Wednesday, November 18, 2009
GBMW: Doc4blu -- A November to Remember – 40 Years Ago
A November to Remember – 40 Years Ago
Herein is a little personal trip down memory lane. It will be written in partly in first person and please accept a beforehand apology if any reader finds this choice in poor taste or bad form. The article likely makes more sense written in such structure. One of the primary purposes is to relay to the younger set just exactly what it was like that famous day, November 22, 1969. Yes, this weekend is the forty year anniversary. For those of you younger, this time phenomena will happen all too shortly for you as well. The article relays a first-hand account of the day and ends with a fond remembrance of a great man, Bob Ufer. And so on to a first person, first hand account of the day that will live in infamy in Columbus, Ohio for the time of the universe plus five years.
This game had significance for me. It had significance for the entire state of Ohio. Ohio State came into the game after blowing out a top five Purdue team, big time 42-14. The Purdue game was the game Ohio State was most worried about and the victory gave Ohio State 22 consecutive wins. So, here is Ohio State, sitting as pretty as any Big Ten team in memory, defending National Champions and ready for the coronation for a second consecutive title.
After the Purdue game, Woody was asked if this was the greatest team in college history. He replied that he believed it was. Woody’s judgment was not myopic or biased. He had withheld judgment all year until this point. Ohio State weekly was 21 to 28 points ahead of teams at the end of the first quarter. The defense was just as impressive with numerous future All-Americas, and NFL players feasting weekly on easy prey. No less than 17 players from that Junior Class were drafted. Monsters on both lines, monsters at linebacker, monsters squared in the defensive backfield, no team was ever more loaded in the Big Ten. The only thing going against Ohio State was the now long defunct rule that no team could make repeat back-to-back visits to the Rose Bowl. But of course, Woody wanted to crush Michigan and the young upstart coach, Bo. Make no mistake, this Ohio State team was better than the 1968 national champs and with the exception of the 1970’s great Oklahoma teams, the best I have ever seen.
Like every Ohio kid, the Michigan game meant much to me. My uncle, a plus 10 Ohio State fan, died of a heart attack a few days after a Michigan win. I visited him the day after the game and all he could talk about was the loss to Michigan. It was clear to me that something was wrong with my uncle; I had never seen him this way. I grew up playing football and also played a musical instrument. The school gave me a choice, football or the band. Within five seconds the band lost a member. I routinely played “The Victors” so it was not a great loss for the band, but neither was it a great gain for the football team.
Ohio State had a player on the 1969 team whom I played with and against between middle school and high school. We remained good friends in college. I was a bench warmer who never ever played in another sport other than football and he was an All-American, adored by the masses. When I visited his room on occasions, he had two- gallon jars full of laundry money and I had three dollars for gas, if I was lucky. This guy was a great player and a better person. He remains that way today.
The weather was fine and Ohio State started out strong, scoring first and begging the question how long could Michigan stay in the game? But Ohio State opened the door with a missed extra point and Michigan took the lead 7-6. This sent some shock waves forward, as Ohio State had rarely trailed in a game in the last two years. Ohio State righted the universe by going up 12-7. The extra point was good, but Michigan was offside and Ohio State went for two, failing in the attempt. Garvey Craw scored again and the Wolverines took the lead for good. Woody continued to try and bully his way to victory, but all requests were denied as the Wolverines shut out the Buckeyes in the second half.
My friend played hurt and to this day that is the first item of conversation for those who meet him, what caused the 1969 Michigan loss? His response to me was simply: “We got beat, that day we got beat.”
Young ones take note: at that time this game was hailed almost universally as the greatest upset in the history of college sports. Time has faded that title a little, but only a little. The image of Mandich being carried, exhausted, off of the field will remain as the capstone of this famous game.
The reverberations will not end, even after the next 40 years pass. One archival piece of evidence that will support this claim is the famous poem by the late, and the greatest, Bob Ufer. I consider Bob Ufer a great man. He was an individualist, he was self-made, he was passionate and loyal, and he was the best. He was in his prime after the 1969 game and penned these immortal words to a poem (or ode) he wrote. I share it with the greatest of memories of November 22, 1969, below.
It was November 22, 1969, that they came to bury Michigan
All dressed in Maize and Blue.
The words were said, the prayers were read, and everybody cried.
But when they closed the coffin, there was someone else inside.
Oh, they came to bury Michigan, but Michigan was not dead.
And when the game was over, it was someone else instead.
Eleven Michigan Wolverines put on the gloves of grey.
And when the organ played The Victors, they laid Woody Hayes away.
That is greatness fitting of the greatest moment in Michigan football history, November 22, 1969.
Later, I will comment on any parallels of 2009 to the 1969 game. It is my wish that the readers enjoyed this account.
Thanks for stopping by Go Blue Michigan Wolverine
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Written by Doc4Blu