Buckeyes Observe Ann Arbor Day
Ohio State 17 Michigan 0
Ann Arbor , Nov. 19, 1955
Published in The Ohio State University Monthly, December 1955
In a bruising showdown for the Big Ten title, the Buckeyes gave an amazing performance to stomp the favored Wolverines, 17-0. The mighty deed, certain to become legendary, was accomplished on Nov. 19 before a record crowd on Michigan’s own home ground.
Ohio State went into the finale undefeated in five Big Ten games (though it had lost two non-conference contests earlier in the season) and was rated ninth in the national AP poll. Michigan had to its credit five Big Ten and two non-conference wins, with only one defeat (Illinois), and held the No.6 poll spot.
Michigan was rated stronger and figured to win; had the advantage of playing on its own field, with a vast majority of the crowd to roar encouragement; had relatively more to gain by a victory than Ohio State. A Michigan win would not only have given the Wolverines the undisputed conference title but carried with it an invitation to the Rose Bowl. Ohio State was ineligible for the bowl bid, having played in Pasadena last January.
In downing the Wolverines, the Buckeyes broke something of a jinx. Ohio State had been unable to win at Ann Arbor since 1937 when a Francis Schmidt coached team turned the trick, 21-0. The win gave Ohio State its 13th consecutive Big Ten victory. This record ties the all-time Buckeye mark set by the ’16 and ’17 teams which were sparked by the fabulous Chic Harley and coached by Dr. John W. Wilce.
Again it was team effort, aided by outstanding play of various individuals, which accounted for the Buckeye victory. Ohio State beat Michigan at its own specialty, defense. Coach Woody Hayes summarized it in his salute to his Buckeyes after the game: “This was the greatest team today I’ve ever coached. I never saw a team play so close to perfection. You never let up, you kept the pressure on them for 60 minutes. You didn’t give them a chance. You only let them cross your 50-yard line once and that was just barely. You’re the greatest!”
The Wolverines, considered to be one of the best Michigan teams in years, were able to make only five first downs against the determined Buckeye line. The Ohio State linemen blasted holes for Buck ball-carriers who gained 333 yards, most of it through the Michigan line, for 20 first downs.
The deception of the Buckeye backfield was superlative. The marvelous faking of all backs had fans and sports writers, as well as the Michigan squad, constantly doing double takes (“who has the ball?”). The ball-handling of Ellwood, Cassady, Vicic and Sutherin was precision personified.
It was the first game in which Sutherin carried the ball. He had played only a little, as relief, in previous games. He got his full-time chance at right half because both Harkrader and Roseboro were hobbled with injuries. Ends Leo Brown and Bill Michael outperformed their highly regarded Michigan counterparts, Kramer and Maentz.
From the start of the game, the Buckeyes “had the number” of the tricky plays and multiple offense employed by Michigan. On their second series of tries with the ball, the Wolverines decided to begin their vaunted passing attack. Barr shot a long aerial which Cassady intercepted on the Ohio 29 and returned to the 35. This interception of the very first Wolverine pass stopped a Michigan drive which was just getting underway. And, possibly more important, it scared the Wolverines from passing much after that.
The initial score resulted from a Buckeye drive which began early in the second quarter. All four backs took turns with the pigskin, moved the Bucks entirely on ground plays from their own 23 to the Michigan seven. On third down, with seven to go, Ellwood passed to Sutherin but the ball was caught outside the end zone and did not count as a tally. A 3-0 lead came from Fred Kriss’ fourth-down field goal, the only one he had ever attempted. He place kicked from the 14-yard line.
An Ohio State drive at the start of the third quarter misfired at the payoff point. Cassady took the kickoff and returned it from his own goal line to the Ohio 36. He, Vicic and Sutherin then pounded their way to the Michigan five. On fourth down with two to go, Ellwood tried a jump pass to a Buck who was not being covered in the end zone. But a Wolverine hit Ellwood’s arm as he got the ball away. Michigan recovered the bobbling pigskin on the eight.
The Wolverines then moved to their 34 and gambled on a fourth and one situation. But Jim Parker and Don Vicic stopped Baldacci when he hit the line, returning the ball to the Bucks. Ohio State lost it on the next play when an official got in the way of Sutherin charging into the Michigan secondary. He fumbled and Michigan recovered on the 26.
The fourth period brought the first Buckeye touchdown. The drive began late in the previous. quarter when Cassady took a punt on his 27 and returned to the 48. Then he, Vicic and Sutherin blasted their way to the Michigan two. Cassady scored by diving over a pileup at right guard. He fumbled after he crossed the goal line in the melee but the ball had been called dead and the play ruled a touchdown. Sutherin missed the conversion.
A subsequent drive by the Wolverines, trying desperately to come back, was broken up by Vicic when he intercepted Maddock’s long pass to Kramer on the Ohio 42.
Later, with less than three minutes remaining, Michigan was deep in its own territory after receiving Ellwood’s punt on the Wolverine five. Maddock then shot a flat pass to Barr who was tackled in the end zone by Michael for a safety. This added two more points to the Buckeye total, making it 11-0.
Kramer’s onside kickoff on the following play from the Michigan 20 went only a yard, which gave the ball back to the Bucks at that spot. His foot barely touched the ball and the kick was too short, failing to go the minimum distance required.
The bad break, of their own making, proved too much for the Wolverines. They lost their heads completely. The Buckeye touchdown that soon followed was almost a gift from the Wolverines due to the numerous penalties against them.
On the fourth play after the Bucks were given the ball, Ellwood was roughed unnecessarily by Kramer while making a quarterback sneak. The penalty that resulted put the Bucks on the Michigan six with a first down. Wolverine cursing of the officials then moved the ball to the one and first down; Kramer and Sigman continued to rage so the referee ordered them to the showers and put the ball on the half-yard line. Victor scored with a plunge over the center to up the total, 17-0. Sutherin missed the placement.
Buckeye fans then pulled down goal post at the north end of the stadium and went to work on the one at the south. One minute and fifteen seconds were left in the game. In that time Michigan was penalized for clipping piling on and unsportsmanlike conduct. The Bucks, evidently deciding it was necessary to defend themselves, guilty of a personal foul and piling on.
Spectators swarmed onto the field after what they thought was the final play. But Michigan had called a time out, with two seconds remaining. So the mob was coaxed back to the sidelines. The Wolverines, on their own 37, had their last fling – a five-yard pass which fell incomplete.
University of Michigan officials players, fans and sports writers deplored the fact that the game developed into brawl in the final minutes. The Columbus newspapers, for the most part played down the incident. Michigan Athletic Director Fritz Krisler, Coach Bennie Oosterbaan and End Ron Kramer issued official apologies after the melee as did Michigan’s President Harlan Hatcher. Ohio State officials and players, remembering the long history of hard fought but cleanly played Michigan games, accepted the incident as one that was not likely to happen again; promptly forgave the 11 pressure-ridden men, who for a few minutes, had behaved like boys.
The incident did little to mar the of joy Buckeye fans – this decisive defeat and the breaking of the 18-year Ann Arbor jinx was what they had been waiting for.