COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Ohio State and “that team up north,” it’s the biggest rivalry in college football, and some would say in all of sports.
It’s a series that is rich in history and 2019 marks a few notable finishes and anniversaries including the 100th anniversary of the first Ohio State win over Michigan.
Recently Ohio state has dominated the series. In 1919, that wasn’t the case.
“That was the 16th game of the series. Ohio State, of course, had won none of the first 15,” said Jack Park, Historian. “So, that was quite an achievement for Ohio State to finally beat Michigan. And it was of course because of the play of the immortal Chic Harley that Ohio state was able to beat Michigan.”
It was a victory that was needed. Ohio State had been so bad leading up to that victory that the rivalry almost ended.
“I think they always wanted to play Michigan, but I think there was some fear on Ohio State’s part that Michigan would no longer schedule Ohio State because they were such an easy victory, really,” said Park.
Hard to believe these days, considering OSU has only lost two games since 2000 thanks to the domination of Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer. There was another coach who dominated the rivalry in his time, Woody Hayes
“When Woody came in in 1951, he actually lost two of his first three games. In fact, they were both shutouts. And those were kind of cold winters for him. The beginning of 1954, Ohio State would really start to dominate the series,” said Park.
It was in that 1954 meeting that Jack Gibbs, a walk-on, changed the course of the game
“He approached Woody Hayes and said, ‘I just want to play,’ and Woody said if you’re willing to do the work, we will give you the opportunity,” said Park.
Gibbs worked hard, and his senior year, he worked his way up to be a second-team linebacker. Late in the second quarter of that 1954 game, the Buckeyes were down 7-0. Thanks to an injury, Gibbs went into the game. And on the next play, he intercepted a Michigan throw by Jim Maddock and returned that pass all the way to the Michigan 10 yard line.
That play shifted the momentum of the game, leading the Buckeyes to a victory over Michigan and eventually a national title
“I think if you look back at Woody Hayes, 20 years as head coach, and had to pick one play that’s really significant, it might be that interception by Jack Gibbs,” said Park.
In his first 18 years as head coach, Woody went 12 and 6 against Michigan. Then, exactly 50 years ago, Bo Schembechler took charge and broke the Buckeyes’ 22-game winning streak.
“Probably the most significant game in the history of the Big 10 conference. And certainly one of the greatest upsets ever in college football history…and that started what is known as now The 10-Year War,” said Park.
The “War” would only end after Woody’s time as a coach ended, which leads us to another upset — this time for the good guys — and Earle Bruce’s last game as the Buckeyes head coach.
“The way that OSU released him, the word got out on the Monday before the Michigan game and those players couldn’t believe it,” said Park
At one point, the Buckeyes were down 13-0 and came back to win it all for their coach.
“I think if Earle was with us today, he might say that’s his favorite Ohio State victory because of the way those players rallied around him and sent him out as a winner,” Park said.