Thursday night, I presented material from my book Bo’s Warriors to the San Francisco chapter, of the Michigan alumni. The venue was held at Jillian’s and sponsored by Merrill Lynch. The feedback was great and the event was super deluxe. I talked for about 45 minutes or so and then opened up for questions from my audience. I would like to share with you one pertinent question from one of the older alumni: “What was Bo’s greatest game victory?”
I pondered for a moment and then replied the following. It was November 22, 1969 at the Big House. The Mighty Ohio State Buckeyes unbeaten in 22 games arrived in Ann Arbor with Rex Kern, Jack Tatum, John Brockington, Jim Stillwagon, Jim Otis and others. Coach Woody Hayes, not one to mince words, believed this was his greatest team ever. In fact, Ohio State was the number one team in the country and favored by 17 points. The Detroit Free Press had a cartoon depicting Woody on a steamroller with Kern, Tatum and others rolling over the Wolverines. It was obvious to the media, the outcome of the game.
Let’s go back in time to this to depict this event in the tumultuous 1960s. In November 23, 1968 the Wolverines traveled to the Shoe in Columbus, Ohio. At the half, Michigan was trailing the Buckeyes 21 to 14. The Wolverines were still in the game. However, in the next half, Ohio State scored 29 straight points. On their final scoring possession, Woody went for a two-point conversion [the score is 48 to 14]. With a two-point conversion, final score was Ohio State 50 and Michigan 14. Asked by the media, Woody, why did you go for two? Woody replied, “Because I couldn’t go for three.”
This humiliation was witnessed by Michigan’s Mellow Men [Reggie McKenzie, Thom Darden, Butch Carpenter, Mike Oldham and Glenn Doughty, Mike Taylor, Billy Taylor]. These freshman sat watching the game on TV made a pledge “Never to allow that to happen again.” In December, the following month, head coach Bump Elliott was dismissed, and replaced by an Ohio native, Bo Schembechler.
Head coach Bo Schembechler inherited Bump Elliott’s recruits. Coach Schembechler also brought with him many Ohio assistant coaches, including Gary Moeller, Dick Connor, Jerry Hanlon, Jim Young and others from Ohio. A few players from Ohio included Jim Mandich, Dan Dierdorf, Don Moorehead, Billy Taylor, Barry Pierson, Jim Betts, Thom Darden, Frank Gusich, Tom Curtis and others. Were these players and coaches from Ohio turncoats; were these Michigan men; and were they out for revenge and bragging rights? Further, Bo Schembechler played and coached under Woody Hayes and Gary Moeller played as a co-captain for Woody Hayes. This meeting in 1969 set the stage for the rivalry of the century.
After five games during the 1969 season, the Wolverines had three victories and two defeats. Missouri blew them out 45-7 and they lost to arch rival Michigan State 23- 12. Then they beat Minnesota 35-9; Wisconsin 35-7; Illinois 57-0 and Iowa 51-6. After the Iowa game, returning to Ann Arbor, the team joyfully shouted “Bring on Ohio State.” These Wolverines were ready to play Ohio State, right then and there.
This brings us up to November 15, 1968. More to follow about the following week and “The Game.”