SI Vault
BYE-BYE, No. 1
Kaye Kessler
December 01, 1969
Ohio State was the best in the nation, Ohio State was possible Super Bowl material—but Michigan crushed the Buckeyes 24-12 and proved that even Rex Kern is human
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December 01, 1969

Bye-bye, No. 1

Ohio State was the best in the nation, Ohio State was possible Super Bowl material—but Michigan crushed the Buckeyes 24-12 and proved that even Rex Kern is human

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"We knew we had 'em right there, when we stopped their regular stuff," said Pierson, who was to play a big role later.

Even after Ohio State's second series of downs, when Otis plunged in from the one for a 6-0 Buckeye lead, the Wolverines remained confident. Working to the short side of the field, Quarterback Moorhead passed the Wolverines 55 yards in 10 plays to take a 7-6 lead, putting the Buckeyes behind for the first time this season. Twice Moorhead hit Mandich with key passes and once he found Wide Receiver Mike Oldham. An 11-yard reverse by Wingback John Gabler helped, and senior Fullback Garvie Craw got the final three yards on a dive. What was especially noteworthy was that Michigan had made no special effort to work away from Tatum, the Buckeyes' peripatetic cornerback. "Sure, we wanted to go into their short side, then hit Mandich when they single-covered," said Schembechler in his postmortem. " Tatum just happens to play the wide side but you can't really run away from him—he'll hunt you down."

The Buckeyes weren't dead yet. They came right back to take a 12-7 lead on the first play of the second quarter, Kern passing to Tight End Jan White. Ohio State's Stan White kicked the extra point, but Michigan was offside. Taking the penalty, the Bucks went for two points but Kern was smothered by Michigan's defensive end, Mike Keller, a sight that was to become routine before the end.

During the rest of the quarter Michigan pushed the Buckeyes around as no one has done all year. The Wolverines moved to the Ohio State 27, and Taylor, breaking three tackles, ran to the five, setting up Craw's scoring smash two plays later. That made it 14-12. When Ohio State could not move and had to punt, Pierson ran back up the middle to the Ohio State three in what was perhaps the single most important play of the game. Two plays later Moorhead went over, and now even Woody Hayes would have admitted that Ohio State was in deep trouble.

And the Wolverines pressed on. After scoring what was apparently another touchdown on Moorhead's three-yard pass to Mandich with 1:15 left in the half only to have it nullified on a holding penalty, junior Tim Killian kicked a 25-yard field goal, making it 24-12.

So that was it. The Ohio State defense braced in the last half, reducing Michigan's offense to four missed field goals by Killian. But Ohio State's offense, that once awesome machine, was moribund. The Wolverine ends, Keller and Cecil Pryor, kept Kern so well contained that he gained only 28 yards in 11 runs after his initial 25-yard gainer. And when the Bucks ditched the little passes to White—the first three had been successful—and began going for the long ones, the Wolverine defenders were there to intercept six times, three by Pierson. Only Otis was up to his usual form, gaining 144 yards in 28 carries, but then Schembechler had decided to leave him alone, hadn't he?

While Ohio State was behind Woody's closed door, trying to figure out what had gone wrong, the Michigan team was laughing it up, singing a lusty if somewhat off-key version of Hail to the Victors and waving a bunch of plastic red roses. There were so many reporters waiting to see Schembechler that when the coach finally showed up at the interview room he could squeeze in no farther than the doorway. His Michigan sweater and slacks were wringing wet from the traditional shower his players had given him, and his old football knee was aching because the players had dropped him off their shoulders during the postgame victory ride. But Little Woody didn't care. He was the only thing his players had dropped all day.

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