Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Remembering The 'Ten Year War' - 1970 Edition

Round 2 of the Ten Year War. The Buckeyes were still coping with a crushing loss to the Wolverines from the year before in a game that tipped off the war itself. This game was also extremely important to the history and legacy of the Ten Year War because, without an OSU victory, it is possible that the series could have been too much of a one-sided affair to be called a "war." Fortunately, at least for the sake of this tremendous piece of history, the Buckeyes picked up their first win in the Ten Year War, though it wasn't so fortunate for Michigan fans.

The rivalry was really kicked into gear heading into the 1970 season because of the huge upset the Wolverines were able to pull off the previous year against OSU. This was a Wolverine team that went into the 1970 season with a lot of hype under 2nd year coach Bo Schembechler. Michigan simply dominated their opponents all the way up to their November 21st meeting with the Buckeyes, outscoring opponents 279-70.

It was obviously very clear that Michigan was a team that couldn't easily be stopped, or even phased for that matter. With a shot at a possible national championship, the Wolverines were also looking to take the upper hand back in their series with OSU. After a huge upset win in 1970, the Wolverines faced the daunting challenge of repeating that success. It is said that the only thing harder than winning is repeating, and Michigan testified to that in 1970.

After a crushing loss to Michigan the year before, OSU came out in the 1970 season and did the exact same thing leading up to "The Game." They dominated. Other than a narrow 3-point escape against Purdue, there was not a game worth showing up to if you had the unfortune of playing for the other team. Things were brutal, and no team seemed to have any kind of an answer for the rolling Buckeyes. Woody Hayes had coached his team to be the best, and they played like they were nothing less. The whole 1970 season was viewed as a tune up before facing off against the hated Wolverines, The bitter taste of the upset that sparked the Ten Year War in 1969 was very much so alive within the OSU program, and they took that onto the field with them that day.

Michigan started the game with the ball, but the offense was unable to go on the field because the opening kickoff was fumbled and recovered by the Buckeys on the 25- yard line. A few plays later, OSU kicker Fred Schram booted in a field goal for a quick 3-0 lead for the Buckeyes. OSU would never look back from that point on, never giving up their lead.

Both teams then traded punts. The Wolverines intercepted a pass from the hand of Rex Kern but were again unable to take full advantage of solid defense and settled for a game-tying field goal on the first play of the second quarter. The two teams went back to exchanging punts a couple times until the Buckeyes were able to string together their most solid drive of the game: 13 plays, capped by a 26-yard pass from Kern to Bruce Jankowski for a 10-3 lead, a score that held going into half time.

Michigan stormed out of the gates to start the second half, giving the Wolverines hope for a comeback with a Don Moorhead 50-yard TD toss, but the PAT was blocked, allowing the Buckeyes to remain ahead with a 10-9 lead. Neither team was able to put anything together for the rest of the third quarter.

Early in the fourth and final quarter, OSU added another field goal from 27-yards out to expand their lead to 13-9. On the following Wolverine drive, Buckeye linebacker Stan White intercepted a Moorehead pass and returned it to the Michigan 9-yard line. Two plays later, Kern optioned the ball to Leo Hayden for another Buckeye TD. The Wolverines gave one last push late in the game before turning the ball over and downs, and the 20-9 Buckeye lead held as final.

Ohio State winning this game was a bigger deal than Michigan losing the game, for the sake of the Ten Year War. The Buckeyes went on to lose in the Rose Bowl after a perfect regular season, but their win in "The Game" was extremely important. If the Wolverines would have won the 1970 match up, that would eventually mean three wins in a row to start off the Ten Year War, turning the record over that span heavily in favor of Michigan, and that could have possibly taken away from this historic period in college football.

This game also confirmed that, when teams coached by Bo and Woody colide, it really doesn't matter who the "better" team is, what their record was heading into the game, or where they are ranked on a national level. The only thing that matters is who wants it more. That's exactly what these teams learned after year two of the Ten Year War.

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