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The Game: Ohio State's Five Best Coaches

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Matt Gutridge's picture
November 29, 2019 at 8:15pm
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Ohio State's all-time record against That Team does not meet the excellence that Buckeye football has attained in recent years. Today, we will take a look at the five Buckeye coaches who have the best winning percentages against our rivals.

No. 5 EARLE BRUCE • 1979-1987 • (.556)

Bruce went 5-4 against That Team and his consecutive wins in 1981 and '82 were the first in the series since Woody Hayes did it in '67 and '68.

Bruce In The Game
Record
Longest Winning Streak
Longest Losing Streak
Points For
Points Against
Average Score
5–4
2
2
165
150
18-17

Signature Win • November 21, 1987 • Michigan Stadium
To show support for Earle Bruce – who Ohio State fired the Monday before The Game – players wore headbands with Earle written on them.

The emotion of the week caught up with the Buckeyes as Michigan (8–3) scored the game's first 13 points. The Wolverines held the Scarlet and Gray to 30 yards of offense through the first 25 minutes of the game. That's when Tupa directed a 61-yard drive that culminated with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Everett Ross. 

The half ended with the Buckeyes only having 91 yards of total offense and trailing 13-7.

After the defense held Michigan to a three-and-out, Ohio State had the ball on its own 30. On the Buckeyes' first play of the second half, Tupa threw short to Snow but the running back turned it into a 70-yard score. The freshman back split two defenders, picked up a key block and avoided a would-be tackler at the Wolverine's 20 before he found the end zone. Ohio State now led 14-13.

Near the midway point of the third quarter, David Brown intercepted Michigan quarterback Demetrius Brown at the Wolverines' 27 and returned it to the 19-yard line. Three plays later Tupa scored on a 1-yard keeper. Though he made his previous 52 extra point attempts, Frantz missed this try to leave the score at 20-13.

Near the end of the third quarter, Michigan tied the game after Leroy Hoard ran in from 10 yards out. That allowed Frantz another shot at achieving his dream of defeating the Wolverines with a game-winning field goal. From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

The Bucks, sporting headbands in support of their coach, sealed the victory with a 26-yard fourth-quarter field goal by Frantz.

That capped a 15-play, 77-yard drive that stopped at the Michigan 12. The Bucks could have gone for a first down on fourth-and-one, but Frantz was standing right beside Bruce when the decision had to be made.

"He looked at me and I said, 'Let's kick it.' He said, 'OK, kick it in,'" Frantz said.

It was sweet revenge for Frantz, who missed a 45-yarder that could have won the 83rd meeting of this rivalry last season.

Michigan had a chance to tie, or win, but Hoard fumbled and Kumerow recovered at the 47 with 4:15 left on the clock. Tupa and the offense proceeded to drive to the Michigan 1-yard line where it turned the ball over on downs with 9 seconds remaining. 

This marked Spielman's final game as a Buckeye. He finished the victory with a game-high 16 tackles – 14 of which were solo – and a sack.  

After the game, an emotional Bruce said: "There is no sweeter victory in the world than a win over Michigan in your last game at Ohio State. But the real thrill was coming back when you're down, 13-0, after the week we had.

"This is one for the Buckeyes; God bless them. I love them."

No. 4 FRANCIS A. SCHMIDT • 1934-1940 • (.571)


Schmidt is the only Ohio State coach before 1950 with a winning record against That Team. Schmidt's claim to fame in the series was starting 4–0 against Our Rival. Not only did he start undefeated, but his teams did not allow a point in the four victories. Ohio State outscored That Team 114-0.

Schmidt In The Game
Record
Longest Winning Streak
Longest Losing Streak
Points For
Points Against
Average Score
4–3
4
3
128
79
18-11

Signature Win • November 17, 1934 • Ohio Stadium
As good as Michigan was in the first half of the 20th century, Ohio State's previous two coaches, John Wilce and Sam Willaman, started their Buckeye coaching careers with wins over the Wolverines.

In fact, to this point, Wilce and Willaman were the only Buckeye coaches to defeat the Wolverines. Francis Schmidt hoped to become the third-straight Ohio State coach to defeat Michigan the first time he faced them.

Touchdown runs by Dick Heekin and Buzz Wetzel gave Ohio State a 13-0 halftime lead. The 68,678 in attendance for homecoming were treated to second half touchdowns by Frank Antenucci, Merle Wendt and Frank Cumiskey.

The final score: 34-0, Buckeyes. 

The winning margin was by far Ohio State's largest in the series. The Buckeyes dominated the scoreboard and just about every stat that mattered as they put up 460 total yards to Michigan's 40, and 24 first downs to a mere three from the Wolverines.

Not only did Francis Schmidt bring in a new style of offensive football to Ohio State, the innovator also started the Gold Pants Club and Captain's Breakfast in 1934.

NO. 3 WOODY HAYES 1951-1978 (.589)

Woody Hayes has the most victories over That Team than any other coach in Ohio State's history. We have not verified this, but it might be safe to state that Woody Hayes has the most victories over That Team in history. Woody also had the most opportunities to beat Our Rival.

Hayes In The Game
Record
Longest Winning Streak
Longest Losing Streak
Points For
Points Against
Average Score
16–11–1
4
3
410
341
15-12

Signature Win • November 23, 1968 • Ohio Stadium
Hayes has a program record 16 wins in The Game. It's hard to choose one as the signature victory, but we'll go with 1968.   

No. 4 Michigan (8–1) dropped its first game of the season against California but rebounded and won its next eight. The Wolverines knew a win over No. 2 Ohio State (8–0) would send them to the Rose Bowl and give them another Big Ten title. 

On this 55-degree day, Michigan won the toss and chose to receive. The Wolverines made the record crowd of 85,371 nervous when they methodically marched 84 yards in 17 plays to take a 7-0 lead. Concerning for Ohio State's defense was that 15 of Michigan's 17 plays were runs.

The fears turned out to be unfounded as the Buckeyes responded and secured one of the more lopsided wins in The Game. 

Ohio State dominated the stats, out gaining the Wolverines, 421 to 140 in rushing yards. The Buckeyes' secondary also came down with three interceptions in the fourth quarter.

This is the game in which Hayes went for two after taking a 50-14 lead with 1:23 left in the game. Long's pass fell incomplete, however.

NO. 2 JIM TRESSEL 2001-2010 (.900)

Jim Tressel made an immediate impact on The Game before he stepped foot on the sidelines of Ohio Stadium. Tressel fired his first shot at Our Rival on the hardwood court of Value City Arena when he made his famous speech in 2001. Tressel backed up his words and finished with a most impressive 9–1 record in The Game.

Tressel In The Game
Record
Longest Winning Streak
Longest Losing Streak
Points For
Points Against
Average Score
9–1
7
1
279
172
28-17

Signature Win • November 23, 2002 • Ohio Stadium
It is hard to go against the 2006 version of The Game that featured No. 1 versus No. 2, but 2002 was a program changer. 

The Big Ten title and a berth in the BCS National Championship game were on the line for No. 2 Ohio State when ninth-ranked Michigan entered Ohio Stadium for the 99th meeting between the schools. With 4:55 remaining in the game, Maurice Hall scored on a three-yard run to give the Buckeyes a 14-9 lead.

Hall's touchdown was on an option play. "We felt like it was going to be a good play at the goal line, because it would keep them off-balance and it worked," Hall said.

But in typical Tressel fashion, the game wasn't decided until the defense put it to rest. With seconds remaining on the clock, Michigan was inside Ohio State's 25 and driving for the winning score. John Navarre dropped back and tried to force a ball into the end zone. Will Allen came down with the interception and the Buckeyes were off to Tempe to win the program's first championship since 1968.

NO. 1 URBAN MEYER 2012-2018 (1.000)

Urban Meyer is the only coach in Ohio State's history to finish 7–0 against That Team. He is the ultimate Wolverine slayer. However, three of the wins flirted with danger as they were won by a combined 13 points. In 2013 the team escaped with a 1-point win after Michigan failed on a 2-point conversion and of course, the double overtime victory in 2016.

Meyer In The Game
Record
Longest Winning Streak
Longest Losing Streak
Points For
Points Against
Average Score
7–0
7
0
275
189
39-27

Signature Win • November 24, 2018 • Ohio Stadium
In his last battle against That Team Up North, Meyer and his team put on an offensive explosion never before seen by an Ohio State team in this series. The Buckeyes used a 48-point second half to score a school record 62 points against their rival to the north.

Dwayne Haskins went off and shredded the Wolverines for 396 yards passing and six touchdowns. Haskins and the offense gave Michigan fits, but it was the defense and special teams that put the game away in the third quarter. 

Chris Olave blocked a punt that Sevyn Banks took to the house for six. The special teams strike gave the Buckeyes a 34-19 lead. On Michigan's next possession, Jordan Fuller intercepted a Shea Patterson pass and returned it the Wolverine's 22-yard. line. Another Buckeye touchdown put the game out of reach as Urban Meyer's last team gave him a 62-39 victory and seven straight wins in The Game.

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