OSU 18 - - UM 14
Columbus, Nov. 17, 1944
Strong Ohio Wins Title in Hectic Game
The story of Michigan's gallant band of footballers and their desperate battle at Columbus, Ohio on the afternoon of November 25, 1944, will be told for many, many years after the score of that game is forgotten. It goes into the great Michigan athletic tradition where it will be just as much a part of Wolverine glory as are the stories of great triumphs.
Ohio State won the game and the score was 18 to 14. By winning the Ohioans took the Conference Championship of the current year and completed their most successful season in years. By losing the Wolverines failed to repeat their Big Ten title record of a year ago, but they did not dim one whit the record of courageous play, which they established earlier in the season. They enhanced it immeasurably.
By playing to the last limit of their ability and strength, they nearly won a game which had been pronounced by the critics as a certain Ohio State victory. Hardly an "expert" in the country had conceded the Wolverines an outside chance to win. And yet twice they led their opponents as the game swung back and forth in the bitter conflict. It was only a last-ditch drive which enabled the seasoned veterans of Ohio State to turn back the challenge of the lighter, less experienced, but battling youngsters of Michigan.
Sheer, desperate determination alone kept Michigan in this game. Outplayed, as the games statistics will show, the Wolverines kept themselves in the fray by battling as they never had before. They rallied from heart-breaking disappointments to surge back and challenge their powerful opponents. But in the end the mistakes which are inevitable for a youthful eleven spelled disaster- and Ohio State took the victory which they had every right to expect and achieve.
When the Wolverine youngsters left the field at the end of the first half on the long end of a 7-6 score, the startled critics in the press box were ready to prophesy that if they made no mistakes they might surprise the world and take the game. "The team which makes a mistake in this next half is the team which will lose the game" was the verdict.
Michigan made the mistakes. The alert experienced Ohio State veterans took immediate advantage of those mistakes and won. There were three of them- two fumbles and a bad kick-off. The courageous Wolverines miraculously made up for those fumbles by scoring a touchdown which was one of the most gallant achievements ever registered by a Michigan team. But they could not make up for the last mistake. It was fatal.
The turning point of the game was really that first fumble. It came at the opening of the second half. The Wolverines were ahead by virtue of Co-Captain Joe Ponsetto's accurate place kick and Watt's block of Dugger's attempt at the Ohio placement. The Varsity came out of the dressing room fired to a high pitch by the lead they possessed and the manner in which their all-out play was holding the vaunted Buckeyes. They took the kick-off and in three plays were deep in Ohio territory. The Buckeyes, despite all their experiences and poise, seemed demoralized. A second Michigan touchdown was looming as a real possibility.
Then came that fumble. The surge was stopped. Ohio took possession. From that point on Ohio was in the ascendancy. To be sure the Wolverine youngsters rallied many times before the end of the game. They even scored their second touchdown and again went ahead of their rivals. But the high spirit, the impetus, the sharpness, all were gone. For many a year those Michigan partisans who saw this great battle at Columbus will talk about what "might have been" had it not been for that fumble.
Just to indicate the heights to which Michigan rose in this game can be cited the fact that Ohio State, reputed a great forward passing team, gained exactly nothing through the air. Michigan partisans who had seen the Buckeyes play in previous games had been loud in their warnings to look out for Horvath passes to Dugger. Horvath is a steady passer, and big, rangy, heavy Dugger was a sure shot as a receiver, they affirmed. The Buckeyes tried four passes during the afternoon and failed on every try. To cap the climax, Chubb intercepted one of those passes to set up the first Michigan touchdown. So it can really be stated that the Ohio State passing attack was one of the offensive weapons which Michigan possessed on this hectic afternoon.
On the other hand Michigan made one of its longest single gains via the chief Ohio weapon. A Culligan pass to Ponsetto was good for 35 yards and put the Wolverines in position for their second touchdown.
It was the pounding, slashing Ohio ground attack which wore down the Wolverines and scored the victory. Brugge, Horvath and Flanagan, rushing behind the big and powerful Buckeye forwards, moved forward irresistibly. The Ohio blocking was deadly and it was only the desperation play of the Wolverines which held this great attack from scoring an avalanche of touchdowns.
Their victory was as sweet to Ohio partisans as it was heartbreaking to the Michigan rooters. Ohio had gone into the game supremely confident. They willingly prophesied their victory. And Michigan was very ready to admit that all the odds favored the big, veteran team. But during the afternoon the Ohio rooters twice were forced to see Michigan out in front, with their warriors seemingly headed for a loss to the distinct underdog. For that reason the third and winning Ohio touchdown scored with less than four minutes of the game remaining, brought wild and unrestrained joy to the Buckeye stands. As the afternoon wore on they had envisioned a drab and unhappy ending to what should have been the most successful season in Ohio history. But their men on the field were equal to their opportunity when Michigan mistakes gave them a chance. And the coveted victory was earned.
Early in the game came one of those breaks which were so heartbreaking for the Wolverines all afternoon. Gene Derricotte, flashy Freshman halfback who had been carefully nursing an injured leg ever since the Illinois game, was hurt the first time he carried the ball. He had served notice by that run just how valuable he was to be to the Michigan offense when he reeled off a ten-yard gain and a first down on the very first Michigan play from scrimmage. But that was his first and last play. He was taken from the game, unable to continue, and sat on the bench the rest of the afternoon. His successor, Culligan, rose to heights in the emergency, scoring both touchdowns and reeling off many fine gains, but Culligan was not the Michigan first-stringer.
Ponsetto bravely played out the game, though he was far from top condition. He too had stayed out much of the Wisconsin game to permit an injured leg to mend, but the hurt cut down his efficiency. The discussion of the game will always have something to do with what would have happened on that final Michigan mistake, the bad kick-off, had Ponsetto been available at that time instead of on the bench.
Ohio State early served notice of the power of its ground attack when it scored on its second opportunity. Michigan had turned back the first drives after the kick-off, but, after that Derricotte attack, discovered that Ohio's line was to have a lot to say about the character of the game. Big Hackett turned back Lund and Chubb and Michigan was forced to punt. Ohio State started from its own 44-yard line and drove relentlessly to a touchdown. A Flanagan run of 21 yards was the key play of this series, putting the Buckeyes in scoring position. But they had to use every trick in their repertoire to cross the goal line. Thirteen plays were needed to go 34 yards, three of them being necessary to negotiate the final two yards to the "promised land", so bitter was the dogged Michigan defense.
Watts broke through to block Dugger's placekick for the extra point, but at that time this extra point did not seem awfully important, so perfect was the Ohio defense and so potent was the Ohio attack.
But the story changed before the first half was over. An alert Chubb intercepted one of the famous Horvath passes and ran it back 35 yards behind excellent blocking by his teammates. So perfect was that blocking that had Chubb reversed his field a second time as he charged forward with the ball, he might have gone all the way to a touchdown right then.
That put the ball on the Ohio State 25-yard line -- and that was all the inspiration the battling Wolverine underdogs needed. Chubb and Lund collaborated and took the ball to the 12-yard line for a first down in two plays. Four more plays put the ball on the 1-yard line, with Chubb and Lund still carrying the offensive load behind charging blockers. Then Ponsetto crossed up the Buckeyes and sent Culligan hurtling over for the touchdown just 22 seconds before the end of the half. And Ponsetto coolly kicked for the extra point to send the team to their lockers with Michigan ahead -- and the Ohio stands in deep gloom.
That gloom became much thicker as the second half opened and Michigan set sail with tremendous momentum. Chubb returned the kick-off behind excellent blocking to the Michigan 39-yard line. Lund gained eight yards through the line -- and gaining through the line had been something that Lund and Chubb hadn't been able to do before. Chubb reeled off 13 yards and a first down in Ohio territory, on the 39-yard line. The Michigan machine was moving just as it had moved in many previous games, relentlessly and surely. Then came that key play of the game. Lund fumbled and Captain Appleby recovered. The drive was stopped. Ohio had a chance to catch its breath -- and to get the ball out of danger. The Buckeyes had to do that - and quickly, for its next three plays netted a total of minus eight yards.
Keane got away a good punt which went out of bounds on the Michigan 21 yard line. Instead of being 39 yards away from the Ohio goal line, and moving fast, Michigan was now 79 yards away -- and troubled. Two plunges by Lund and Culligan netted five yards; and then Chubb fumbled. That was the clincher. Ohio State took over and in seven plays was over for the touchdown which once more put them out in front. This time Keane missed the try for point, but again it didn't look important for Ohio State seemed to have at last gained ascendancy.
|Burg (Mehaffey)||LG||(Amling) Snyder|
|Watts (Lintol)||C||(Renner) Appleby|
|Ponsetto (Yerges)||QB||(Keane) Hovath|
|Derricotte (Weisenburger) (Culligan)||LHB||Flanagan|
|Scores by quarters:|
Touchdowns: Culligan 2, Horvath 2, Cline
Points after touchdown: Ponsette 2 (placement)
Officials: Referee, Blake (Loras College); Umpire, Finsterwald (Syracuse); Field Judge, Huegel (Marquette); Head Linesman, McPhee (Oberlin).