The 1927 season of Michigan football brought a new coach in Elton Wieman, following the retirement of Fielding Yost. It saw Bennie Oosterbaan become a first-team All-American for the third straight year. The Wolverines also graduated All-American quarterback and halfback Bennie Friedman. And the 1927 season came with a new stadium, Michigan Stadium.

The first game of the year saw Michigan play Ohio Wesleyan, a tribute to the place where Yost started his coaching career. The Battling Bishops were also the first opponent for the Wolverines on their old stomping ground, Ferry Field.

The game between Michigan and Ohio Wesleyan was played after a heavy rain that carried into the first half. At that time, the Big House was a natural grass field, so a muddy game took place with little sunshine peeking. Over 40,000 people, a record at the time, attended the game through the downpour.

When Friedman graduated in June, it seemed impossible to replace the star offensive player. But the first game the next September, Louis Gilbert filled the roles of passer, runner, punter and kicker. Gilbert accounted for each of the Wolverines’ five touchdowns and made four-of-five extra points, with the last one being disallowed because of holding.

Gilbert opened the scoring at Michigan Stadium with a 15-yard lob to right end Laverne “Kip” Taylor five minutes after kickoff. He would then snag a partially-blocked punt and return it 24 yards for a touchdown. Later, Gilbert tossed a 20-yard touchdown to quarterback Leo Hoffman and found Oosterbaan for a 50-yard score to give the Wolverines a 27-0 halftime lead.

Heading into the second half, Gilbert went right back to work, returning the opening kickoff 90 yards for his fifth and final touchdown.

The passing game for both sides brought big plays, despite being largely inefficient. Michigan went 5-for-19 with three touchdowns and two interceptions. On the other hand, Ohio Wesleyan completed 2-of-16 pass attempts, with three interceptions.

The Wolverines’ defense continued to dominate throughout the rest of the season, allowing just 39 points all year. Michigan went on to defeat Ohio State, 21-0, but lost to eventual Big Ten champions Illinois in Champaign. The Wolverines also lost the battle for the Little Brown Jug against Minnesota in Ann Arbor, the first loss at their new home.

Michigan Stadium, modeled off the Yale Bowl, had a warm introduction in 1927 with a 33-0 drubbing of the Battling Bishops. It could fit 72,000 fans at the time, with no scoreboards or astroturf.

Fast forward 91 years and the Wolverines continue to boast an impenetrable defense in the same stadium Gilbert took over.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *