Well, why wouldn't poor old Woody Hayes feel like hitting somebody? There he was:
1) In a foreign country ( Michigan) whose very name fills him with such loathing that he can't say it—the best he can do is, "That place up north"—and where he is said to have risked long hikes on the Interstate by driving with his gas gauge on "Empty" because he wouldn't spend his money there.
2) In a city ( Ann Arbor) where they sell rolls of toilet paper with his image on every sheet, and where a fan isn't dressed for the big game unless he's wearing a SCREW WOODY button, or one with sentiments to that effect.
3) On a campus ( Michigan's) where Professor Leland Quackenbush's engineering class invented an egg-throwing machine so that students could liven up the day before the game by seeing (for $1 a pop) who could pelt a life-size effigy of Woody from farthest away.
4) And in a stadium ( Michigan's) where they get his goat so regularly and got it so royally a few years back that he tore up a yard-line marker.
There, last Saturday, was poor old Woody again, in front of the largest regular-season crowd in the history of college football, 106,024, with one of his finest teams up to its neck in the last, tense, nervous moments of another tense, nervous Ohio State-Michigan game. With, as usual, everything at stake: the chance to win the Big Ten championship outright and go to the Rose Bowl, meanwhile enhancing Ohio State's national ranking and net worth. And what happened? Woody experienced one of the truly frustrating days of his long coaching career.
His Buckeyes gained 352 yards to Michigan's 196. They made 23 first downs to Michigan's 10. They marched up and down the field, for nothing. Or close to nothing. In a statistical nutshell: 19 times the Buckeyes snapped the ball inside the Michigan 20. For all that they got two Vlade Janakievski field goals. Michigan, which had marched up and down a lot less, had gotten a lot more: 14 points. Never, said Hayes, had one of his teams played so well for so little.
This is not to say that Woody did not bring some of it on himself. Late in the 1968 title game with Michigan, which Ohio State won 50-14, he ordered a two-point conversion attempt. "Fifty points," said Woody, "is not always enough." A couple of years ago when he led the Buckeyes onto the field at Michigan Stadium, they ripped through an M Club banner proclaiming GO BLUE. They tried to do it again Saturday, with a number of elbows being exchanged between M clubbers ( Michigan athletes) and Buckeye players. Woody himself was involved in an exchange. Nevertheless, he was in fine spirits before the game and even led Ohio State fans in a cheer, bouncing around and waving his arms.
After that, however, Hayes didn't cheer much. Mostly, he fumed and periodically cried out in pain as the frustration built. Then one last terrible blow struck poor Woody. With a first down on the Wolverine eight-yard line, and less than five minutes to play, his breathtakingly elusive quarterback, Rod Gerald, began an option play, sticking the ball in the belly of his fullback, then withdrawing it and rolling to his right. Ever so abruptly, Gerald slipped. As he fell, he was collared by Wolverine Linebacker John Anderson. Gerald attempted an off-balance pitch to trailing Halfback Ron Springs. The pitch went badly awry, and Springs, trying to go to it, also slipped. Derek Howard fell on the ball for Michigan at the 20, and when the nap had settled so had Ohio State's fate.
Without a yard marker to beat up, Woody slammed down the headset he uses to communicate with his coaches in the press box. He did this with his left hand. He then went into a series of facial contortions which, in any other context, might be interpreted as the result of stomach distress. Then he turned and spied the threatening figure of 52-year-old, 158-pound ABC-TV cameraman Mike Freedman. Freedman was taking Woody's picture, as he had been all afternoon. Because he knew Woody's sideline reputation, Freedman was using a long lens so he "wouldn't have to get too close." But his job, he said, was "to take faces, not the back of heads," and that was what he was doing.