100 Teams in 100 Days: The Super Sophomores Enact Revenge on Michigan and Win a National Title in 1970

By Matt Gutridge on July 19, 2016 at 11:40 am
The 1970 Ohio State University football team.
Ohio State University Archives

The 1969 season ended with a devastating loss to Michigan. Woody Hayes had one more year to field a championship team with the Super Sophomores.

46 days and counting.

How the previous season ended motivated Hayes to not let history repeat itself in 1970. The coach did change the script against Michigan, but the final act was very familiar.

The 1970 Buckeyes
Record 9–1
B1G Record 7–0, 1st, National Champions
Coach Woody Hayes (20th year, 134–43–7)
CaptainS Rex Kern, Jim Stillwagon, Jan White

Games of Note

September 26th • Texas A&M • Ohio Stadium
Gene Stallings and his Texas A&M team entered their game against Ohio State fresh off a 20-18 victory against LSU in Baton Rouge. The Aggies had already played — and won — two games in 1970. They dealt with having to play the Buckeyes in their first game since the upset loss to Michigan.

A&M won the toss and elected to defer. The Buckeyes quickly marched 75 yards and led 7-0 after Rex Kern pulled a quarterback keeper for a 6-yard score.  

Aggies quarterback Lex James fumbled away A&M's first possession at its 37-yard line. Four plays later, John Brockington broke the goal line to increase Ohio State's lead to 14-0.

James and the A&M offense went three-and-out and Ohio State was in business again at its own 36. Bruce Jankowski's 23-yard catch on the ensuing drive put Ohio State on the 3-yard line. From there, Leo Hayden punched it in. Fred Schram made his third point after and the Buckeyes led 21-0 at the end of the first quarter.  

The second quarter started with an A&M scoring drive and ended with Ohio State's Brockington rushing in for his second touchdown. The Buckeyes held a commanding 28-7 lead at halftime.

Ken Luttner's second fumble recovery of the game set up Ohio State's next touchdown. The defensive end jumped on the loose ball at the Aggies' 21-yard line. With a significant lead in place, Hayes pulled Kern and inserted Ron Maciejowski for the rest of the game. "Mace" found Jan White for a 5-yard strike that extended Ohio State's lead to 35-7.

More of the same followed, as seven different Buckeyes scored in the 56-13 romp. The final score served as Texas A&M's worst defeat in program history and set the tone for the rest its season. The Aggies lost the rest of their games and finished 2–9.

On a historical note, in 1970, A&M's Hugh McElroy became the first black player to start a game for the school. He caught four passes for 71 yards and rushed once for 16 yards against Ohio State.

1970 Schedule
      9–1, 290–120

October 24th • Illinois • Memorial Stadium
Before playing Illinois, the Buckeyes battled Duke, Michigan State and Minnesota.

The Blue Devils came to Columbus for the fist time in 11 years and made the 86,123 on hand nervous for the first half. With 25 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Duke led 3-0 and had to punt on the Buckeyes' 44. Ralph Holloway blocked it, Luttner scooped and scored and the momentum changed. Ohio State went on to win 24-10.

Michigan State also gave the Buckeyes trouble in the first half — Ohio State only led 9-0 at the break. In the second half, Maciejowski scored twice and Brockington once as the Buckeyes left East Lansing with a 29-0 victory in the program's 700th overall game (456–199–45).

No. 1 Ohio State flipped the script against Minnesota. The Buckeyes scored 28 points in the first 23 minutes to build a 28-0 lead. From there Ohio State stalled, but the homecoming crowd left happy after Brockington rushed for 187 yards and two touchdowns in the 28-8 victory. 

With the temperature at 60 degrees, Champaign provided the road site in Ohio State's 1970 season. The Illini (2–3) struggled in Jim Valek's fourth season. To this point, Illinois owned a 7–28 record under Valek and did not win a game in 1969. Before the start of this Week 5 matchup, Illinois announced it planned to fire Valek after the Ohio State game.

The Fighting Illini played inspired football for their coach and led 20-14 at the half. After Hayes spoke calmly to his team at the break, the Buckeyes erupted for five touchdowns and defeated Illinois 48-29.

Highlights of the game included a 76-yard touchdown run by Kern and three scores by Brockington. Darrell Robinson rushed for 187 yards and a touchdown for the Illini in Valek's last game.

October 31st • #20 Northwestern • Ohio Stadium
On a 62-degree Halloween day, the Wildcats tried to pull a nasty trick on the record crowd of 86,673. At the half, Alex Agase's Northwestern team led 10-3. Another tepid speech by Hayes whipped his second-ranked team into shape. 

The Buckeyes' inspired defense kept the Wildcats from scoring in the second half. The unit forced a fumble and Mike Sensibaugh grabbed his second interception of the game and 20th of his career. 

Ohio State's offense scored 21 consecutive points and Brockington gained 161 of the team's 336 rushing yards in the 24-10 win. 

The following week, the Buckeyes traveled to Madison to play Wisconsin (2–3–1). The Badgers lost their previous 10 games against Ohio State and tried to defeat the Buckeyes for the first time since 1959.

Fans filled Camp Randall Stadium to full capacity, setting a then-record of 72,758 for attendance. The hostile environment forced Ohio State to struggle in the first half. The Buckeyes only rushed for 71 yards and Maciejowski threw two interceptions and his team only led 10-7 at the break.

Brockington scored two of his three touchdowns in the third quarter, all that was needed for the Buckeyes to defeat Wisconsin's new coach, John Jardine, 24-7. 

Ohio State pushed its winning streak against Wisconsin to 11 and Hayes improved to 17–1–2 against the Badgers.

TEXAS A&M W2 2–0
DUKE W2 2–1
ILLINOIS W3 36–19–4
WISCONSIN W11 29–7–4
PURDUE W3 16–7–2
MICHIGAN W1 25–38–4

November 14th • Purdue • Ross-Ade Stadium
The week before The Game, No. 3 Ohio State escaped messy Ross-Ade Stadium with a 10-7 victory. Reports surfaced that first-year Purdue coach, Bob DeMoss, instructed the ground crew to leave the turf uncovered during a week of rain and snow. That left the playing field downright abysmal on a 37-degree and rainy Saturday.

Neither team could do much on the sloppy field. Passing was a disaster. The teams combined to complete four passes and toss three interceptions. 

Purdue managed just three first downs and 71 yards of total offense. Ohio State struggled as well, but Brockington proved to be the difference. He rushed for 136 yards and the game's only touchdown. 

The Buckeyes sat 8–0, ready to make amends for their lone loss in 1969.

November 21st • #4 Michigan • Ohio Stadium
After struggling on the muddy field in West Lafayette, Ohio State fell to No. 5 in the AP Poll. Michigan (9–0) now ranked fourth and came to Columbus on a 14-game winning streak. 

This game marked another record crowd for Ohio Stadium. A total of 87,331 packed a sunny Horseshoe to watch two unbeaten and untied Big Ten teams play for the title for the first time since 1905. On a somber note, the Marshall football plane crash happened the week before of this game.

The mood heading into The Game was testy in Columbus. From Ohio State University Monthly:

Local sportswriters were also less than optimistic- one Columbus newspapers sports editor predicted a 17-14 Michigan win, and even the Lantern sports editor said Michigan would beat Ohio State, 14-7.

By Tuesday every other car in town sported a bumper sticker predicting the outcome of the game, and a Downtown bank printed catchy slogans on a construction site like: "No Mish-Mash, Just Mash Mich." and "Bo Who?" and "Roses for Woody, Lilies for Bo." Similar but less printable slogans began appearing on fraternity houses and dormitories around campus.

Ohio State used the energy surrounding The Game to its advantage. Michigan won the toss and chose to receive. Stan White booted the kickoff to Lance Scheffler who fumbled it right back to Ohio State. The Buckeyes converted the turnover into three points when Schram made a 27-yard field goal.

On the first play of the second quarter, the Wolverines tied it with a 30-yard field goal. Kern connected with Jankowski for a 26-yard touchdown toss for the final points in the first 30 minutes. The extra point made it 10-3 at halftime.

Michigan clawed back when Don Moorhead found Paul Staroba for a 13-yard score in the third quarter. However, Ohio State blocked the extra point and still led 10-9.

At this point, the Buckeyes' defense took over. From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

There were defensive heroes aplenty starting with All-American middle guard Jim Stillwagon, who inspired the defense. The 225-pound senior from Mount Vernon keyed on stopping Michigan quarterback Don Moorhead and he decked the Wolverine ace twice during crucial times of the second half and finished the day with 12 tackles.

Linebackers Doug Adams and Stan White, tackles Shad Williams and George Hasenohrl, ends Mark Debevc and Ken Luttner and defensive backs Jack Tatum, Harry Howard, Tim Anderson and Mike Sensibaugh also shared in the tremendous effort.

Moorhead, who set two Michigan career records of most passes (199) and net yards (2,540), could not elude Ohio's line. He finished with a minus-five yards for the day and only his passing -- 12 of 26 completions for 118 yards -- kept the Wolverines close for three periods.

Inability to move consistently on the ground killed Michigan.

Ohio State held the Wolverines to 37 yards rushing and 155 total yards. The Buckeyes held Michigan to nine points, well below its 31.0 points per game average. 

Schram and Leo Hayden scored the final points of the game in the fourth quarter. Schram kicked a 27-yard field goal and the extra point after Hayden's 4-yard touchdown run. The Buckeyes won 20-9 to finish the regular season with a perfect 9–0 record.

Hayes laid the groundwork for the 1970 victory over Michigan shortly after the 1969 loss. He installed a rug just outside of the locker room with the score against the Wolverines plastered on it. It reminded the players of the upset every day and the motivation worked as Ohio State defeated Michigan for the eighth time in 11 years. 

January 1st • #12 Stanford • Rose Bowl
Oddsmakers favored No. 2 Ohio State to defeat John Ralston's Stanford team in the Rose Bowl New Year's Day. The third all-time meeting between the two programs, each won one game prior. The Buckeyes knew all they needed to earn a national championship was a victory — Texas lost to Notre Dame earlier that day.

The Rose Bowl did not start well. On his team's first two possessions, Heisman Trophy winner Jim Plunkett guided the Indians to 10 points. The Buckeyes fought back and took a 14-10 lead into halftime.

The second half according to the 2015 Ohio State Team Guide:

After trading third quarter field goals, OSU drove from its own 6 to the Stanford 19 to begin the final quarter. On fourth and less than a yard, the Cardinal defense stopped Brockington short of the first down. Plunkett then ran and passed down the field for the go-ahead score.

Despite the 27-17 loss, the National Football Foundation still awarded Ohio State with the national championship.

1970 Recap

  • Ohio State beat Gene Stallings and Texas A&M 56-13, the most points ever scored against the Aggies.
  • The Buckeyes defeated Duke, Michigan State and Minnesota by a combined score of 91-18.
  • Ohio State took a 32–12–2 series lead in Illibuck Trophy games.  
  • No. 20 Northwestern fell to the Buckeyes 24-10 after leading by seven points at halftime.
  • Woody Hayes improved to 17–1–2 against the Badgers with a 24-7 victory in Madison.
  • New Purdue coach Bod DeMoss let the Ross-Ade Stadium turf turn to into a muddy mess to slow Ohio State down. His plan worked, but the Buckeyes still won.
  • Hayes and the Buckeyes defeated Michigan 20-9 to win the Big Ten and finish the regular season 9–0.
  • Ohio State started the season as the No. 1 team in the nation but finished 1970 ranked fifth in the AP Poll. 
  • John Brockington, Dave Cheney, Mark Debevc, Tom DeLeone, Mike Sensibaugh, Jim Stillwagon, Phil Strickland and Jack Tatum were named All-Americans.
  • John Brockington, Jack Tatum, Tim Anderson, Leo Hayden, Jan White, Jim Stillwagon, Doug Adams, Mike Sensibaugh, Larry Zelina, Bruce Jankowski, Rex Kern, Ron Maciejowski and Mark Debevc were selected in the NFL Draft.

For the second straight year, Ohio State came one victory away from a perfect season and the AP Poll national championship. The senior class dubbed the Super Sophomores finished their collegiate careers with a 27–2 record.

With the talented senior class leaving, Hayes and his staff had its work cut out for the 1971 season. 

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