Okay, I am breaking with my “games played at Columbus theme” today because November 22nd is such a significant day in Michigan Football History. Today’s post takes us back to The Big House on November 22, 1969 – the day of Bo’s biggest win at Michigan. Bo Schembechler won 194 games at Michigan, but his first victory over Ohio State was the biggest win of his career. Let’s find out why Coach Schembechler felt that way.
(Note-Bo Schembechler was carried off the field in 1969 by his victorious Wolverines. That first win over OSU was Bo’s biggest win – for sure! Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
The 1969 season was the 90th in Michigan Football History. The greatest rivalry in the history of college football was really going strong when Bo arrived. Actually, it was going strong for OSU, but not so much for Michigan. No one could have imagined that it would get any more intense, but that’s exactly what happened. The dynamics of Bo versus Woody, student versus teacher, “The Team Up North” versus “ohio” was football drama at its best. Some of the greatest games in the rich history of the Michigan-OSU rivalry were played in the Bo Era. However, nothing ever beat game one of the Ten Year War!
Bo’s first test against the Buckeyes came against his “football father” as he referred to Woody prior to their impending battle in November 1969. Woody’s Buckeyes rolled into Ann Arbor on a twenty-two-game winning streak. They were ranked number one in the nation and were the defending national champions.
Beating the buckeyes was Bo’s stated goal from his first day on the job. He knew Woody better than any coach in the country and he took advantage of this knowledge. Schembechler modeled his offense and defense after Ohio State’s which meant that his team practiced against the buckeyes every day, all season long. Bo made sure that his conditioning program was tougher than Ohio States. Schembechler made sure that his practices were more intense than Woody’s practice sessions in Columbus. Bo ensured that his team knew the score of the 1968 game (14-50) and the magnitude of the game that would be played on November 22, 1969.
Going into his first OSU game, Bo’s twelfth ranked Wolverines had a record of 7 wins and 2 losses. So, his record was not as good as Bump Elliott’s was the year before (Elliott’s team was 8-1 going into the OSU game). Basically, the success of Bo’s first season rode on the outcome of “The Game.” Bo knew it, his coaches knew it, his players knew it. Of course, every Michigan fan knew that this was the measuring stick by which people would judge the wisdom of Schembechler’s hiring.
Bo’s underdogs (Buckeyes were favored by 17 points) were sky high for this game and it turned out perfectly for the rookie coach and his Michigan Men. The Wolverines beat the Buckeyes at their own game. The score really doesn’t reflect the level of domination that the Wolverines achieved that day.Television announcer Bill Fleming’s reaction to the upset win (24-12) over the number one team in the country was this exclamation “There it is! What has to be the upset of the century.”
The 1969 season was the one hundredth year of college football. Yes, Fleming (a slightly biased Michigan Man) may have had a good basis for his statement. Game number sixty-six in the Michigan vs ohio state series was a classic, at least in the annals of Michigan Football History. And, yes, it was Bo’s biggest win!
Bo’s eighth win at Michigan was the five hundred and seventeenth victory in program history. Many argue that Bo’s biggest win was also the biggest win in Wolverine Football History. It was HUGE, because it established Bo’s program. More importantly, it re-established Michigan as a team to be reckoned with in the Big Ten Conference and on the national stage. At a dinner in Columbus, many years later, someone asked Woody which team was his greatest team. His answer was his 1969 team and he looked down the table where Bo (he was still coaching) was sitting and said, “damn you Bo, you’ll never win a bigger game.” Later Bo would say, “he (Woody) was right. I never won a bigger game.” Bo went on to win one hundred and eighty-six more games at Michigan, but none would ever be remembered like the shocker heard around the college football world in 1969. One more thing, Bo’s Wolverines were never, ever, seventeen-point underdogs again – to OSU or anybody else!
Coach Schembechler delivered on his “promise” to his seniors and the rest of the team. For the record, he also kept that promise to every other Wolverine who played his full eligibility from 1969-1989 – “Those Who Stayed Were Champions” – all of them!
Bo’s “underdogs” accomplished some great things in his first season. Not a bad start for the coach who was Don Canham’s second choice. The impatient Schembechler accomplished what many experts thought was impossible. Michigan stopped the buckeye twenty-two game winning streak, knocked them out of the number one spot in the national rankings, and avenged the debacle from 1968. Remarkably, it all happened in just 332 days, counting from the day Bo was hired until the day the Michigan Stadium scoreboard read: Michigan 24 – OSU 12. So, that’s why the 1969 victory over OSU was Bo’s biggest win. Any questions?
Thanks to Dr. Sap for his video on the final countdown of Bo’s Biggest Win at Michigan.
Of course, we have another BIG GAME on Saturday. For the first time in a very, very long time we are slight favorites in this game. Of course, Bo always said that being a favorite was not that great a thing since it didn’t put any points on the scoreboard at the start of the game. Yes, this game is the one Michigan needs to win. It will put them in perfect position to end the fourteen year title drought that the team is experiencing right now. Just like Bo, a win on Saturday would probably be called Harbaugh’s biggest win, unless he gets to the College Football Championship game in Levi Stadium in January 2019. However, one thing at a time – Go Blue, Beat OSU!
What Michigan Football Coach owns the most victories in Columbus?
Fielding H. Yost became a Michigan Legend for a lot of reasons. He won a ton of games, won 6 National Championships, 10 Big Ten Titles, and did amazing things as the athletic director. Of, course, his vision created Michigan Stadium. So that’s enough about Mr. Yost’s legend stuff. However, very few people know that he was an absolute Buckeye Killer in Columbus!
Coach Yost took his Wolverines to Columbus ten times. His Wolverines were victorious in 8 of those games. His final record of 8 wins, 1 loss and 1 tie is absolutely amazing! His winning percentage of .850 at OSU is nonpareil!
What Michigan running back holds the record for the most rushing yards in a game at Columbus?
The Legend of Bo Schembechler is a football love story. Millions of Michigan football fans loved Bo Schembechler almost as much as he loved The University of Michigan. This insightful book details how “Bo Who” simply became “Bo” to Wolverine Nation and to college football fans across the country and around the world. It details Bo’s twenty-one-year journey to bring Michigan Football back to national prominence and how he kept it there!
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