Flashback: Ohio State vs. Michigan, 1972

By Joe Beale on November 24, 2010 at 1:00p
Griffin: Feasting on Wolverines since 1972There were none greater than Griffin.

There's an old saying in football that says "Great players come up big in big games". When you're talking about Ohio State football, there is no game bigger than the annual rivalry game against Michigan. Many Buckeye legends are made with performances against the Wolverines. In 1972, a new player entered the scene as a freshman in his first ever OSU-Michigan game, and that player would come up big. As it turned out, he ultimately became the greatest OSU legend of them all.

For many years, whenever a college had a great recruiting class, the fans would eagerly look forward to the performances of the "super sophs", as freshmen were ineligible to play football under NCAA regulations. However, that rule ended in 1972 and freshmen were allowed to participate in college football for the first time ever. The rule change was an enormous help to Ohio State, as they were bringing in several excellent prospects in the freshman class. One of the most intriguing was a 5'9" running back from Columbus named Archie Griffin. Others were LB Ken Kuhn, Safety Tim Fox, and Wingback Brian Baschnagel.

In the season opener against Iowa, Ohio State cruised to a 21-0 victory. Iowa contained OSU's halfbacks, but fullbacks Randy Keith and Harold "Champ" Henson burrowed through the Hawkeyes for 160 yards. Late in the game, coach Woody Hayes inserted Griffin at halfback during garbage time. The young freshman fumbled his first carry, and he went to the bench for the rest of the game. It might have seemed like the end, but Hayes was determined to get some production from the tailback position, and so Griffin would get another chance against North Carolina in game two.

After a bye week, OSU welcomed the Tarheels of UNC to Columbus for an inter-conference game. The Buckeye offense got off to a slow start, gaining only 13 yards on their first two possessions and getting a punt blocked for a TD to go down 7-0. At that point, Hayes decided to go back to Griffin to try and spark the offense. This time the freshman would not stumble. Griffin rushed for 116 yards in the first half on his way to 239 yards for the game, which set a new school record. Ohio State beat UNC 29-14 and a legend was born.

Ohio State cruised to victory in their first 7 games, but stumbled badly in week 8 at Michigan State, losing 19-12. But they recovered nicely, picking up a road win against Northwestern 27-14 and setting up a showdown at home against the hated Wolverines. Michigan, in their 4th season under former Hayes assistant Glenn "Bo" Shembechler, was 10-0 and ranked #3 in the nation. They had outscored their 7 Big Ten opponents 151-20, shutting out 4 of them. But Ohio State's defense had also been impressive, and the showdown promised to be a low-scoring affair.

As the game began, it was obvious that OSU was having trouble against the stiff Michigan defense, punting on every 1st quarter possession. Meanwhile, Michigan moved down the field crisply on their 2nd possession, led by the running and passing of Ohio native Dennis Franklin. But a 44-yard field goal attempt by Mike Lantry fell short and the two teams were deadlocked 0-0 after one quarter. In the 2nd quarter, Michigan drove again into Ohio State territory, led by the rushing of tailback Chuck Heater. But the drive stalled at the OSU 18 and they had to settle for a 35-yard Lantry field goal. 

OSU finally got some offense going midway through the 2nd, with Griffin carrying the load. From the UM 22, Griffin ran for 18 yards to set up a 1st and goal at the 4. They would eventually score a touchdown on a 1-yard dive by Henson. The crowd went crazy as Ohio State took a 7-3 lead, but Michigan was far from done in the first half. With Franklin showing pinpoint accuracy, the Wolverines moved from their own 20 all the way down the field and had a 1st and goal at the OSU 1-yard line. But the Buckeye defense stood firm and stopped the UM running game on 3 tries, leading to a 4th-and-goal from the 1-foot line. Schembechler decided to go for it, but Franklin fumbled the snap on the 4th down play and had to fall on the ball at the 3. OSU had held, and they took the 7-3 lead into halftime.

With momentum squarely on their side coming out of the break, Ohio State moved right down the field on their first possession of the 2nd half. On 2nd and 8 from the OSU 35, QB Greg Hare ran the option left, faked the pitch, and cut back to the left and then back to the right on his way to a 35-yard run all the way to the Michigan 30. On the next play, Griffin carried up the middle behind a block from fullback Randy Keith, then cut to the right and sprinted to the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown. Watching the play from my living room, I remember very clearly seeing several rolls of toilet paper come flying out of the stands as Griffin scored. Ohio State led the #3 Wolverines 14-3 and the crowd was loud enough to hear in Ann Arbor.

Michigan responded on their next drive, consuming much of the 3rd quarter on a 13-play march. On 4th-and-goal from the OSU 1, UM finally found the end zone as another Ohio native, fullback Ed Shuttlesworth, dove in for the score. Michigan went for 2 and converted as Franklin found Clint Haslerig for the score. Now trailing only 14-11, the Wolverines had momentum and began another march into OSU territory in the 4th quarter. But on 4th down from the OSU 20, Schembechler decided to go for it again, and this time Shuttlesworth was stopped for a loss by LB Rick Middleton and Ohio State took over. However, there was one more huge test remaining for the Buckeye defense.

On the ensuing possession, Hare was intercepted by Michigan's Randy Logan, setting UM up with a 1st down at the OSU 29. They drove down to a 1st-and-goal at the Buckeye 5, but the OSU defense rose up again. Three runs took the ball to the 1-foot line, and Schembechler once again decided to go for it. On 4th down, Franklin tried to sneak it over, but he was stopped by OSU LB Randy Gradishar and Ohio State took over at the 1. Michigan never seriously threatened after that, and OSU held on for a 14-11 win. The hard fought victory secured a Big Ten championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl. 

Ohio State would go on to lose in the Rose Bowl to eventual national champion USC by a score of 45-17. Griffin would finish the season with 867 yards on 159 carries and 3 TD's, but that was only a taste of what was to come. By the time his career at Ohio State was finished, he would set a new Ohio State, Big Ten, and NCAA record with 5589 yards rushing on 924 carries. He would also become the first and only player ever to win two Heisman Trophy awards. Franklin would finish his career with a record of 0-2-1 against Ohio State, and his injury in 1973 would cause the Big Ten athletic directors to vote to send Ohio State to the Rose Bowl instead of Michigan after the two teams tied in their season-ending showdown. 


Comments Show All Comments

SouthBayBuckeye's picture

I heard Archie tell that story in person about his first carry. Pretty cool, and not a well-known fact. 

Banned from ATO since June 3rd 2PMish PST

Leanenaud's picture

Gee is not doing OSU any favors by refering to other teams as "little sisters of the poor." Pretty funny though.

M Man's picture

Fuck 'em.  Gordon Gee is right.

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

I think that is hilarious coking from a dude in a bowtie.

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama

M Man's picture

What is always so striking to me about Archie Griffin, is what a slasher he was as a runner.  He was such a North-South runner.  He ran "big," and really hit holes, and would-be tacklers, hard.  Archie was a great one, and he'd be the first to say he was surrounded by some great Buckeye teams.

The extent to which he ran as a "slasher" is really remarkable for his size.  Archie = 5'9", 189 lbs.  Denard = 6'0", 193 lbs.

This was a really good Flashback story.  Nicely done, Joe.  I don't suppose the 1971 Flashback will be coming out today, will it?

Joe Beale's picture

Sorry, but one flashback per week is all I can handle.  But you might enjoy last year's flashback to the 1975 game at Ann Arbor

BucksfanXC's picture

YES! The drop down favorites are back! Thanks!


And oh yeah, great post here Joe, Flashbacks is a great unique weekly post we get on 11Dub and I love it. Keep up the good work.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

btalbert25's picture

Gordon Gee is probably so anti the non AQ schools simply for the fact that if a non AQ school wins it, that basically makes being a BCS member totally useless.  Boise or TCU winning the title wouuld do a lot of damage to the BCS.  That's why I wouldn't be surprised one bit if Auburn or Oregon were to lose you would see a 1 loss LSU or even Stanford leap frog both somehow.  That last week their computer rating would take a dive, or the coaches poll would suddenly not show much love to those 2 schools.  Maybe it's a conspiracy theory on my part, but I wouldn't be shocked at all if neither of those teams get a shot, even if you see one of the teams in front of them stumble and they continue to win.  I've heard announcers and analysts say they don't deserve a shot and now BCS presidents are going to go on record too.  There's going to be a lot of anti Boise/TCU propaganda coming out in the next couple of weeks.

buckeye33's picture

Why do they have a preseason poll to rank teams ? If a team like Alabama and Ohio State were ranked 1 & 2 all they would have to do is win out and they would play for the BCS Championship. It wouldn't matter if an Oregon or Michigan St. team also went undefeated, they would not be able to jump the two preseason favorites.  Boise was ranked number 5 in the preseason poll (must have been thought of pretty highly) and everyone knew their schedule before the season. All they have done is win and win convincingly, while the four teams in front of them have each lost (at least one game), yet people continually try to find reasons to have other teams jump them. Even to the point of accepting a one loss team to move them out of the BCS championship game.  Why have rankings at all or why even rank a non AQ school ?  Wait until the end of the so called "meaningful season" and have the media just pick the two teams they like the most, regardless of wins or losses !

tomcollins's picture

This is not true.  Teams get passed all the time.

Auburn was behind Boise to start the season.

Boise was hurt by Virginia Tech being much much worse than expected.  And Oregon State being even worse than that.  Without those two games being as big, Boise's schedule is a joke.  2006 should be enough proof that playing a joke schedule (and way less of a joke) and dominating is not good enough.

buckeye33's picture

My point exactly, Auburn jumped Boise......you never know who on your schedule is going to be good. At the time Va. Tech was a top 10 team. We have only beaten 1 top 25 team & that's Iowa with 4 losses, thought Miami was a quality win.  Hard to make an argument for Big Ten this year, no quality wins. Boise just keeps winning & doesn't embarass themselves in Bowl games either.

btalbert25's picture

Yeah and 2 weeks later Va Tech was unranked.  Preseason rankings mean nothing.  Barely beating Va Tech, and not destroying Oregon State hardly qualify as big wins in my book.  I definitely think Iowa at Kinnick is a bigger win than either.  Or would say Auburn going on the road and beating a 3 loss South Carolina trumps anything Boise or TCU have done this year. 

Also, I would check the whole Boise never being embarrassed in a bowl before statement. True they have won 2 fiesta bowls in 5 years, but over their last 6 bowl games they've only won 2.  And they have played the likes of Louisville, Boston College, TCU, and East Carolina, in prestigious bowls such as Liberty, MPC computer, Hawaii, and Poinsettia.  I think the biggest problem with Boise is everyone remembers the statue of liberty play against Oklahoma and forgets some of these other results.  

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

Those all seemed like close scores to me?  I think you can question the quality of most of those teams save for that Louisville team (I thought they were pretty good).  But there are no 41-14 scores.

btalbert25's picture

I guess to me losing to ECU is embarrassing if you are supposed to be a top flight program.

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

I agree with that, and most of the other teams but it wasn't a beat down by any means.

btalbert25's picture

I wasn't trying to imply that it was just that teams they lost to in those bowls, to me , would be much more embarrassing than falling to Florida, LSU, and Texas.

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

I get it and mostly agree.

btalbert25's picture

The comments I've made, are not to say that I don't want to see Boise or TCU in the game.  Hell put them both in for that matter.  That way the BCS really gets comprimised.  I feel like one of those teams winning really makes the BCS lose any relevance it has.  I just fear that if Boise gets in and plays Oregon they may get throttled.  I do actually think TCU has a better chance at winning against some of the other powers.  They seem to put more guys in the NFL and have more NFL caliber players.  I think from top to bottom they have the, speed (yes I went there) and athleticism to match up with anyone.  Just my opinion. 

Irricoir's picture

You know what? I am going to venture into the realm of Taboo...This sounds like a lot of Liberal BS angled similarly toward Affirmative Action. I am all for any man getting a job that is deserving of that job and is the best candidate for that job. I am all for any team being crowned National Champion if they earned it in a playoff or traveled a perilous path to get there, then there is no disputing it. I have said it before and will say so again. If you want an equal reward you need to have earned it the same way as everyone else. Don't give something to someone because they are what your looking for. (Dramatic Story line) Give it to them if they earned it. Beating Virginia Tech and Hawaii? No dice.

Furthermore both teams are quality teams. I am not trying to diminish their ability to play the game, just the level of competition and the ability to play at a high level week in and week out.

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

TLB's picture

ahhh, the memories.....that North Carolina game was my first at the shoe.


And Gee was 100% correct.