Buckeye memories - the snakepit in the 70s and 80s

Submitted by k.o.k.Law on November 22nd, 2012 at 10:39 AM



The 1978 game set up as another in the Ten Year War with the winner going to the Rose Bowl. Bo lost to MSC for the first time since his rookie season, and the first time in A2, as QB Eddie Smith and Kirk Gibson rode roughshod over us. MSC lost their conference opener to Purdue, and ran the table after that, but, were on probation for some irregularities under Denny Stoltz, so ineligible for the Rose Bowl.

It was said that when Stoltz MSC assistants went into the lockerroom after the Ohio high school football all star game, some of the players started singing “Here Comes Santa Claus.”

Having had enough of Friday nights on High Street, another scalper friend and I decide to make the trip, but leave the morning of the game. We arrive in plenty of time to hustle tickets, make some money, and get in for the kickoff.

I have also moved to wearing neutral colors.

Our defense, incredibly, holds the Buckeyes without a touchdown, in their own stadium, against their archrival, for the third consecutive time.

Newt Loken, the legendary UM gymnastics coach, had a son who was on the cheerleading squad. My scalper friend, Jimmy, was friends with him.

Holding a 14 – 3 lead with about 6 minutes left in the game, Jimmy says, let's go down on the field and say hi to Newt's son.

I was skeptical, but, went along.

Times being what they were, pre 9-11, and all, we just drew his attention, and jumped on the field, in the corner by the visiting section at the closed end of the horseshoe.

Jimmy had a camera, and imposed upon junior to take our picture. He suggested that we back off the sideline, onto the field. I mean, literally, on the field of play.

The teams were around the 20 yard line at the other end of the field. We moved about ten yards out from the sideline, and the picture was taken of us with the scoreboard in the background.

I lost the damn picture years ago.

(If anyone knows Jimmy Chu, see if he can get me a copy)

This road trip thing seems to be working fairly well, two trips, two wins, so I go again in 1980. Again, the Rose Bowl on the line. Woody is gone, allegedly fired for punching that Clemson player in the Rose Bowl. But the real reason is, he lost to us three years in a row.

Earl Bruce had taken over and gone undefeated in the 1979 regular season, before adopting conference tradition and choking in the Rose Bowl.

1980 was not a good game for Ali Hadji Sheikh, our excellent kicker. He missed an extra point, and at least one field goal, but, again, incredibly, our defense held them without a touchdown, and we won 9 – 3.

In 1982, the conference schedule was supposed to be round robin, but the Suckeyes said they would not back out of any of their non-conference contracts, and so skipped playing a weak Minnesota squad.

Wisconsin came into the snakepit in the rain and stunned them, 6 – 0.

So, we came in at 8 and 0 in the conference, with Ohio at 6 – 1. The Rose Bowl was already clinched. Had the Buckeyes played and beaten the Gophers, would not have been so, but, their decision. And you know what they have for brains.

It rained most of the game, and we could not get a touchdown this time, losing 14 – 9. But Big Ten champs regardless.  We lose, but our 8 - 1 record puts us ahead of the 7 - 1 Buckeyes.

So, I now have four trips, and four Rose Bowls.

The 1984 season being what it was, I skipped the trip that year, not wanting to endanger that perfect record.

1986, we are unbeaten, untied, and #2 in the nation for our last home game. Not worried about retaining the Jug, I am deer hunting in the Upper Peninsula when Ricky Foggie breaks lose for a 4th quarter 25 yard plus run leading to the winning score as the Gophers upset us.

That was the only run of longer than 25 yards that the defense alowed all season.

Undeterred by the loss, QB Jim Harbaugh guarantees a win over Ohio.

I go with a rookie, a friend from freshman year at West Quad Wenley House.

As we hit the border, I put the cruise control on 54. He protests loudly about how long it will take to get their at that speed.

I advise him it will take much longer if we go 56, because we will get a ticket. Does he think all those stories are fiction?

He says, the Ohio plated cars are all going 80 or 85 or 90, whizzing past us.

I say yes, they know they have immunity today.

Sure enough, he counts. Seven vehicles pulled over, all Michigan plates.

Being the pro, I make one trip around the stadium, checking the market, and tell him we can get a single for $50. He says that is too much, he will watch at a bar. I suggest that may be a more dangerous environment than the snakepit, but, he says he can buy beer there.

OK. I pick up a single, and stand at the top of the lower deck around the 40 yard line.

It is a gorgeous day, around 70 degrees. I think Jamie Morris has 26 carries, and Spielman has 24 tackles; they are bumping into each other all afternoon.

McMurtry loses a TD pass in the sun on our first possession, or I think we would have smoked them.

With a 26-24 lead, the Suckeyes line up for a game winning field goal attempt, about 43 yards.

I do not have a good feeling about this, but, all the Buckeye fans are screaming to go for it on 4th and long, with absolutely no confidence their guy can make the kick.

Fortunately, they are correct.

Harbaugh is right, we win, I am now 4 – 1 with 5 Rose Bowls in five trips to Columbus.

We go on to lose the Rose Bowl to Arizona State, coached by one John Cooper. The only blemishes on their record, one loss, and a season ending tie with arch-rival Arizona which put them out of the national championship picture.

In another year, tired of losing to Wisconsin, which is a quote from the Ohio AD, and thinking Cooper is a coach who can beat us, they eventually fire Bruce and hire Cooper.

They should have checked his record in season ending rivalry games, as he never beat Arizona.


And let us all be grateful: we are not Buckeyes.














November 22nd, 2012 at 12:07 PM ^

Still breaks my heart to this day. It was my first experience dealing with a shocking, out-of-nowhere upset of my favorite sports team, and my 11-year-old brain just couldn't comprehend what was going on.

Why does that guy for Minnesota keep running for 1st downs on 3rd-and-long? Why can't they just TACKLE him?! This isn't supposed to be happening!

Ugh. I can still hear Howard King saying, "Ricky Foggie the ball carrier..." (which seems like such an odd phrase today, but somehow our never struck me as odd back then).


November 24th, 2012 at 11:11 AM ^

It was like a volleyball game in the cold, with the ball popping up in the air all game long.  We just could not hold on to it.  We played with fire one time too many and Minnesota took advantage.  


November 22nd, 2012 at 12:29 PM ^

I was at that game, too, with a few of my female housemates, one of whom got kicked after the game. She was all of 5'3", a teeny little woman, and some crazy Buckeye came over and gave her a good kick. I'll never go back there again. 


November 22nd, 2012 at 12:33 PM ^

That was a fun first-person account.

My own memories of those years are, unfortunately, colored by the awful performance of the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl. The ten-year war was, alas, a regional affair.

As shown in detail here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rose_Bowl_Game), the '70s were unkind to the conference (records for each decade shown here):

'40s: 3-0
'50s: 9-1
'60s: 5-5
'70s: 1-9
'80s: 3-7
'90s: 6-4 (including first year of BCS)

Look at the '50s - '70s symmetry. What happened? Postwar population boom on the west coast, closing of the southern recruiting pipelines, and unimaginative coaching in the Big Ten, I'd say.


November 22nd, 2012 at 12:59 PM ^

The Big Ten had better hope hard that Stanford beats UCLA on Saturday, otherwise Oregon will likely roll Oregon State, win the Pac12, and gut and clean the B10 champion in the Rose Bowl. Heck, Stanford might be too much for Wisky or Nebraska to handle.


November 22nd, 2012 at 7:43 PM ^

for being juvenile and calling them Suckeyes; it really takes away from an otherwise absolutely well-written and interesting OP.

And if I could neg you again for creating 'Suckeyes' tag but failing to spell it correctly, I would.


November 23rd, 2012 at 7:51 PM ^

The 1981 game (which was in Ann Arbor and which I was at) was 14-9. The 1981 team was talented but frustrating, and couldn't recover from a bunch of mistakes on offense.