Come on, Damon. Come on, Ring. Come on, Granny. Where are the words? Here all of us are, all the famous sportswriters, trapped in this den of Ohio ecstasy, watching Woody Hayes fight his way through that insane mob down on the field, the game ball jammed into his armpit and actual tears in his eyes. The world has gone mad here because all the old heroes, one by one, have come back from somewhere and the Buckeyes have won the Emotion Bowl. You guys had better lay some good words on us because Woody told the writers they "better get with it," and, personally, some of us don't want to cross Woody any more than Rex Kern or Jim Stillwagon or Bruce Jankowski, or any of those other associates of his who used to be great and then were ungreat and then, facing death by tongue lash, were semi-wonderful enough to whip Michigan in a football afternoon that couldn't have turned out any other way if Woody had been forced to climb a ladder and shake his fist at the Lord.
No help, huh? We're on our own, right? Well, sorry, Woody. This will have to be it, then. We've got our game hands on so we can type as hard as Stillwagon hit all of those Michigan backs. We're as grim as Lou McCullough, the defensive coach who promised Jack Tatum he would come down out of the stadium booth and "kick his teeth in" if Tatum didn't read "15 draw" when Michigan ran it. But listen, Woody. We're just as limp as all those Michigan jerseys you had your guys walking on in the locker room all week.
But we'll try. So here's how it was, sort of, in the game that had the Big Ten more worked up than anything in a lot of years. Here was Ohio State undefeated and untied, and here was Michigan undefeated and untied, and that mathematical circumstance hadn't occurred in a final game in the Midwest since Michigan lost 2-0 to Chicago, which had Walter Eckersall, back in 1905. That one, however, didn't have you, Woody. This one was your game to win or lose. Your defense had been good all season long. The question was whether your offense, your offense, would get enough points.
For six weeks you had been retreating, and looking mediocre. You had been "grinding meat," as you put it, with John Brockington running up the shoulder blades of his guards and tackles the way you always did it with Bob White and Bob Ferguson and those guys. Back there in 1968 and all but one game of 1969 you had a dazzling attack with passing, pitchouts, reversing, faking and all that. But you kept retreating—and it looked as if the players had lost as much confidence as the fans.
People were beginning to believe some of your former stars who were saying such things as Daryl Sanders said during the week. Did you read Sanders' quote? "Your first year you fear Woody, your second year you respect him, but your third year you begin to question him," he said.
Well, Woody, if Rex's gang had begun to question you, they won't now. For the one game they had to win, to get revenge for the upset last year, to get you another Big Ten championship, to get you a fourth unbeaten regular season, to keep the Bucks in the race for No. 1, to send you to the Rose Bowl without embarrassment, they played their most psyched-up game ever. And you gave them back some of their tools to do it with. You didn't just grind meat, which might have got you beat. You ground Michigan 20-9 with the pass and the pitch as well. And with the defense.
By the way, that was a nice thing to do, Woody, to say that Lou McCullough, your defensive genius, ought to be "the Coach of the Year." It was you who gave Lou that shaggy-haired Stan White and defied him to turn White into a linebacker to replace Phil Strickland, whom you had taken for an offensive guard. Lou did it. White not only became the leading tackier on the team, he made the late interception Saturday that put the game out of reach.
You know, Woody, while you were clutching that game ball and moving through the crowd down on the field, Lou was upstairs with us. He came rushing up, just as wrung out, bruising his way through the writers like Leo Hay-den going through the Maize and Blue.
"Thirty-seven yards on the ground and one touchdown," Lou shouted. "That's what our kids gave 'em. That's unbelievable! Did they hit 'em? Did they get after 'em? Oh, did they sting 'em."
Not bad, Lou.
"Stan White!" McCullough said. "Stan White! My long-haired beautiful Stan White!"
All season, Woody, Lou had sat and talked with Stan White about linebacking, concealing a pair of scissors. He would chat with White about such tactics as "bullets" and "Georgia" and "roll," whatever they mean, and he would reach up and go snip, snip at White's hair. It would keep growing of course, but so would White as a linebacker. He would become a defensive star to take his place with all those senior heroes like Jim Stillwagon, Jack Tatum, Doug Adams, Tim Anderson, Mark Debevc and Mike Sensibaugh.
"Stillwagon!" yelled McCullough, soaking wet, a bit tearful himself. "Hurt on their first series but just so much guts I can't believe it. They haven't blocked him yet!"
McCullough said, "Tatum!" He said, "What'd they drop? Four passes? Did they hear any of his footsteps? Hee, hee, did we sting 'em or not?"
Ohio State had been waiting a year, of course. But during the rather insane week of the game some people had begun to wonder if the Buckeyes might be overprepared. The coaching staff was still working until midnight, still looking at films, and cramming so much stuff into Buckeye brains they couldn't possibly remember it all. Or could they?
And why wouldn't they get too high too soon? All week the students were parading and serenading. On Wednesday, in fact, they woke up some team members at 2:30 a.m. with a pep rally. That's when you moved them to a hiding place for Thursday and Friday, Woody.
And then what was all this high school business with the gimmicks? Were they really necessary to get the Buckeyes angry for the team that had humiliated them for a whole year? Besides the Wolverine jerseys on the floor you had a Michigan recording that blared endlessly through the dressing room you kept everyone out of. And what about that sentimental quiz?
After everything else, after all the times Woody and Lou had reminded the Buckeyes of the 24-12 upset at Ann Arbor in 1969, there was this quiz. The Bucks were handed pencils and paper and asked to write an answer to the following question: "What are you personally going to do to help us win this game?"
It would have been funny if some generation-gapper like Rex Kern had answered, "Would you repeat that?" But no one did. And when the coaches later read the statements of some of the subs—"I know I won't play but I'll yell 200%"—they were moved to misty eyes.
As the old joke goes, Woody, the turning point of the game was when your Ohio Staters came on the field. Hardly any of their feet touched the ground and some of their fists were raised and clinched and they almost beat each other into pulps. The crowd of 87,331, another record, was just as thunderously wild. Michigan had to fumble the opening kickoff. It was ordained by you, we had to presume. Michigan did. And right away it was 3-0.
That wasn't the ball game, Woody, because the Wolverines had some heart, too. You knew that. But not enough heart, or ability, to survive in your throbbing Columbus horseshoe—not on a day like this. And so here came your old superstars to look once more like they used to look, just in case you want to hear about it again. Here came Rex Kern, the snap of his passing arm like new. With the score tied 3-3, and on third and 10 at the Michigan 26, and under a heavy rush with only one receiver out, here was the Rex Kern of yesterday. And there was the Bruce Jankowski of yesterday. Rex fades and whips the ball down the middle. Jankowski runs straight, one-on-one with Michigan's desperate Bruce Elliott, and cuts in toward the post. Rex couldn't have seen the catch because he was buried the instant he threw, and maybe you didn't see it on the screaming sideline, either. But Bruce saw the ball without missing a stride. His man was beaten and the pass was there, the way the Buckeyes used to do it all the time. It had to be the biggest play of a big-play afternoon because the point that followed the touchdown put the Bucks ahead to stay.
Then here came Tim Anderson, another of those 29 seniors. It was Anderson who shot in to block the extra point after Michigan's third-quarter touchdown, another defensive gem courtesy of Lou McCullough, which kept Ohio State on top 10-9.
And then here came Leo Hayden, who was leading the rushers anyway, to take an option pitch from Kern and score the other touchdown, the one that put it away after Stan White's interception.
Aside from the solid defense and the solid frenzy of it all, we do have to admit, Woody, that the Buckeyes technically did it with a new formation—that double-tight-end attack that added blocking power and enabled Ohio State to move for 242 yards on the ground—to grind meat.
But none of this would have been enough by itself. Not just the defense—the Stillwagons, Tatums, Andersons and Whites. Because the offense had to score. And not just the frenzy—with you, Woody, telling the fans and writers they'd better get with it, they'd better get ready for "a great Ohio State victory." And not just the power formation that would grind the meat for you.
Ironically, Woody, in the most monumental game of your crusty old life, you resurrected two of your favorite personal evils to beat Michigan—the pass and the pitch. And wherever they are, Damon and Ring and Granny, and anyone else who ever appreciated the necessity a man brings to winning, they must be as startled as the rest of us. As startled that you, in your game, in the end, gave the day back to your Buckeyes so they could win it for you.
That was coaching, Woody, and anyone who understands it had to be happy to see you out there with that football under your arm.