Q: Has your perspective on the game changed now that
you’re not actually in it?

Janna Hutz
Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes exchange pleasantries before The Game. (Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library)

A: No, it hasn’t changed at all. This is the 14th
game that I’ve been out of, and I can tell you, during those
seasons, I follow Michigan very closely, and I also follow Ohio
State. That’s the way I did it when I coached. I always
wanted to know what they were doing. So I follow them. When you ask
me a question about Ohio State, I know quite a bit about their
team. It’s not like I’ve casually watched them like I
do the other teams in the Big Ten. I watch them closely.

Q: Do you want your team to be loose or fired up going
into this game?

A: I don’t ever want to go in with a team loose. I
want to go in with them fired up. I remember in 1969, they told me
our team was going to get too high early in the week. I said,
‘Nah, let’s just let them get higher.’ I
don’t think they can get too high. These are teams that have
been in big games. They know how to be emotional and play hard, and
still know what they’re doing. They’re not going to get
a lot of penalties and things like that. The emotional aspect
always balances out. Both teams are going to be pretty highly
emotional.

Q: This is a rivalry that has been defined by the
coaches. Could you see that happening with Jim Tressel and Lloyd
Carr?

A: I think it has. With Ohio State winning the last two
games, that kind of put a little fuel on the fire. I think
it’s always a great rivalry. You understand, I’ve been
on both ends of it. For six years, I was coming up here on the Ohio
State sideline, trying to beat Michigan. I know what it is on both
sides. I don’t think it makes any difference, really, who is
coaching. I don’t think it makes any difference what the
situation is, although you people make it a lot more emotional when
everything is hanging in the balance. That’s probably the way
it should be – that makes for a great football game.

Q: What do you say to people who think Michigan State is
a bigger rival?

A: Well, Michigan State is a big rival of Michigan
– make no mistake about that. I think the one thing about it
is, we’ve had a little more success with Michigan State than
we have with Ohio State. The Ohio State-Michigan series, in the
last 30, 40 years, has been pretty much even. That is not true with
Michigan State. The last 35 years we’ve played Michigan
State, we’ve beaten them 26. If we’d have done that to
Ohio State, that would have been wonderful, and maybe cooled the
rivalry a little bit. But that didn’t happen. The
Michigan-Ohio State rivalry is 50-50, six of one and half a dozen
of the other. That’s the way it should be.

Q: What’s your favorite game you coached in?

A: Of course, the ‘69 game has always been a great
rememberance, because it was Woody’s greatest team. He
admitted that. We beat them here. It was my first year, and
I’m just trying to establish myself as a coach here. I know
for a fact that Woody was kind of surprised when I was named coach
here. Whether people realized it or not, that was going to add a
little something to the rivalry. But I think the fact that we were
able to win that game really set the tone here for my program. That
will always be in the back of my mind, the way that turned out.
Otherwise, every game I’ve been involved with has always been
close. There have never been any big blowouts. They’ve always
been very intense and everything, but I must admit, I probably
enjoyed the 10 years with Woody more than any of the other games
that I played against Ohio State.

Q: Why was Hayes surprised that you left Ohio State to
coach at Michigan?

A: I don’t think he anticipated someone who knew so
much about him and his football was suddenly going to be on the
other side, and especially at Michigan. Things were sort of going
his way in that rivalry, and then all of a sudden, someone who
really knew … You’ve got to understand, when I came here, I
was sent to beat one and only one team. I only wanted Ohio State.
That’s the team I wanted to beat. Michigan could beat those
other guys. But Ohio State was different. I talked about it all the
time. I did something every day to beat Ohio State, and to beat
Woody. That was the greatest challenge in my coaching, was to beat
him. If that added fuel to the fire, so be it. That’s the way
I approached it.

Q: Did you feel the most pressure coaching against Ohio
State?

A: Oh, yeah. This is the pressure game. This is the big
one. Just like at Ohio State, they always know your record against
Michigan. Here, they always know the coach’s record against
Ohio State. That’s the way it is. That’s what makes it
such a beautiful rivalry. I don’t know that there’s
another one in the country that is as intense, and is as great a
rivalry as this one.

Q: Does this game define every Michigan coach and
player?

A: Oh, yeah. You ask the guys, ‘How many times did you
beat Ohio State.’ If you want to be recognized around here as
a coach or a player, you beat Ohio State. That’s what
you’re here for. I’m sure that’s exactly what
they say down there. Tressel was brought up in Ohio, and he knows
exactly what all that’s about. That’s just like in
recruiting in the Midwest here, particularly Michigan or Ohio. When
you go in to talk to a prospect, he either wants to play with us
against them, or with them against us. That’s it. Now that
has changed a lot, because there are a lot of other good teams in
there. When you stop to think, in our league today, Ohio State
beating Purdue was a great accomplishment. That was a wonderful
Purdue team. Now we got the better of them here real quick. That
doesn’t mean they aren’t an outstanding team. So there
are a lot of other good teams in the Big Ten, maybe more than there
were back then, when Woody and I were playing. But if this
isn’t a great rivalry, why in the hell are all you staying
around here to listen to me. I haven’t coached in 14 years,
and you all come around to here what I have to say about the
Michigan-Ohio State rivalry.

Q: What do you like about this Michigan team?

A: Well, I can tell you, it’s a talented football
team. They’ve done a lot of good things. I was very
disappointed early in the year when they let the kicking game beat
them twice. I would say that going into this game, the one area of
their football that I would be concerned about would be the kicking
game.

Ohio State has a great kicking game, and they are smart enough
to play defense and to have that kicking game and play field
position, kind of like the old days. They are not a great running
team. They try to run, but they’re not a great running team.
They’re not a great passing team. They’re just a team
that has a great defense and a great kicking game. I like
everything about our team except what they’ve done early in
the year in the kicking game.

I can tell you, back when I played against Woody, there were
very few mistakes made on either side, because neither one of us
wanted to make a mistake. We both had good defenses, and we both
could kick the ball, and we both could run it pretty well. We
didn’t want to make mistakes — let the other guy make
the mistakes. I would say turnovers, missed assignments, botched
plays, missed tackles, things like that are going to determine who
wins. The kicking game will be very, very instrumental.

Q: Why is this rivalry so popular on a national
stage?

A: We have historically played this game as the last game
of the season. These are the two most dominant teams in the Big Ten
Conference. The Big Ten Conference, whether you like it or not, or
whether it is today or not, has always been looked at as the
premier conference in college football. So here are the two best
teams, they play in the clash, they win a lot of championships
– it’s a natural. It’s just an absolute natural.
There are a lot of people who would say Auburn-Alabama is. No
longer is it USC-UCLA. There’s always one team of a rivalry
suddenly hits the skids for a few years. That hasn’t really
happened here. Both of these teams don’t have a lot of losing
seasons. There isn’t a lot of that going on. Every time they
play, one team can beat the other. I don’t care if one has
had a better year than the other — it doesn’t make any
difference. Anything can happen. It’s always been that kind
of a game, and that’s probably caught the eye of the
nation.

Q: Is Lloyd Carr consumed by this game?

A: (laughing) He’s a pretty uptight guy. I
don’t know how he was at the press conference, but I think
everybody will be … he knows how to do it. He does a tremendous
job with players. He knows how to handle players. He’s very
good at that. So I have no doubt that he will have this team
ready.

Q: Do you think Carr enjoys the pressure of the
rivalry?

A: I don’t know. I enjoyed it a lot with Woody,
because he was doing his thing and I was doing my thing. I kind of
miss the old guy. It would be nice if he were here today to talk to
you as well. Although, when he would talk to you about what
happened when he and I played, it wouldn’t sound anything
like what I would say that happened when he and I played. He always
had a different slant on what happened in that game than I did.

Q: Did you consider staying at Ohio State and replacing
Hayes?

A: Yeah — that was my goal in life, to replace
Woody Hayes. Absolutely, that’s what I wanted. I went down to
Miami, and Dick Larkins told me, ‘You’d better win down
there if you go.’ That’s what he said. I said,
‘Okay.’ I went down there, and Woody told me I’d
be foolish to go, because I would be the next coach at Ohio State.
I said, ‘Well, geez, how much longer are you going to
coach?’ He said, ‘Oh, four or five years,
probably.’ After I went to Miami, he coached for 17 years
after I left. I don’t think he was really truthful with me
there.

Q: What did you think of Chris Perry running 51 times at
Michigan State?

A: I never ran anybody 50 times. I ran ‘em 40, but
not 50.

Q: Do you talk football with Carr a lot?

A: If he comes down to talk football, we talk. But I
don’t go up and … oh, I joke around with the guys every
once in awhile. After Perry ran 51 times against Michigan State, I
opened the door to their meeting room and I said, ‘What the
hell happened to our passing attack?’

Q: Would you have been looking over your shoulder if you
lost three straight times to Ohio State?

A: I don’t know. The only thing they bitched about
here with me was that I didn’t pass enough. I don’t
think they ever wanted to fire me, did they? If they did, I
didn’t look or listen.

Q: If Carr were to lose to Ohio State this year, do you
think the heat would be on him?

A: Well, you might. But Lloyd Carr is as secure as any
football coach in America no matter what happens in this game. If
anybody takes issue with that, they have to go through me. Because
we’re not going to fire Lloyd Carr. Not as long as I’m
around. Not that I could do anything about it …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

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