14. October 2017 · Comments Off on Harmon vs. Kinnick (1939) | This Week in Michigan Football History · Categories: 2017

Harmon picks off Kinnick (1939)

This week’s game hits features a 1939 face off between two of the biggest names in college football history – Michigan’s Tom “Old 98” Harmon and Iowa’s Nile Kinnick.  Harmon dominated this game but Kinnick took home the 1939 Heisman – (98 finished second).


Here’s the clip:

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/script …after the jump

Michigan has faced off against many would-be Heisman winners over the years, and of course we’ve had three men take that honor since its inception in 1935.   On this day in Meechigan football history back in 1939 we faced Iowa in a game that featured 2 of the most iconic names in our beloved sport – The Hawkeye’s Nile Kinnick and Michigan’s Old 98, Tom Harmon.
Kinnick struck first with a 71 yard touchdown pass.  But then Harmon did what he tended to do – he took over the entire game.  He scored the game’s final 27 points on runs of 2, 2, 8 and topped off the scoring by picking off a Kinnick pass and returning it 90 yards to the house.  Old 98 also kicked all the extra points in the 27-7 beating of Mrs. Steve Clarke’s beloved Hawkeyes.
Both teams had fine seasons as Kinnick and Harmon starred on both sides of the ball all year.  The Heisman race basically came down to a choice between the Iowa senior and Old 98, who still had a year left in Ann Arbor.
When comparing stats, Harmon had more overall yards and led the nation in scoring, and of course WHOOPED Kinnick in the head-to-head game for what it’s worth.  I’d argue it was worth a lot in those days since players did indeed play both sides of the ball.
But Kinnick had wildy impressive defensive stats with an amazing 8 interceptions in a day when teams rarely passed the pigskin – and get this, to this day Kinnick STILL holds the records for season and career interceptions for the Hawks.  On offense he was was involved in just about every point the Hawkeyes scored and rarely left the field.
So while Old 98 had a strong case for the 1939 Heisman he finished 2nd and Kinnick, deservedly took home the hardware.   There’s no doubt that Kinnick was deserving of the coveted trophy that season BUT you have to wonder how Hawkeye fans that watched Harmon’s performance on this day 78 years ago feel about that.

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