Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Ohio State-Michigan game serves as its own season

                              Photo Credit: Andrew Mascharka

NOTE: Originally published on Nov. 24, 2015

Winning national championships, conference titles and individual awards are outstanding accomplishments in any sport.

Not to take away from any of the above, but when it comes to the Ohio State/Michigan rivalry, better known as "The Game", all of the flash and bling gets thrown out the window as the one-game season will renew for the 112th time at Michigan Stadium on Saturday.

Jon Falk, who served as Michigan's equipment manager from 1974 to 2013 and worked with coaches Bo Schembechler, Gary Moeller, Lloyd Carr, Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke, knows about the importance of the game and the impact it can have on both sides for 364 days (give or take depending on the date when the game falls on) after each meeting.

"When Michigan plays Ohio State, it doesn't matter what came before, it's what's now," Falk said. 

"I remember back in 1988, many of my friends in Ohio called me and said that Ohio State is not real good this year and you should be able to walk right through them. At the half, it was 20-0 Michigan and before you knew it, Ohio State scored 24 straight points in the third and trailed. We ended up winning 34-31 and it goes to show you that you can not predict anything when it comes to Ohio State and Michigan."

Ohio State wide receiver Terry Glenn, who played from 1993-95, learned the hard way about the importance of The Game in 1995.

Going into the game as the No. 2 team in the Associated Press poll and undefeated, Glenn made the infamous statement by referencing Michigan as nobodies and Falk was the first person to let Michigan coach Lloyd Carr know about the matter.

"[Terry] Glenn said during the week that Michigan was a nobody," Falk said. "I saw the quote on the internet and I copied and it took to Carr and told him to look at this quote, Glenn said that Michigan is a nobody. [Lloyd] stopped practice and brought everyone together and told them what Ohio State thought of you guys as and that is being nobodies."

The motivation turned out to work in Michigan's favor in the 1995 meeting against Ohio State as it pulled off a 31-23 win behind Tim Biakabutuka's 313 yards on the ground. 

The Buckeyes would be denied a shot at the national championship as a result, but behind the scenes, the bigger story would be Glenn and Falk meeting in the locker room moments after the game.

"I went over to the Ohio State locker room and was walking when [Terry Glenn] told me that he wanted to say something," Falk said.

"He put his hand out and said, I'm Terry Glenn. I then told Terry that I am not taking back what I said about you, but I want you to know that you showed me something because you didn't have to tell me who you were, but I appreciate your honesty. [Terry] and I both shook hands and patted each other on the back on the way out to the door. That goes to show you the type of rivalry that Michigan and Ohio State have."

Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer and Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh know about the importance of the rivalry game and how it stands out on each team's schedule.

Fresh off a 17-14 loss at Michigan State, Meyer kept it short and simple about the meaning of the game with everything at stake in terms of the Big Ten East division race.

"The days are done with this as the deciding game on the schedule, but this is [The Game] and we have great respect for the rivalry and understand what is at stake," Meyer said.

Harbaugh understands what is at stake against Ohio State in his first game as Michigan's coach, but cherishes the lasting friendship of Falk.

"If you are a head coach and you could pick an equipment manager, Jon Falk would be the one you would pick," Harbaugh said. "I saw it first hand as a player here at Michigan and one summer, I would work for him as part of the paint crew and maintenance team. Jon is a good man to this day pursuing common goals and is a part of the Michigan legacy and fabric."

Win or lose, chasing the common goal of playing the good old game with a pigskin is what the Ohio State/Michigan rivalry is all about.

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