SI Vault
John Underwood
November 28, 1977
Michigan blunted every Buckeye drive with a big play to beat Ohio State and earn another trip to the Rose Bowl
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November 28, 1977

So It's Two In A Row For Bo

Michigan blunted every Buckeye drive with a big play to beat Ohio State and earn another trip to the Rose Bowl

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Example 1) Trailing 14-3 early in the third quarter, Ohio State whisks 74 yards in eight plays to a first down on the Michigan 11. But then Gerald is slammed for a two-yard loss by Tackle Curtis Greer. Jeff Logan, on an option-pitch right, is cut down by Halfback Mike Jolly slicing through. Minus one. Gerald is chased from the pocket by Linebacker Jerry Meter and is caught by the heels by lunging Linebacker Ron Simpkins. Minus 13. In three plays Ohio State's 332-yard-a-game running attack, the best in the country, has marched 16 yards to the rear. Only a field goal saves Ohio State from a total burnout.

Example 2) Moments later, after a fumble recovery, the Buckeyes have a third and one on the Michigan 22. Woody serves up his beloved "Robust"—a full-house backfield and two tight ends, not to mention mountainous tackles who not only block everybody one-on-one but are so big they screen the play. But Simpkins reads on the pulling Ohio State left guard, leaps through the gap to meet Fullback Paul Campbell and drops him for a two-yard loss. This time the shocked Buckeyes don't even get the field goal.

Schembechler had said on Friday he thought it would be disastrous if his defense had to stay on the field "too long." How long is too long? "Ten plays will be too long. That's the key." So much for Bo's clairvoyance. Ohio State had the ball 14 plays on its first drive, the next time 12, then in the second half once for 11 plays and another time for 10 plays. With Simpkins in on 20 tackles (15 unassisted), the defense never quit smoking—"the most tenacious bunch I've seen in 25 years," Bo said. Mostly the tenacity was visited on Gerald, who, shot with cortisone to relieve an aching tendon in his left leg, made so many Wolverines look so very bad in the first half it seemed nothing could stop him short of Congressional intervention.

But gradually Michigan picked up the tempo. And the more the Wolverines stunted and blitzed, the more they seemed to guess correctly. "And the closer we got to their goal," said an admiring Gerald, "the more intense they got." His big runs ultimately were neutralized by 46 yards in losses.

The Michigan offense, however, was slower getting out of bed. The Wolverines ran five plays in the first quarter for a net of six yards. But after so miserable a start Leach began making broader use of men in motion, forcing Ohio State off balance with commitments in the secondary it did not necessarily want to make. Down 3-0, the Wolverines got possession after an exchange of punts late in the second quarter and from the Ohio State 46 started their first scoring drive. In six rushes they were at the 30, then Leach lofted a floater of a third-down pass to Tailback Roosevelt Smith, who ran to the eight. Three plays later Smith slipped in behind Right Guard Gerry Szara for the touchdown.

On the first Ohio State play of the second half Middle Guard Steve Graves jarred the ball loose from Springs and Simpkins recovered it at the Buckeye 20. Leach sent Wide Receiver Rick White in motion to the right, faked inside and optioned left, cutting in behind a hesitating Buckeye linebacker wary for the pitch, and zipped 11 yards to the nine. Two runs by Russell Davis netted seven more yards. Then Leach took the snap at the two, faked inside to the fullback, spun around Tight End Mark Schmerge's block and raced to the goal. Linebacker Tom Cousineau brought him down before the goal line, but Leach, with arms outstretched, managed to get the ball across for the score.

So now Bo—and all those wonderfully tenacious guys who indemnified Schembechler's promise that he'd beat Woody—gets to go to the Rose Bowl for the second time in a row, the first time Michigan has done so.

Woody, meanwhile, meets Bear Bryant and second-ranked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, curmudgeon-to-curmudgeon. After the loss, Hayes sat feeling blue and sorry for himself in the Buckeye locker room and said he really didn't give a damn about any bowl and wouldn't care to go to one, "though I might get over it." He got over it. After all, Bryant is the only coach living who has more victories than Hayes and might be the only one who is better known.

Even with all the interesting things Hayes does to get attention, he might not be as roundly, uh, regarded in Michigan as he has tried to be. A Battle Creek newspaper took a street poll before the game, trying to find out if people really did hate Woody. Twelve of the 18 sampled did not know who he was. One thought he was running for mayor. Nobody said he hated Woody.

Now if you were poor old Woody, wouldn't that make you mad?

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