“The player development is the main thing I like (about Michigan),” Williams said. “You can see that they develop their players. They get them in the gym and they work them hard. And their hard work pays off.”
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Recently I posted a diary entry considering the 2008 Capital One Bowl game entitled, Worst Victory Ever—stupid idea, I know. But, I thought it might be a good idea therefore, to submit another diary entry, Best Loss Ever. I got many suggestions for this game. The 2005 Rose Bowl loss to Vince Young and Longhorns was a popular suggestion. The 1980 losses to <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />South Carolina (George Rogers) and Notre Dame were also considered. That BYU bowl game where they cheated and held on every play, is another. While these games definitely have their merits and are very good losses, they just did not scream Best Loss Ever. For me, at least, there can be only one:
The 1968 50-14 loss to Ohio State was my choice for Numero Uno.
That is all the video I could find….
Let’s consider that 1968 Michigan team for a moment. It was coached by former Michigan All American, Bump Elliot, who in 1964 won the Rose Bowl and was just generally a pretty good football coach—not to mention a Michigan Man—whatever that is. Bump was 8-1 (In 1967 they won only 4 games.) coming into the OSU game that year. His defense had given up only 105 points so far that season and had two shutouts on the books. He had guys like Jim Mandich, Phil Seymour, Stanley Broadnax, Dan Dierdorf, Dennis Brown, John Gabler, Garvie Craw, Jim Brandstatter, Dana Coin, Thom Darden, Glenn Doughty, Don Moorehead, Barry Pierson, Cecil Pryor, Marty Huff, Ron Johnson and Tom Curtis. They were ranked #4 in the country. Is that good enough?
On the other side were the State of Ohio University Buckeyes. While no one will ever know exactly what a Buckeye is, we know they had a good football team in 1968. Woody had become existential due to pressure from the boosters and fans and was willing to run a play besides the Robust 27 or 28. (See: 1968; The Year that Saved Ohio State Football, by David Hyde. ." It's essentially a re-creation of that season starting with the 1966 season, when Woody Hayes had a losing record, was burned in effigy, fans started chanting, "Good-Bye Woody" in Ohio Stadium.) Woody had brought in some crazy high school coach who believed OSU might be a bit predictable (i.e. George Chaump) and thought maybe the I formation might help. Woody also brought in Lou Holtz. I believe Earle Bruce was there, too. Bill Mallory was there, but you guys are probably too young to remember Old Bill.
This was also the team of the Super Sophs—for real. You are young and probably don’t remember Rex Kern (who had major back surgery in June that year), Jack Tatum (who ended up on defense due to a toss of the coin) Jim Stillwagon, Bruce Jankowiki, and Jim Otis. I just can’t bring myself to name any others. Anyway, Woody tried something very radical that year. Instead of just taking all the good players and putting them on the offense, he tossed a coin with his coaches and let them choose players, you know, like in pick-up football. I guess that junk worked because that team kicked butt for three years.
The Buckeyes were solid in 1968. They rolled up 440 yards and 32 points per game. Their stingy defense only allowed 15 points and 292 yards per game.
The largest crowd in Horeshoe history would be attending this game; 85, 371. Almost forgot, they were undefeated and hadn’t lost a game. No sugarcoat.
But what the heck. Bump had a good team, as well. Woody was starting 11 sophomores for Heaven’s sake! I am sure Bump was feeling all confident and stuff on his way into that game. Up until halftime it was a fairly even contest. Then, along came this Jim Otis guy and suddenly Michigan looks like a high school team. We all know the story about Woody going for 2. We also know the story of Woody socking that Clemson player in the grill. Let’s leave it at that.
I wonder if Bump went home that day and said to his wife, “They are going to fire me over that one! We gave up 420 yards on the ground! ON THE GROUND!” Well, they didn’t. Bump was promoted to Assistant Athletic Director, a very important job with huge responsibilities I am certain, like posing for photos with the new coach.
So, here is my argument for this being the Best Loss Ever: It brought us Bo. If Michigan had actually won that game, or even kept the score close we might have had to muddle through ten more years of Bump—and maybe that would not have been all bad. No, on second thought, that would have been a disaster and would not have given us the Ten Year War and all that other junk we Michigan fans so adore. In fact, I might argue that loss did more for Michigan Football than anything that happened ever. I’d be wrong, of course, but you get my point.
OT: Think about it. When has total humiliation impacted your life in such a positive way? Discuss. SpartanDan—you go first since we are all sure you have much experience with this sort of thing.