The Michigan defense did a terrific job keeping Ohio State's fabled quarterback, Rex Kern, under wraps. This was a key to the Wolverines' stunning 24-12 upset of the Buckeyes Saturday afternoon.
The 6-0, 186-pound junior from Lancaster, Ohio, has driven opposing coaches up the walls all the way from Texas to Washington and back again to Ohio.
When an opposing team rushes its linemen and linebackers in an attempt to smear the shifty quarterback, he would dart away, usually for a substantial gain.
Let him carry out his nifty fakes, and Kern would have the linebackers frozen to their positions behind the line of scrimmage like so many wooden Indians.
So the prospect facing Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler's defensive aides Jim Young, Dick Hunter, Jim Maloney and Gary Moeller was no easy one.
The main idea was to let Ohio State gain what yardage it could up the center by giving the ball to fullback Jim Otis. However, the defensive unit was to contain Kern's scrambling style and not permit anything outside.
Michigan picked off six passes and five of these came in the second half when the Buckeyes were desperately attempting to get back in the game.
"We have a lot of confidence in our coaches and in our defense," said Newell in the crowded dressing room underneath Michigan Stadium. "We just stuck to our basic defense."
Newell, who is a 6-4, 226-pound defensive tackle from Park Ridge, Ill., praised the scouting report which gave a tip off about the OSU defense.
When Kern didn't hand the ball off to Otis, he always had it.
This made things a lot easier. The defensive linemen just made sure Otis was watched while the cornerbacks and linebackers were free to work on Kern.
"Ohio State doesn't run too many line bucks," Newell said. "Actually they run a lot of the same plays. When Otis didn't have the ball, we all went to Kern."
"They didn't seem to hit the line as hard in the second half," Newell continued, "and Pierson and Darden really helped out in the coverage of Kern."
Possibly one of the biggest plays of the second half occurred in the fourth quarter.
Ohio State was faced with a third down and six yards to go on their own 14-yard line. Trailing by six points, they had to score or concede the game to Michigan.
But the Buckeyes had to get that all-important first down. It was too risky to attempt to pass that deep in their own territory, so Kern tried to run an option play to the wide side of the field.
Newell and Mike Taylor figured the play and smeared Kern after a gain of only one yard. Ohio State was forced to punt and that was pretty much the "old ball game."
There was no question that Michigan was really fired up for this game, especially the defense. The Wolverines had other things on their minds besides roses.
The coaching staff had plastered a 50-14 sign up in the dressing room and had similar signs on each locker. It alluded to the 50-14 pasting at the hands of the Buckeyes last year.
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