The era of football, the rulebook, the two teams playing — none of that matters. An average of 1.6 points per game is not a good stat.
And yet, that’s all the teams that faced Michigan’s defense in 1932 averaged. Under coach Harry Kipke and assistant Clifford Keen, the Wolverines established a stalwart defense that steamrolled six different teams for shutouts and enabled their offense to outscore opponents, 123-12, through the season.
The talent on Michigan’s roster kickstarted a two-year streak for the Wolverines in which they saw back-to-back national championship titles. Instead of polls, the Dickinson rating system was used to determine who the champions would be — and in 1932 and 1933, those champions were the Wolverines from the West.
That talent included Harry Newman, a quarterback who tallied all 22 of Michigan’s points scored in its last three contests of the 1932 season. The trend started with a touchdown that solidified a 7-0 win over Indiana, all the way until Michigan’s 3-0 win over Minnesota for the Little Brown Jug and a national championship-worthy 8-0 record.
Newman was given every accolade in the book: the Chicago Tribune Trophy for Most Valuable Player in the Big Ten, a selection as quarterback for the All-America first team and the Douglas Fairbanks Trophy — an award given to the player of the year before the evolution of the Heisman Trophy.
Chuck Bernard at center and Ted Petoskey at end also made waves for the Wolverines, with both receiving first team All-American recognition. Future U.S. President Gerald Ford received the Meyer Morton Award, given to the most improved player, as he sat at backup for Bernard.
The 1933 team saw an extension of its prowess both on offense and defense, capped by a 40-0 shutout of Cornell at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 14, which renewed a rivalry from 1889 to 1894. The 40-point difference was the highest point total for a margin of victory in favor of Michigan in seven years.
A week later, in front of a record 82,606 fans at Michigan Stadium, the Wolverines looked to extend that domination against a Buckeye team that had been the last to beat Michigan before it took a 15-game unbeaten into the contest. With quarterback Bill Renner scoring the only six points of the first half, the Wolverines entered the second within reach by a single touchdown.
But for Ohio State, that touchdown never came. Instead, Bernard claimed an interception that placed the ball at the 23-yard line, where Michigan was able to drive it in and score off a two-yard run from Herman Everhardus and kick from Carl Savage, resulting in a 13-point shutout of the rival.
With four more wins and a scoreless tie against the Golden Gophers in the battle for the Little Brown Jug, Michigan once again secured its spot as national champions, ending the 1933 season with a 7-0-1 record.
Despite the loss of Newman that season, Bernard and Petoskey remained on call for the Wolverines and again were honored on the All-America first team. Additional picks included left halfback Herman Everhardus — voted Michigan’s most valuable player as the Big Ten leading scorer with 64 points — and tackle Francis Wistert.
Though the national championship trend ended the following season, the two-year streak did more than just establish one of the best point-allowed averages and shut out percentages in its time — it built an expectation for a Michigan program centered around tradition and excellence.