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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tuesday History Lesson U-M vs. OSU - 1977

MZone reader Matthew Stout continues his excellent series below as we head toward the greatest rivalry in college football this Saturday.

1977…Leach & Co. Lock Out the Buckeyes…

The year was 1977. Where were you? Jimmy Carter was your President after knocking Michigan man Gerald Ford out of the Oval Office the previous November. Stevie Wonder was winning a Grammy for “Songs in the Key of Life” while Jimmy Buffet’s epic hit “Margaritaville” was debuting off the album “Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Attitudes.” Star Wars was demolishing records at the box office, and taking home six Oscars at the 50th Academy Awards. Matt Stout was only six years old but Michigan Athletic Director Don Canham was already telling people about the young Michigan fan in Columbus, Ohio who was going to restore order in the Big Ten Universe and bring the balance of power back to Michigan. And the Wolverines and Buckeyes were about to stage another epic battle in The Big House.

Michigan entered The Game with a 9-1 mark and ranked 5th in the nation. The Wolverines had spent four of the first seven weeks of the season ranked number one in the country before getting shut-out at Minnesota 16-0 in the seventh week of the season. Still, behind the stellar quarterback play of junior Rick Leach and the three-headed rushing tandem of Russell Davis, Harlan Huckleby, and Roosevelt Smith, the Boys in Blue had responded with three convincing victories to head into The Game. With a defense that was ranked 4th in the nation against scoring, the Wolverines looked to win two straight against the Buckeyes for the first time since the 1950 and 1951 seasons.

Ohio State came to Ann Arbor with an identical 9-1 record and ranked 4th in the nation. The Buckeyes had lost a heartbreaking 29-28 thriller to Oklahoma in the third game of the season but had run the table in Big Ten action, clinching at least a share of the Big Ten title as the entered The Game. Woody Hayes’ troops were lead by mobile quarterback Rod Gerald, and 1,000 yard rushers Ron Springs and Jeff Logan on the offensive side of the ball. On defense, All-Americans Aaron Brown, Tom Cousineau, and Ray Griffin anchored a unit that led the nation in scoring defense.

With a Michigan Stadium record crowd of 106,024 on hand, the two rivals set foot on the gridiron with the Big Ten title and a trip to the Rose Bowl to be decided amongst them for the sixth consecutive year.

Ohio took the opening kickoff and hammered the football right down the field against the Wolverine defense before the drive stalled at the Michigan 12. Buckeye place kicker Vlade Janakievski kicked a 29-yard field, and Ohio took the early 3-0 lead.

After Janakievski missed another field goal from 42 yards out to kill an Ohio drive, Michigan finally responded in the second quarter when Leach orchestrated a 46-yard drive that commenced with a one-yard touchdown run by Smith. The Wolverines took this 7-3 lead to the half, and stood just 30 minutes away from earning a second straight trip to Pasadena for the first time ever.

As the second half opened, Michigan forced the first key turnover of The Game on Ohio’s initial possession of the third quarter. Springs fumbled away the football at the Ohio 20, and four plays later, Leach found paydirt from the Ohio three. Leach’s score pushed the Michigan advantage to 14-3.

Ohio took the ensuing kickoff and immediately moved down the field to the Michigan 11. But from there, the Michigan defense flexed their muscles. Three plays and negative 16 yards later, Ohio was forced to settle for a 44-yard field goal by Janakievski to close the score to 14-6.

Three more times in the second half, Ohio would move the football inside the Michigan 25. Each time, the Michigan defense stood tall and slammed the door on the Buckeye offense. Janakievski missed a field goal from 39-yards out, Ohio failed on 4th and 1 at the Michigan 10, and Gerald fumbled away Ohio’s last chance in the closing minutes at the Blue 8.

On the day, Ohio would rack up 352 yards to Michigan’s 196 total yards. The Buckeyes put 23 first downs on the board while Michigan managed just 10, and in six trips inside the Michigan 25-yard line, Ohio managed only two field goals. In addition, the Buckeyes had lost the only statistical battle that mattered – the score. Michigan 14, Ohio 6, was the final.

The victory would send Michigan to Pasadena on New Year’s Day where the Wolverines would fall to Washington 27-20. The 10-2 Wolverines would complete the 1977 season ranked 9th in the final polls.

Coming tomorrow...1991...Howard's Heisman Pose Haunts the Buckeyes...


Katie said...

Thanks Matt, really great stuff!

Corey said...

I've been reading Matt's work for past 3 years. He really does great work!

Michigan Girl said...

I was at that game - wasn't it Woody's last appearance in Ann Arbor?