten and National Championships have often been on the line when the Wolverines and Buckeyes have clashed in late November. Yet, even during those few meetings when pride alone was on the line, the passion and intensity of the rivalry has never diminished. The Game became a national spectacle during the 10 Year War, thrusting the importance of the rivalry beyond just the Midwest. As the 2007 HBO special on the rivalry eloquently summed it up, the regular season became mere window dressing before the annual end of the year battle. Each of the rivalry’s 107 meetings has held a certain level of importance for the players, coaches, and fans. Even so, there have been brief moments in history when fate has stretched out its hand and fundamentally changed the course of the rivalry. There are moments when the importance of The Game transcends the regular level of passion and intensity that the rivalry is built upon.

The 1919 contest between Michigan and Ohio State marked the first such moment in the history of the rivalry. In 1916, future first-team All-American Chic Harley arrived at the Ohio State campus and dramatically changed the course of “The Game.” Harley helped Ohio State snap a 15 game non-winning streak against Michigan in 1919. Ohio State’s 13-3 victory showed that yes, Michigan could be beaten. Ohio State’s win was the first of 3 straight victories over Michigan, a stretch that cemented the rivalry as a two sided affair.

In 1951 another rivalry changing moment occurred, created by the arrival of Wayne Woodrow Hayes, a.k.a “Woody.” Ohio State won all of 2 games in 12 years prior to Woody Hayes taking over the Buckeye program. While Hayes lost his first contest to Michigan, he went on to win 12 of the next 16 games against the Wolverines. Beginning in 1952, Hayes presided over the first “Red Scare” in the rivalry’s history, a period when Ohio State took over and dominated the series. Hayes not only made beating Michigan a priority, he instilled a level of hatred into the rivalry that fueled his team’s performance and created a deep sense of animosity between the two programs.

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My Top Michigan Memories

Senior Writer Andy Andersen’s Greatest Michigan Football Memories

By: Senior Writer Andy Andersen

It always seems unfair to pick out favorite Michigan Football games, as over the years so many of them have provided an outstanding entertainment to the millions of Wolverine fans that have enjoyed so many successes at home and away.

Lance has limited the commentary to only the last twenty-five years. Fortunately that window provides plenty of scenes to recall with pleasure, and a significant few that stunned so badly that most Michigan fans would rather forget them. They won’t get mentioned here. And it excludes the most unexpected M victory ever: M over OSU in 1969.

Even without that, my first three great games are all games against Ohio State.

The first would be the 1997 Michigan/Ohio State game. It doesn’t get better that that. Charles Woodson shining on offense and defense on his way to becoming the first defensive player to win the Heisman, provided a lifetime memory. His 78-yard punt return for a TD sealed the victory. This game featured a great home crowd, great stakes, great performances, and great results. A Big Ten Championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl happened via this 20-14 M win. Without this win a National Championship doesn’t happen. Woodson had also provided window dressing with his great interception in the 1997 win over MSU, which didn’t make the list because it was not an especially great game, but I have never seen anything more athletic than that Woodson interception against the Spartans. Never.


Second comes the 1991 Desmond Howard Heisman pose in the south end zone after the 93-yard punt return to seal the deal in an outstanding 33-3 rout. At the time I thought that DH was hamming it up excessively with his dramatic Heisman pose. Time has proven Desmond right and me wrong. This has provided an enduring film clip of a fine Michigan moment. This one led to a Big Ten Championship, but a loss in the Rose Bowl clouded any National Championship hopes. That doesn’t diminish a great win and a great player’s shining moment. The crowd went nuts. Additionally, the Howard “catch” against Notre Dame for a last minute game winner could easily be included in the this list of top five fan moments and games.



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The Rivalry

The following was written by Guest Writer Clint Derringer (UMGoBlue User ClintD):

The fuel for a rivalry is not found in an athlete’s love of winning, but rather in his hatred of losing.  For me, there is 07-UMOSU-20no reward as great as denying your greatest adversary.  This attitude is what made Michigan vs. Ohio State as great as it is today.  

In the beginning, Fielding Yost’s "point-a-minute" teams were a juggernaut, to the tune of 214-6 over those guys beneath us.  Accordingly, Ohio State men of the 1919 were not jubilant about winning a game as much as they were reveling in bringing Michigan back to earth.   

Perhaps the greatest era of this illustrious rivalry is the Ten Year War between Bo Schembechler’s Wolverines, and Woody Hayes’ Buckeys.  This era particularly showed how the beauty of a rival is inflicting heartache on the other guys.  In 1968, the year before Bo was hired at U-M, Woody famously went for a two point conversion up 48-14.  It was successful.  When asked why he went for two, Woody crassly replied "Because I couldn’t go for 3."  Point taken.

In 1969 Bo Schembechler used Woody’s venom against him.  The number "50" was prominently displayed in the football facility.  When there were conditioning reps to be done, 07-UMOSU-31Michigan did 50.  Before the 1969 Michigan vs Ohio State game, the national media was not shy about purveying the opinion that the only college football game worth watching was OSU’s offense vs. OSU’s defense during practice in Columbus.  Woody later said it was the best team he had coached throughout his career. That was high praise from a man that coached three national championship teams. 

But the 1969 team was not one of those championship teams.  Michigan triumphed 24-12.  Michigan finished 8-3 in 1969, but the people of Ann Arbor weren’t counting wins.  Only counting that one OSU loss.

In 1973 both teams entered The Game undefeated.  After the teams battled to a grueling 10-10 draw the teams split the Big Ten championship, but in those days only one team could go to a bowl.  The conference Athletic Directors voted to send the Buckeyes, citing an injury to Michigan’s starting QB.  ***  Bo would call this decision the greatest injustice of his career.  It was the only draw in the Ten Year War, but anyone will tell you (from either side of the fence) that it feels much more like a Buckeye victory than anything else.

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Alumnus of the Week – Thom Darden

Michigan Wolverine Alumnus of the Week – Thom Darden

“The Great Coaches don’t lose very often, but when they do, they have to lose with poise and dignity. Gentleman, Woody Hayes, last year at the Ohio State/Michigan game, the magnified despair of defeat reduced him to making a damn fool out of himself at Ann Arbor.”

Bob Ufer – November, 1972

On November 21, 1971, the #3 Ranked Michigan Wolverines were 10-0 and facing off with the 6-3 Ohio State Buckeyes. Unfortunately, due to the Buckeyes record, the game wasn’t shown on television. The following is an edited version of the games events from the coaches tape:



Just after the 8:40 mark, one of the most memorable plays in the history of college football occurs. Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com, remembers the play well:

“Late in the game, Michigan defensive back Thom Darden went over wideout Dick Wakefield, who was not only 6-foot-4 but in midair, for an acrobatic pickoff at the Michigan 32 in the final seconds. Ohio State coach Woody Hayes rushed the field screaming ‘Interference!’ When that didn’t work, Hayes shredded the sideline markers. That didn’t work, either.”

Between 1969 & ‘71, Thom Darden played a variety of positions in the defensive backfield for Michigan amassing 218 tackles and 11 interceptions. He would go on to be drafted 18th overall by the Cleveland Browns in th 1972 NFL Draft. Three times during his pro career, Darden would be named an All-Pro on his way to 45 career interceptions, setting the Cleveland Browns franchise record.

A tribute to the stellar career Darden had on the playing field can not go without mention of his problems off the field since he retired. Darden has been found to be in contempt of court over 20 times for his failure to pay child support to his ex-wife Cheryl and honestly doesn’t strike me as someone I would point to and reference as a, “Michigan Man.”

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