As the East Coast swelters, it seems like as good a time as any to remember a game where keeping cool wasn’t exactly the problem. We’re referring, of course to one of the strangest showdowns in Big Ten history, the Ohio State – Michigan “Blizzard Bowl” of 1950.
Going into the matchup, the Buckeyes were leading the Big Ten (actually Big Nine), and if the season had ended then, they would have been going back to the Rose Bowl to defend their championship from their previous year’s win over California. Nothing particularly unusual in that, as many OSU-Michigan games decided the Big Ten championship.
But this was no ordinary game. The temperature in Columbus at kickoff time was 10 degrees, with 28 mph winds making it impossible to clear the heavy snow off the field, or in fact even to see the players from the press box. It took workers and volunteer fans 2½ hours just to pull the frozen tarp off the frozen field.
Both coaches, in fact, were willing to postpone play until Monday, but Michigan AD Fritz Crisler insisted on playing, hoping the 13-point favorite Buckeyes would have their advantage neutralized by the weather. Brooms had to be used to clear the way for the first down chains, and in perhaps the most striking evidence of the severity of the conditions that day, over 30,000 ticket holders stayed home, and the great majority of the remaining 50,000 spectators headed for the exits after the first half – This for a game that was sold out in August.
Not that there were many first downs to be measured. In fact Michigan had none at all, and no completed passes. What saved their day and won them a trip to the Rose Bowl was that they blocked two of the Buckeyes’ 21 punts in key situations, leading to a safety and a touchdown in the Wolverines’ 9-3 triumph. And as it turned out, the decision to make the punt that led to that final block was what allegedly cost Ohio State coach Wes Fesler his job, and opened the way for a guy
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