OSU-Mich. rivalry gets new fuel

Uh-oh, it’s happened yet again.

That’s having someone involved in the Ohio State-Michigan football rivalry open his mouth and insert foot.

This time that someone is Wolverine starting quarterback Devin Gardner, who basically guaranteed a Michigan win over the Buckeyes this season in Ann Arbor.

Let’s get right to Gardner’s quote that was captured verbatim by reporters from the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News off a radio show interview June 24.

In response to a question about the upcoming season and if he thought Michigan was a good enough team to beat Ohio State this year, Gardner said, “I mean, we always have room for improvement, but this is definitely a championship-caliber football team that will win in the Big House, you know, against Ohio State. We don’t feel like we’re inferior to anyone in the country and we’re going to give it our all.”

Now, players on both sides in this game have run their mouths on numerous occasions before, but never quite this early.

Former OSU wide receiver David Boston and other Buckeye players through the years have opened their yaps prior to the Ohio State-Michigan game, and a number of UM gridders have done so as well. Most backfire, but then-Wolverine QB and now-49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh had more brash “guarantee” come true as Michigan nipped OSU, 26-24, in 1986.

The one I liked the best, though, was a Michigan player sometime in the latter stages of John Cooper’s 13-year coaching career in Columbus. Now remember, Cooper finished with a 2-10-1 record versus the Wolverines. Anyway, this UM player was asked about beating Cooper again that year, to which he said something to the effect that “we not only want to beat Cooper again, but continue to beat him year after year after year like we’ve been doing all along.”

Didn’t it occur to this guy that if that scenario took place with Cooper continuing to lose to Michigan, he would be replaced sooner than later (which he was) and a new head coach would be hired (Jim Tressel in this instance) who could beat Michigan on a regular basis (which Tressel did with nine wins in 10 games)?

So Cooper’s losing record versus UM not only hastened his departure, but also cut off the Wolverines’ gravy-train domination of the series in the late 80s through the 90s. Since then, the shoe’s been on the other foot over the last dozen seasons with the situation totally reversed: 10 OSU’s wins to only two losses. Betcha Michigan sure would like to have Cooper back now!

However, my main point is that practically all the time comments like Gardner’s come back to haunt who said them, especially if it sounds like somebody’s bragging or trying to degrade the opposition.

There’s a big difference between fool-hardy running your mouth and trying to be honest.

But sometimes in the heat of the moment, it’s just bragging – or turns into such – and not really trying to be honest, but to get your team inspired or fired up.

But not in June, a full five months before this year’s game. That’ll be just bulletin-board material for the Buckeyes to get riled up over and continue to seethe about for a long time now.

Lest too, should Gardner forget, he didn’t exactly play that well in last year’s game in Columbus after taking over in mid-season when Denard Robinson was injured, as the Buckeyes harassed him into a season-low 11 completions for 171 yards, one TD and one interception in a 26-21 win.

Contact Steve Hemmelgarn at shemmelgarn@newsandsentinel.com