1974 saw an intruder sneak into the mix as Michigan State brought a better team than they had in recent years.
The Michigan Wolverines, of course, were good again in 1974. They had Quarterback Dennis Franklin returning along with a lot of other talent and they started the season ranked #6.
The Wolverines had something of a struggle with the former Stanford Indians who were now the Stanford Cardinals before they became the Stanford Cardinal. Michigan won 27-16.
They beat Michigan State and Indiana by 21-7 each and then they beat Illinois only by 14-6. But, they had little problem with Purdue, Minnesota, Colorado and Navy.
Again, they came into the Ohio State game at 10 – 0 and ranked #3.
Down South, in Columbus, the Buckeyes were winning every game with ease. They were 8 – 0 and ranked #1. But, then, they traveled to East Lansing and were shocked 16-13. The 8-1 Buckeyes were moved to the #4 spot and they beat Iowa 35-10, before hosting the hated visitors from the North.
It was #4 Ohio State versus the 3rd ranked Michigan Wolverines. The Buckeyes had Heisman Trophy winning Running Back Archie Griffin.
Still again, it was another defensive slug fest. What else would anyone have expected?
The Buckeyes were leading 12-10 with 18 seconds left in the game. The only scoring Ohio State could pull off were 4 Field Goals by Tom Klaban. Michigan had driven to the Ohio State 20 yard line. Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler sent in his All American kicker Mike Lantry to make a 32 yard Field Goal. I remember watching the kick and thinking it was good, but the angle was bad. The referees called it wide left, and Ohio State fans stormed the field and they tore down the goal posts. Problem was, there was still 16 seconds left on the clock.
Woody Hayes and his Buckeyes were lucky to get off with a win.
Michigan State tied Illinois or there would have been a 3 way tie for first place in the Big 10. The Spartans finished the season 7-3-1 with a rare win over Ohio State.
The Buckeyes luck ran out in Pasadena, California when Southern Cal beat them 18-17.
The 10 Years War was in it’s 7th year by the time 1975 rolled around. Every game so far had been an absolute slug fest and calling it a war was highly appropriate.
1975 would be different in the Big 10 because there was no more dumb rule only allowing the champion, or whoever, to go to a bowl game.
The Buckeyes started the 1975 season ranked #3. They had Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin returning, plus a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. Linebacker Tom Cousineau was the first player picked in the 1979 NFL Draft, but he was only a true freshman in this game.
Ohio State beat #11 Michigan State in the opening game, 21-0. In their second game, the Buckeyes beat #7 Penn State, 17-9. In their fourth game, they beat #13 UCLA 41-20 out in Los Angeles. Teams weren’t afraid to play other good teams back in those years like they are in present times.
They dropped down to the top spot in the Polls after the Bruins win.
The Buckeyes were 10-0 going into Ann Arbor, Michigan for the next version of the war.
Michigan entered the 1975 season as the #2 team. Rick Leach was the Wolverine Quarterback that season and one of my heroes back in those years. Plus, outstanding Running Backs Rob Lytle, Gordon Bell and Harlan Huckleby.
They opened with a win over Wisconsin, 23- 6.
The Wolverines tied Stanford and Baylor in 2 consecutive weeks and at home in Ann Arbor. They dropped all the way to the 12th spot in the Poll.
They redeemed themselves the following game against #5 Missouri by winning 31-7. The Wolverines then beat in state rivals, 15th ranked Michigan State, 16-6. Bell and Lytle were both 1,000 yard rushers in 1975.
Michigan came into the game with an unusual 8-0-2 record. Aren’t we glad we have Overtime these days?
Yet another 10 years war game, yet another defensive struggle. The Buckeyes went up 7-0, but then didn’t get a first down for about 2 quarters.
The Wolverines fought back to go up 14-7. But, Ohio State finally started moving the ball again and came back to tie at 14 all with 3 minutes left in the game. Michigan had already tied twice in the 1975 season and was not interested in another tie. Wolverine Quarterback Rick Leach had his pass picked off by Ray Griffin, the younger brother of Archie and he returned it to the Michigan 3 yard line. From there, Ohio State outstanding Fullback Pete Johnson scored to give the Buckeyes a hard fought 21-14 win over the Wolverines.
Ohio State Buckeye Archie Griffin became the first and only Heisman Trophy winner.
The undefeated Buckeyes went back to the Rose Bowl and they were upset by UCLA who that had soundly beaten earlier in the season. The Bruins under head coach Dick Vermeil and Quarterback John Sciarra managed to beat Ohio State 23-10.
The Big 10 had finally done away with one of the worst rules in college football and other members of the conference were allowed to to to bowl games. Michigan played Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl and lost 14-6. The 1975 version of the Michigan Wolverines finished 8-2-2.
Michigan started the 1976 season ranked #2, but they quickly dropped down to #1. Quarterback Rick Leach was back and Running Back Rob Lytle was now a senior. They beat Stanford in their second game, 51-0 and then they beat Navy, 70 -14. They ran through their schedule like Paul Revere ran through the Boston night, until they made a visit to West Lafayette, Indiana. The 3-5 Boilermakers pulled off one of the better upsets of modern day football by beating the 8-0 Wolverines and their high powered offense, 16-14. The Boilermakers hadn’t beaten Michigan since the 1966 season and they were temporarily called the Spoilermakers by the press because they beat Notre Dame a couple years earlier who had also been ranked #1.
Michigan dropped to #4 and then destroyed Illinois, 38 -7, in their tune up game for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State started at the 5th spot in the earliest Poll and beat Michigan State and 7th ranked Penn State at State College. They had dropped to #2 by then and things were looking good before they lost at home to Missouri and then tied UCLA and both of those games were in Columbus.
They were #10 in the Poll, but worked their way back down to #8 with 6 straight wins. Ohio State was first in the Big 10 and Michigan was second because of their loss to Purdue.
This year’s version of the game was back in Columbus, Ohio and Michigan was out for blood. Another hard hitting defensive battle followed as just about every Michigan versus Ohio State football game back in those days.
The game was tied 0-0 at halftime. Michigan came out in the second half and ran the ball down the field with Quarterback Rick Leach running the option, Tailback Rob Lytle running wide or between the tackles. The first scoring drive ended with Fullback scoring on a short dive up the middle.
Michigan went up 7-0 in the 3rd quarter. Later, the Wolverines would repeat with Davis taking another Touchdown run right up the middle. The Wolverines went for 2 on a fake kick to go up 15-0. The Michigan defense was superb that day holding Ohio State to only 173 yards in the entire game. Michigan capped things off with a Rob Lytle Touchdown and went up 22-0 which would be the final score.
As usual, the Wolverines and the Buckeyes would finish at the top of the Big 10 with nobody else even close.
The 11th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes earned a berth in the Orange Bowl where they would beat the 12th ranked Colorado Buffaloes, 27-10. It was something of a redemption as they finished the 1976 season at 9-2-1.
Michigan played USC in the Rose Bowl and it was the Trojans turn for defense as they shut down the mighty Wolverine offense and beat Michigan 14-6.
The Big 10 Conference did not have a lot of success against the Pac 8 Conference in the Rose Bowl.
The 1977 season was like the 1974 season because again there was an intruder on the Ohio State-Michigan monopoly. Michigan State had a solid team in 1977 and they did not have the Buckeyes on their schedule at all. The Spartans tied Illinois in 1974 or they would have been a co-champion of the Big 10. History actually did repeat itself in 1977 when the Spartans tied Indiana and they cost themselves another co-championship. In both seasons, their ties came right after losing to Michigan.
The Ohio State Buckeyes started the 1977 season ranked 5th. Their first game was against the Miami Hurricanes and this was several years before the Hurricanes officially arrived on the scene as a yearly contender for the national championship.
They roughed up Minnesota in game 2 and then played a pretty unforgettable game with 3rd ranked Oklahoma in Columbus. I wrote about this game in another post last year. This was a very good Sooner football team, but they needed kicker Uwe von Schamann to kick a long Field Goal with no time remaining to beat the Buckeyes, 29-28. The 2-1 Buckeyes then knocked out 7 straight opponents with ease to improve to 9-1 on the year going into that annual grudge match.
The Pollsters loved Michigan in those years and they started off at #2. They were in and out of the top spot in the Polls for the first for the first 6 games before being stunned by Minnesota, 16-0, in Minneapolis.
They won the next 3 and were sitting at 9-1 when facing Ohio State.
Ohio State took the opening drive all the way to the Michigan 12 yard line before the drive stalled and the Buckeyes had to settle for a Field Goal. Michigan finally got it going in the 2nd quarter and drove the ball for a Touchdown with Rick Leach making some timely throws. This highly energized hard hitting blood bath of a game went into the half with the Wolverines leading 7-3.
The second half opened with the Buckeyes fumbling at their own 20 setting up the Wolverines in prime scoring position. Michigan took advantage of the free gift and Leach scored on a 3 yard run. Ohio State would fight back and drove down the field to kick another Field Goal and made it 14-6. In the 4th quarter, the Buckeyes still had plenty of fight in them. They slowly and methodically drove the football down the field with timely runs by Rod Gerald, the junior Quarterback from Dallas and Running Back Ron Springs. The Buckeyes drove all the way down to the Michigan 8 yard line with about 2 minutes left on the clock when Gerald ran the option to the right and fumbled the ball when hit by Michigan defenders. Michigan recovered the ball, game over.
Michigan won 14-6.
Ohio State went to the Sugar Bowl where they were crushed by the Alabama Crimson Tide. Notre Dame beat Texas soundly in the Cotton Bowl the same day with Joe Montana at Quarterback and they were awarded the national championship. But, Bama fans felt they should have been national champions this season and they had a pretty fair point.
Buckeye Quarterback Rod Gerald revealed years later that he had started sniffing cocaine sometime during the 1977 season and you have to wonder if that had an effect on his playing time in Columbus that season.
Michigan, of course, got the Rose Bowl berth. The 4th rated Wolverines lost to the 13th ranked Washington Huskies and their as of yet unknown star Quarterback Warren Moon, 27-20. The Huskies started the season at 1-3 with losses to Mississippi State, Syracuse and Minnesota. The Huskies finished the season at 8-4, but they were a late blooming team and were good by the time they faced Michigan.
This was the 10th year of the 10 Years War.
Michigan was again loved by the Pollsters with a solid 4 ranking as the heat wore off of August. It had seemed like Rick Leach had been at Michigan for a lot more than 4 years along with their outstanding Fullback Russell Davis. Michigan got off to a 4-0 start beating #14 Notre Dame along the way, 28-14. In their 5th game, their second biggest rival, Michigan State, rose up and beat them, 24- 15. The Wolverines got back on a roll winning 5 games in a row coming into this game with a 10 – 1 record and ranked 6th in the Polls.
In the 1978 season, super highly recruited high school Quarterback Art Schlichter began his college career in Columbus.
The Buckeyes were ranked #6 in the preseason Poll. They opened their season against 5th ranked Penn State and the Nittany Lions beat them, 19-0. They dropped to the 16th spot in the Polls and then beat Minnesota and Baylor. In their 4th game, the Buckeyes tied SMU 35-35 and the Mustangs were a couple of years away from the good teams they would produce in the 1980s.
Then, they lost to Purdue, 27-16, and they fell completely out of the Polls and stood at 2-2-1. The Buckeyes were still the Buckeyes and ripped off 5 straight wins making their record 7-2-1.
The Buckeyes still had a shot at winning the Big 10 championship even though the field had closed on the 2 rivals. Michigan State was good for the second season in a row but was on probation and not eligible for a bowl game. Purdue finally had a good team again after taking about a decade off. The Boilermakers beat Michigan State and Ohio State and had lost to Michigan. But, the times were changing.
Ohio State scored first, going up 3-0 in the first quarter. Rick Leach was in his fourth year as a starter for the Wolverines and he led the Buckeyes down the field with crisp passing to put them on top 7-3. Michigan sacked Buckeye Quarterback Art Schlichter and he fumbled giving the Wolverines another shot at a score before the half. Rick Leach again calmly led his team down the field for a score only to have his receiver fumble the ball just outside the goal line and the Buckeyes recovered making it still 7-3 at the half.
In the 3rd quarter, veteran Quarterback Leach passed his team to another score completing several before hitting Running Back Roosevelt Smith for the score, making it 14-3. In the 4th quarter, Woody Hayes benched freshman Art Schlichter in favor of senior Quarterback Rod Gerald. It did not make any difference.
Wolverines won 14-3.
Wolverines got the Rose Bowl berth even though they were tied with Michigan State for the Big 10 Championship because of the Spartans’ probation.
USC beat Michigan 17-10.
The Ohio State Buckeyes went to the Gator Bowl and played Clemson. The game ended with Art Schlichter throwing an interception to Clemson Linebacker Charlie Bauman. Woody Hayes grabbed Bauman and threw a punch at him and was then fired by Ohio State.
The 10 Years War was over.
Michigan wound up winning the War 5 wins to 4 for Ohio State with 1 tie.
Woody Hayes finished his coaching career with a 238 – 72 – 10 record. He was credited with 5 national championships and 13 Big 10 titles.
Woody was like wine, probably an acquired taste. One either loved or hated Woody Hayes, there was really no in between. Sadly for both the lovers and the haters, Woody Hayes passed away on March 12th, 1987.
Bo Schembechler played for Woody Hayes. He coached under Woody Hayes and no matter what was said during the 10 Years War, these 2 always loved each other.
Bo retired after the 1989 season at Michigan with a 234 – 65- 8 record. He never won a national championship, but his record in the 1970’s was 96 – 16 – 3 was better than any college football coach at a Division 1 school.
He won 13 Big Ten titles and went to 15 straight bowl games after the Big 10 removed that silly rule not allowing schools to go to bowls.
In 27 years of coaching, Bo Schembechler never had a losing season. Not many coaches can ever claim that on their resume.
Bo died on November 17th, 2006.
Personally, I miss these old guys. They were both a part of my life as a kid and in my early adult years. There won’t be any more like them and there will probably never be a rivalry in sports as intense, hard fought, and as fun to watch as the 10 Years War.