Turning Points, Volume Six: Winning One for Earle

By Jeff Beck on June 6, 2013 at 4:00p
As the game turns

The year was 1987, the month was November and times were tough in Columbus. Earle Bruce’s Buckeyes were 5-4-1 and had dropped two of those four in the first half of the month.

The team was headed into their regular season finale against Michigan, but this week, football was taking a back-seat to a much larger challenge: saying goodbye to their head coach.

Following the previous week’s 27-29 loss to Iowa, University President, Edward Jennings informed AD, Rick Bay, he planned to terminate Bruce’s contract at season’s end.

That announcement didn’t sit well with Bay who had fervently persuaded Bruce to stay in Columbus after he received an offer to become the head coach of Arizona before the start of the season.

The firing so enraged Bay that he resigned on the spot then held a news conference against Jennings wishes to inform Buckeye Nation of the news.

Just like that, Bruce was rendered a lame duck tasked with readying his team for the biggest game of the season.

Setting the Stage

Donning a suit and fedora for his final outing, Bruce made his way onto the field and immediately noticed his players wearing white headbands. Angered by the unsanctioned uniform addition, Bruce motioned for his players to remove them until he got close enough to see their true purpose: each read "EARLE", the five letters serving as a simple symbol of solidarity and respect. 

Despite the show of support, the emotions of the week clearly affected the Buckeyes out of the gate. 

Midway through the second quarter, they found themselves in a 0-13 hole. 


Then, with roughly six minutes to play in the half, OSU defensive lineman, Ray Holliman knocked the ball out of the hands of FB, Jerrod Bunch. The ball was recovered by the Scarlet and Gray at the OSU 39 and QB, Tom Tupa, went to work.

Driving the Buckeyes 61 yards to pay-dirt, Tupa managed to bring his team within striking distance at 13-7 despite being badly outgained 283 yards to a mere 91 in the half.

Coming out of the locker room to start the third quarter, the Wolverines received the kick-off but were held to a three and out by Chris Spielman and company. Which brings us to…

The Turning Point: Snow Puts The Bucks Ahead

Tupa trotted his squad out to the OSU 30 for his team’s first possession of the third.

Dropping back to pass, Tupa checked down to RB, Carlos Snow, in the flat who split two Wolverine defenders then received a great block by WR, Everett Ross, to spring him 70 yards for the score. Here’s a moving picture to prove it.

The TD put the Buckeyes up 14-13 for their first lead of the game.

The two teams would go on to trade possessions until OSU’s David Brown intercepted a Demetrius Brown pass near the 50 and returned it all the way to the Wolverine 19.

In just three snaps, Tupa was able to run a QB sneak up the middle to put the Bucks up 20-13. However, placekicker, Matt Frantz, would miss the extra point, keeping the Wolverines within striking distance.

An OSU fumble on their next possession would put TTUN in business at the Buckeye 46 and the Wolverines cashed in, knotting the score at 20-20 with a little over a minute left to play in the third.

Once again, the two teams would trade possessions until the Buckeyes got something clicking midway through the fourth.

The Scarlet and Gray moved the ball 77 yards, setting Frantz up with a 26-yard FG. He was able to nail it, putting the Buckeyes up 23-20

The Wolverines attempted to answer, but were rebuffed after RB, Leroy Hoard coughed up the ball at the OSU 47, leading to a Buckeye recovery.

The OSU offense was able to chew up all but nine seconds of the clock, and as Michigan’s last gasp fell incomplete, the Buckeye squad picked up their embattled coach and carried him off the field on their shoulders.

It was clear from the start the game would be played for Bruce. The win capped an 81-26-1 record in Columbus for Earle, a 5-3 bowl-record and a 5-4 tally in The Game.

Said Bruce after the game:

“I had a knot in my stomach all week. But I’m a professional. I’ll get a job, I have confidence in that. I’m a good football coach. We teach our players that when they get knocked down, they have to get up and go again…this was the ultimate test for me”

Well stated Bruce. Thanks for the memories.

Until next week, Turning Points…out.


Comments Show All Comments

ElGato69's picture

That year was my freshman year at OSU, and I was in the marching band.  The day after the band heard that Bruce had been fired, we carpooled out to his neighborhood, marched down his street and played in his front yard for him & his family.  That is a great memory for me.

Earle's picture


Have you tried Not Your Father's Root Beer?  It tastes just like the real thing, but it packs a punch (5.9%ABV).  It's a little sweet for me though.  Two is my limit.

Bucks's picture

I was only 5 when this happened. It certainly enraged my grandfather though. Around the age of 12, I asked him about a sign that had always been on the door to the house from the garage:
"I regretfully announce my withdrawal of support for The Ohio State University during the continued Presidency of Edward Harrington Jennings."
There was one other short sentence below that but I decided to follow the code of conduct for the site and not include it. ;)
He described in detail those events and kept his word. Stopped contributing (at that time, he was a fairly valuable one) until Jennings was gone.
It would be interesting to get a take on Bay during his time as AD. Was certainly a different era. Resignation on the spot and news conference against orders would be insanity here today.  Respect the man for sticking to his guns on that.
Enjoyed the read!

Earle's picture

"I always mind losing to Ohio State but I didn't mind so much today."

--Bo Schembechler

Have you tried Not Your Father's Root Beer?  It tastes just like the real thing, but it packs a punch (5.9%ABV).  It's a little sweet for me though.  Two is my limit.

Oldschoolbuck's picture

The fedora was a great look for the man with two first names!
Still enjoy listening to him on 610 WBNS for Buckeye pre- and post-game analysis. You can hear Woody's influence...!

Hovenaut's picture

Nice revisit....the HBO documentary also does a nice segment on this game, and Coach Bruce.

"They found a way to win, and it was all through the heart."

The Buckeyes didn't register another win in AA until James Patrick Tressel's arrival in 2001.

gravey's picture

Spielman had an amazing game, with something like 15 solo tackles....following up on his monster game from the year before.  He was a man possessed, like Jefferson...against Lincoln High in Fast Times at Ridgemont High...

Knarcisi's picture

29 against Iowa the year before, I do believe. 

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

I had Dick Lebeau's tickets in the 1st row of the end zone to witness this game!!!  Chris Speilman was a fucking beast on steroids that day and killed anything wearing that ugly helmet that was either carrying the ball or in his way!
My favorite moment was when the announcer asked us to leave the field after the game so the ugly helmet team's band could do their post game gig - there must have been 10,000 middle fingers extended at that moment...

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

mr.green's picture

I was at this game and on the field afterward singing  "Duke of Earle". Great day to be a Buckeye. 

45has2's picture

The Earle of Bruce looking so dapper in his suit and fedora. I wish Nike had used that image of him in their Buckeye promo video.
What ever happened to Carlos Snow? And for that matter, CAPE?

"I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people." -W.W. Hayes

Jeff Beck's picture

Completely agree. Wish coaches still wore suits and ties on the sideline from time to time

Michael Citro's picture

That was my first OSU game away from the Shoe and the first of three I've seen in Ann Arbor. It was pretty great rushing the field on the road. I danced a jig on the M at midfield because I figured urinating on it might land me in some kind of trouble. At least it was my approximation of a jig. I don't know what an actual jig is. But I got jiggy with it.

Jeff Beck's picture

That had to be the most satisfying jig in the history of jigs

Michael Citro's picture

I was so happy for Earle. Also, I was happy that I didn't sit in the cold for no reason. And yeah, it was a very satisfying jig. Carlos Snow was a hero that day. The next year I had a class with him.