100th Big Game -- Top Performers: Tom Harmon
| Tom Harmon wasn't feeling well, and that worried Michigan assistant coach Bennie Oosterbaan the entire week before the 1940 season finale at Ohio State. |
Turns out, the Buckeyes would wind up feeling a whole lot sicker.
Oosterbaan planned to make Harmon an integral part of Michigan's defensive game plan against Ohio State's passing attack, but he worried that an ill and exhausted Harmon would not be much good.
As the astounded Oosterbaan stared at him, Harmon said, "Now I'm going back to my room to get some rest."
That Saturday, Harmon would put on a show of individual brilliance unlike any other in the storied history of the Michigan-Ohio State series, and he would pace the Wolverines to a 40-0 victory. In fact, Harmon was so dominant in the 24th and final game of his college career that 73,648 rain-soaked fans at Ohio Stadium would pay him the ultimate compliment: as he left the field after scoring his third touchdown, the Buckeye crowd gave him a standing ovation.
As Harmon had promised, the Buckeyes did not complete a pass against him, and he returned one of his three interceptions for a touchdown.
But Harmon's defensive prowess is only part of the story. He scored three touchdowns in all, passed for two more, and kicked four extra points. He carried the ball 25 times for 139 yards. He completed 11 of his 22 passes for 151 yards. He averaged 50 yards on three punts, and returned three punts for 81 yards. In all, he played 59 minutes and accounted for 371 total yards.
Harmon would go on to win both the Heisman Trophy and the Maxwell Award following the season. He also would be named the Big Ten's Most Valuable Player.
"What he accomplished on the football field will never be duplicated -- not when you consider that he ran, passed, kicked extra points, punted and was an outstanding safety on defense," former Michigan teammate Forest Evashevski said at the time of Harmon's death in 1990."I don't know anyone who has ever done all those things as well as Tom. The way the game is structured today, nobody ever will."
This story is part of the special Michigan-Ohio State content in the 100th Game Commemorative Program produced by Barbara Cossman and the U-M Athletics Department in conjunction with Pro Sports Publications. Limited quantity available for $15 apiece (including postage) or online for $15 each plus $3 per order.
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