One Game Season: The Hate Comes Easily
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Just before his first game on the other side of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, coach Bo Schembechler uttered these famous words:
“We can't lay an egg today. We have come to win.”
They are famous because the Wolverines were 15-point underdogs at home against an undefeated Ohio State team that had been called the greatest college football outfit ever. That’s a phrase that’s been thrown around a lot since then, but back in 1969, it was real.
The No. 1-ranked Buckeyes, coached by the always fiery and excitable Woody Hayes, had won 22-straight games and were coming off a perfect 10-0 national championship season in 1968. Hayes’ boys had not lost a game since the middle of the ’67 season, and they had outscored their opponents 371-69 in the eight games leading up to their trip to Ann Arbor.
Schembechler was a former pupil of Woody’s who many expected to be the guy who would ultimately replace Hayes at Ohio State. When it became clear Hayes was going to have to die or be fired before he would turn in his whistle, Schembechler took the head-coaching job at his alma mater, Miami University. That was in 1963, just six years before he would cross unthinkable battle lines, stepping across the Ohio-Michigan border to coach the hated Wolverines following the 1968 season.
Bo had been as close to Woody as anyone could have gotten, but their relationship was never quite the same after the game in 1969.
Neither has Ohio State’s rivalry with Michigan.
‘The Game’ was already a physical, take-no-prisoners contest on the field, but this week has taken on a different dynamic since Woody and Bo waged their war for 10 years back in the 1970s.
“You hate them as Ohio State, obviously, but you respect them,” said OSU senior Zach Boren.
“That’s the crazy thing about it. If you ask the Michigan players, I’m sure they would say the same thing. In that game, you hit so much harder than what you hit during the normal season. After that game, you’re so much sorer.”
Boren is playing his fourth Michigan game as a Buckeye, and it will be his first on the defensive side of the ball. He was Ohio State’s starting fullback for more than three seasons, but he is also the son of Mike Boren, one of the leading tacklers in Michigan’s rich history.
“I was on the other side of the rivalry. For how crazy this sounds, it’s not hard to switch,” Boren said, surprisingly.
“When you’re on a side, and you’re heart is on a side, you learn to hate that team fast. Once I knew I was going to become a Buckeye, I knew I was going to learn to hate Michigan. It didn’t take long for me to hate Michigan.”
Even Boren’s dad has made the switch over to being a Buckeye. He wears his Ohio State apparel with pride, even though he has a close relationship with Michigan’s new football coach, Brady Hoke.
“Coach Hoke is going to do great things and they’re going have good teams from here on out,” Zach Boren added.
“As Ohio State, we’re happy. We want that rivalry to be back. We want those games to be great big games. When that game was 1 vs. 2, Ohio State and Michigan in November, you can’t beat that.”
According to Archie Griffin, Ohio State’s two-time Heisman Trophy winner, a head coach can make all the difference in this rivalry. It certainly did with Woody and Bo, and it appears as though it could be headed for a similar stretch under Hoke and first-year OSU coach Urban Meyer.
Much like Hayes, and his father Bud Meyer, Urban refuses to say the name of That School Up North. Especially this week.
“I think it adds a little bit more chirping to the game, maybe a little bit more aggressiveness, just because you know that you’re saying it for a reason,” said senior safety Orhian Johnson.
“But we’ll decide it on the field. Just like they probably don’t pay attention to us, we definitely don’t pay attention to them.”
Guys like Johnson weren’t born into the rivalry, but everyone at Ohio State learns pretty quickly how to feel about those boys in Maize and Blue.
“I do, yeah,” senor captain John Simon said when he was asked if he hates Michigan.
“As an Ohio State player, you have to. I wouldn’t even say you have to, you just do, right off the bat.”
Especially now that Simon and his teammates have tasted the sting of defeat against the hated Wolverines, although there wasn’t much more room to work with.
“I definitely don’t hate them worse,” Simon said.
“I don’t know if I could (hate them) any more than I did before that game, but you have a little more fire to get the job done this year.”
Especially for guys like Simon and Boren, who are playing the final games of their Ohio State career in what truly may be college football’s greatest rivalry.
“You put your heart and soul on the line in this game, and that’s why it’s such a great rivalry,” Boren added.
“You have so much respect for that program, but at the same time you have so much hate for them.”
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