The 1951 Rose Bowl victory capped off a nice season for coach Bennie Oosterbaan’s crew.  The 1950 squad featured team MVP Don Dufek and All-American R. Allen Wahl and won the conference title with a 6-3-1 overall record, dropping games to Michigan State, #1 ranked Army [played at Yankee Stadium), and to Illinois.  Despite a tough start the team rallied to win their final three games and added the great victory in Pasadena.

You probably can’t say this for any Michigan Rose Bowl champion, but the win over Cal in Pasadena was not the definitive victory for this team. That distinction will always be reserved for the game over a month earlier on November 25, 1950 in Columbus—a game that will forever be known as The Snow Bowl.

The week leading up to the game was somewhat normal for a November in the Midwest. On Thursday (Thanksgiving Day), Columbus experienced 38 degree temperatures and rain. By 8am Friday morning the thermometer sunk to 5 degrees and it snowed off and on for most of the day. The forecast for Saturday was a chilly 15 degrees and possible snow, but Friday evening to early Saturday morning things took a wicked turn:


A shirtless, unruly hairy beast with bad teeth seen outside Ohio stadium?  shocker

During the night, a storm moving up the Carolina coast pumped Atlantic moisture like a fire hose westward to meet the southward blast of frigid air. The clash of these two air masses reached full fury over Ohio and western Pennsylvania, paralyzing the region with heavy snow, gale-force winds and near-zero temperatures. Pittsburgh lay under a 16-inch snowfall with another foot forecast, forcing cancellation of the Pitt-Penn State game. Southeastern Ohio measured 14 plus inches. Transportation across the state ground to a halt.

As game time drew near the field was buried and around 50,000 brave fans huddled beneath the Ohio Stadium stands and waited to take their seats. A meeting was held between the schools to decide whether to play the game that included Ohio coach Wes Felser, Ohio athletic director Dick Larkin, Michigan AD Fritz Crisler and Oosterbaan. There had yet to be a Big Ten conference game canceled for any reason and this game held greater significance. If the game wasn’t played, Ohio State would earn a trip to the Rose Bowl. But Larkin knew (and certainly Oosterbaan and especially Crisler reminded him) that Michigan could potentially earn a trip to the Rose Bowl with a win. Ultimately Larkin gave the green light and remarked, “We’ll just have to do the best we can.”

When the game started, the teams did the only thing they could. Run a play or two and then punt rather than risk a turnover.

Michigan entered the game third in the conference standings behind the Buckeyes and Illinois. During the game word made it to the Michigan sideline that Northwestern upset the Illini meaning a Wolverine victory would send Oosterbaan and company to Pasadena.

The decisive moment came with time running out in the first half as Fesler made a tactical move that probably cost him his job, as described by Sports Illustrated:

On third and 6 at the Ohio State 13, Buckeyes coach Wes Fesler instructed [Heisman Trophy winner Vic] Janowicz to punt with Ohio State holding a 3-2 lead. Only 47 seconds remained in the half and it is likely that Ohio State could have run out the clock. But Michigan’s Tony Momsen — whose older brother Bob played for the Buckeyes — blocked the kick and then fell on it in the end zone, closing the scoring in a 9-3 Michigan win.

Thanks to WolverineHistorian, a few clips from the game:

 

 

The statistics from the game are remarkable:

  • Ohio State had 41 yards of total offense, Michigan 27.
  • The Buckeyes actually attempted 18 passes, completing just three for 25 yards.
  • Michigan had no first downs; Ohio State three.
  • The teams punted a combined 45 times for a total of 1,408 yards.
  • The team fumbled 10 times but lost only one each.

There’s probably hundreds of other stories about the game from those who witnessed it. HBO’s The Rivalry spent a good portion of the documentary on the game providing some phenomenal footage. The BBC website pulled together an impressive recap and added this anecdote which will definitely get a chuckle out of any Michigan Marching Band fan:

..the Ohio State Marching Band, which considered itself the best in the country (and still does), was offended by an article in Life magazine which claimed Michigan had the best. Ohio State was determined to prove itself and arranged an elaborate performance for half time. However, the brass instruments were chilled and the mouthpieces frozen. It seemed it would be unable to play.

The band planned to silently perform its maneuvers, which included standing together in a shape resembling a Buckeye leaf, while previously recorded music played over the loudspeakers. However, the determined band members got hold of some antifreeze for their mouthpieces and did the performance.

I’ll bookend end this eBay Watch with another item from the period. It’s a 1951 Michiganensian yearbook, featuring a few photos from both games, here’s a few pics from the Snow Bowl as displayed in the yearbook:

[Originally posted November 16, 2008]

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Sources:
* From the Ohio State library 1950 OSU vs. Michigan, The Snow Bowl
* An excellent recap from The BBC Website
* Game footage from ohiohistory.com
* Weather Events: Blizzard Bowl
* SI.com on the 10 greatest games in the U-M/OSU Rivalry

21. May 2010 · Comments Off on eBay Watch: Intrepidus – The Last Wolverine (1939) · Categories: Archive 2009 · Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

bifforbennie

Next up on eBay Watch, we’ve an excellent wire photo of a live mascot wolverine.  The auction description says it dates to October 13, 1939 and was retrieved from the archives of Sport Magazine.   The beast probably was trotted out before the Michigan-Iowa match the next day, a game in which Tom Harmon dominated everyone including Iowa’s great Nile Kinnick:

Harmon and Michigan routed Iowa and Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick 27-7 in 1939.   This was one of the most famous of all Hawkeye teams, but Harmon ran wild, accounting for every Michigan point on four TD’s and three conversion kicks.  One of Tom’s scores was a 90-yard interception return.

At first glance I assumed I was gazing at either Biff or Bennie in that cage, one of the live wolverines that Fielding Yost obtained in the 1920s.  That story was detailed in this March 2008 post, ‘Yost Wants a Real Wolverine, Dead or Alive’.  If you recall, FHY saw the Wisconsin team carrying around a live badger and got a wicked case of mascot envy.

A wire here, a letter there and next thing you know ‘Biff’ and ‘Bennie’ are being paraded out during Michigan home games:


U-M Bentley Library

So naturally at first I figured the eBay auction photo featured one of those original carcajous, perhaps a bit long in the tooth.  But after a little digging it’s likely that the ferocious fellow is actually “Intrepidus”!:

In 1937, the Chevrolet Motor Company donated a wolverine (as well as the cage to keep it in) to the University of Michigan. A contest was held to name the new mascot and “Intrepidus” was the winning entry. It is unclear how long Intrepidus survived, but it is known that no live wolverines have been in Michigan Stadium in the last half-century. – U-M Bentley Library

These beasts aren’t meant to be caged and I’m guessing Intrepidus didn’t make it much past ‘39.   And speaking of dead wolverines, some of you who live in the area might have heard that what’s believed to be the last known living one in Michigan was found dead back in March:

dead_wolverine
photo: via MLive, credit: Steve Noble

Adding insult to this sad story, thanks to a group of meddling kids from the Soo, there’s legislation in Lansing to nix Michigan’s ‘The Wolverine State’ nickname:

State Rep. Gary McDowell, D-Rudyard, has introduced legislation to designate “Great Lakes  State” as the official nickname for Michigan. McDowell said Wednesday that the lakes “define us as a state” and deserve to be honored.  The legislation stems from a request for an official nickname designation by Sault Ste. Marie sixth-graders in 2002.  Besides, with the death earlier this year of the state’s only known living specimen, Michigan can hardly continue to claim to be the “Wolverine State.”

Don’t you people have anything better to do?   Punks.

P.S.  According to Wikipedia Rep. McDowell’s home district of Rudyard, MI is in the UP a bit north of the bridge.  The town was indeed named after poet Rudyard Kipling, a favorite of Lloyd Carr.   (But I’m still mad.)

Here’s the full auction for the Intrepidus wire photo.

Mo

gary moeller

Coach Gary Moeller was at Schembechler Hall this afternoon.  Don’t know the circumstances for the visit, but the no doubt the he had a few words for the coaches and team about Ohio State.  Moeller is a Buckeye grad and captained Woody Hayes’s squad in 1963. 

Moeller went 3-1-1 against Ohio State.

Looks pretty good, don’t you think?

24. August 2009 · Comments Off on Rich Rodriguez joins Larry Lage (WTKA audio) · Categories: Archive 2009 · Tags: , , , , ,

Props to AP beat writer Larry Larry and Ira Weintraub for landing Rich Rodriguez for a segment this morning on WTKA 1050AM.   (Sam Webb is out on vacation).

In the aftermath of Media Day, the guys discussed a few items with coach, from the fan day turnout, the quarterback position of course, they got into a little bit on Denard Robinson’s habit of not tying his shoelaces.   Rich Rod marveled how they don’t come off.  I’ll join him on that:

image

They also went in on the comparisons to Pat White (with Denard), on the general philosophy of competition at each position, on Rodriguez’s “campaign” to scrimmage or at least practice against other schools in the preseason, on the general state of U-M recruiting and finally on the schedule for this week (they start preparation for Western tomorrow).

Here’s the audio:

[display_podcast]

Related:

  • Media Day: Chicken Scratch
  • Media Day: Rodriguez on the Quarterback position
  • Media Day: Greg Robinson on the Field Level Advantage
  • Media/Fan Day: Photo Gallery
  • Media Day: The Stadium Renovation (Photos)
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