Dennis Franklin vividly recalls many details from the 1973 Michigan football season when he played as the Wolverines quarterback. Why not? Michigan had a special team in a special season that forever changed the Big Ten, as documented in the BTN Originals film “TIEBREAKER” airing this Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.
I spoke with Franklin during a dinner this past summer that featured several of the key players from that game. Here is Franklin in his own words on the Wolverines and the epic Ohio State-Michigan game.
“I was from Massillon, Ohio, and Woody Hayes recruited me hard. I was feeling pressure to go to Ohio State. But I didn’t feel like he was treating me right. I had a high school teammate and best friend in Steve Luke who had committed. And Woody wanted me to do so. But I wasn’t ready and eventually chose Michigan. Some in the state looked at me like I was a traitor.”
“The rivalry was great. I was part of a great one in high school between Massillon and Canton. Ohio State-Michigan in our day was huge. It still is. The Big Ten was called the “Big Two and Little Eight” because the winner of our game typically went on to the Rose Bowl.”
“The games were always close. Heck, the games almost were boring. But it was the styles of Woody and Bo. I felt I could throw the ball well. We always threw a lot in practice, but we didn’t do it a lot in games. I don’t know why. It was frustrating.”
|How to watch “TIEBREAKER“:||This BTN Originals one-hour documentary premieres Saturday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. ET with multiple re-airings – check the BTN TV schedule for upcoming show times. You can also watch the entire program on BTN2Go. Learn more at BTN2Go.com.|
“This game (in 1973) featured two black quarterbacks. It was part of history. I am fine with that. I was the first black quarterback at Michigan. But the way it was being said was like I wasn’t as good as the other quarterbacks. I wanted to get to a level where I was a ‘Michigan quarterback,’ not its ‘first black quarterback.'”
“The option was coming into vogue nationally. And I was good at it. I learned how to run in on the playgrounds as a kid. Many teams had incorporated it and copied, like teams all doing what Oregon does now on offense with that hurry-up style.”
“Against Ohio State in 1973, Archie (Griffin) was running wild. If not for Dave Brown making solo tackle, after solo tackle, after solo tackle, he may have had 300 yards against us in ‘73.”
“Bo motivated us at halftime. He made adjustments. We opened up a bit and made some plays.”
“Big Ed (Shuttlesworth)had one of his great games. He was one of Michigan’s great talents. A 6-2, 230-pound guy who ran hard. He was big and agile. People seem to forget how good he was.”
“The fourth-and-inches play that I scored on was called “28.” It was a derivative of “26,” which was a hand off to the fullback. On “28,” I fake the hand off to the fullback, pull the ball back and option the end. We had set Ohio State up all day to finally run this play. And it worked. It was wide open and I just ran in. After the score, I held the ball in the air with one hand. And I was called a “hot dog” for doing that. You can see how things have changed. Bo said: ‘Franklin, you hot dog!’ He was always on Dave Brown and I. Dave did stuff like that to spite Bo because he could. He was an All-American.”
“Was that fourth-down play a gutsy call? It only seemed gutsy because it worked. It was the right time. But it really wasn’t that gutsy. We had set it up.”
“On the play when I broke my collarbone, I looked right and he (Van Ness DeCree)came from the left. As I threw it, he landed on me. As I fell, I heard a pop. I broke my collarbone. It hurt. I stayed on the sideline to watch the rest of the game. When the doctor snapped it back into place, it hurt badly.”
“We had a good kicker. Mike (Lantry) was very talented. I saw him kick 58-yard field goals in practice. He had a very strong leg.”
“We felt we had won the game. You could see on the field who was the better team. My injury shouldn’t have mattered when it came to voting who should go to the Rose Bowl. Look at the stats in the game. We were better.”
“History says the ADs voted 6-4 to send Ohio State. But I recall it was 5-4-1 for Ohio State with Michigan State’s A.D. voting for his school to go.”
“How did I find out we weren’t going to the Rose Bowl? People were calling me. A reporter from the New York Times called my apartment to tell me Ohio State was voted to the Rose Bowl. I didn’t believe it until I heard it from Bo.”
“I never saw Bo so upset, bitter, frustrated, confused. He always told us if we did this, we would get this payoff. Well, we did what he asked but didn’t get the payoff. He just couldn’t explain it. That’s the kind of stuff you don’t forget.”
“Were politics involved? There always are, but I don’t think there were active politics. There wasn’t enough time for that. The Big Ten had lost four Rose Bowls in a row and felt Ohio State gave the league a better chance to win than Michigan because I was hurt. But I could have played. I was throwing the ball in December. C’mon. I would have played. Are you kidding me? We were denied our reward for three seasons. I never got to go to a bowl despite going 30-2-1 as a starter in three years.”
“Even if I couldn’t have played, we could have won with Larry Scippo at quarterback. He was talented. A good, strong arm, threw a tight spiral. He had all the ability. Who said we couldn’t win with Larry?”
“If any good came from it, it was the fact the Big Ten opened up to allowing more than one team to go to a bowl. It makes me feel good to know that.”
“TIEBREAKER” is the first feature-length documentary produced by BTN. The 60-minute film examines the aftermath of the 1973 Ohio State-Michigan football game, which ended in a 10-10 tie and left the determination of which school would represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl up to its Athletic Directors. Learn more at www.BTNTIEBREAKER.com.