100 Years Ago, Chic Harley Led Ohio State to Its First Win Ever over Michigan

By Chris Lauderback on June 20, 2019 at 11:05 am
Chic Harley scored on a long touchdown run and recorded four interceptions in Ohio State's 13-3 win over Michigan in 1919.

It's a safe bet Ohio State will honor Chic Harley later this year, commemorating his outstanding performance in Ann Arbor way back in 1919, spearheading the football program's first ever win over Michigan, 13-3, at Ferry Field. 

Amazingly, 100 years have gone by since Harley helped Ohio State's football program overcome an 0-13-2 record over the first 15 years of what has become the greatest rivalry in all of sports. 

Head coach Dr. John Wilce was in his seventh season guiding the Buckeyes and already had two undefeated campaigns (1916, 1917) under his belt in Columbus but Ohio State didn't face the Wolverines either year. 

In fact, the Buckeyes hadn't squared off against Michigan since 1912 – one year before Wilce's arrival – and his team had lost to the Wolverines 14-0 in the 1918 matchup in Columbus. 

Harley missed the 1918 matchup while serving as a pilot in World War I after starring for the 1916 and 1917 squads that went a combined 15-0-1 thanks to his exploits. 

In 1919 however, Wilce had Harley back in the fold as the Buckeyes traveled to Ann Arbor for an October 25th showdown against a 2-0 Wolverines squad that outscored its opponents 60-0. 

It was an ominous start for the good guys as Pete Stinchcomb fumbled the opening kick off at the Ohio State 20 but the Wolverines failed to convert the turnover. Later in the first quarter, Michigan's Cliff Sparks had his punt blocked by Iolas Huffman and Jim Flowers recovered for a touchdown giving the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead. 

A field goal by Sparks in the second quarter would make it 7-3 Ohio State heading into the half but things were about to turn sour for the Ferry Field faithful. 

Starting from the Wolverine 40, 42 or midfield depending on the referenced article, Harley took a hand off and abused all 11 Michigan defenders on the way to the house for a 13-3 lead. 

The game was largely a stalemate from there with Harley dominating on defense culminating with his fourth interception of the day late in the fourth quarter at Ohio State's 37 yard line to ensure victory. 

Ohio State held Michigan to exactly one first down on the afternoon leaving legendary Wolverines head coach Fielding Yost impressed. In a rare occurrence, Yost addressed the Buckeyes post game: 

“You deserve your victory, you fought brilliantly. You boys gave a grand exhibition of football strategy and while I am sorry, dreadfully sorry, that we lost, I want to congratulate you. And you, Mr. Harley, I believe, are one of the finest little machines I have ever seen.”

The Buckeyes would go on to win their first six games by a combined score of 169-3 before a 9-7 loss to Illinois at Ohio Field killed a shot at a perfect season. 

No matter, the 1919 season will always be remembered for Harley guiding Ohio State to its first ever win over the maize and blue.

When the sun set on Harley's outstanding Buckeye career, he became Ohio State's first three-time All-American and led his teams to a 21-1-1 record while creating so much buzz the school was able to raise over a million dollars in public donations by 1921, paving the way for Ohio Stadium – aka "The House That Harley Built" – to host its first football game on October 7, 1922. 

Including that special Saturday way back in 1919, the Buckeyes own a 51-45-4 edge in The Game and seem poised to keep the train rolling 100 years later. 

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