History of Michigan Wolverines football in the Oosterbaan years

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Michigan Wolverines football
Ben Oosterbaan.png
Athletic director Fritz Crisler
Head coach Bennie Oosterbaan
11 season, 63–33–4 (.650)
Stadium Michigan Stadium
Field surface Grass
Location Ann Arbor, Michigan
Conference Big Ten Conference
Bowl record 1–0 (1.000)
Claimed nat'l titles 1
Conference titles 3
Colors Maize and Blue[1]

The History of Michigan Wolverines football in the Oosterbaan years covers the history of the University of Michigan Wolverines football program during the period from the promotion of Bennie Oosterbaan as head coach in 1948 through his firing after the 1958 season. Michigan was a member of the Big Ten Conference during the Oosterbaan years and played its home games at Michigan Stadium.

During the 11 years in which Oosterbaan served as head football coach, Michigan compiled a record of 63–33–4 (.650). In Oosterbaan's first year as head coach, the 1948 team compiled a perfect 9–0 and won a national championship. The team won Big Ten Conference championships in each of Oosterbaan's first three years as head coach. In 1950, Michigan defeated Ohio State 9 to 3 in the legendary Snow Bowl game and went on to defeat California by a 14 to 6 score in the 1951 Rose Bowl.

After compiling a 2–6–1 record (1–5–1 Big Ten) record in 1958, and finishing in eighth place in the Big Ten, Oosterbaan was fired and replaced by Bump Elliott. Three players from the Oosterbaan years have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. They are Pete Elliott, Alvin Wistert, and Ron Kramer.

Year-by-year results[edit]

Season Place Record PF PA Captain MVP
1948 team 1st 9–0 252 44 Dominic Tomasi Dominic Tomasi
1949 team 1st (tie) 6–2–1 135 85 Alvin Wistert Dick Kempthorn
1950 team 1st 6–3–1 150 114 Robert Wahl Don Dufek, Sr.
1951 team 4th 4–5 135 122 Bill Putich Don Peterson
1952 team 4th (tie) 5–4 207 134 Merritt Green Ted Topor
1953 team 5th (tie) 6–3 163 101 Dick O'Shaughnessy Tony Branoff
1954 team 2nd (tie) 6–3 139 87 Ted Cachey Fred Baer
1955 team 3rd 7–2 179 94 Ed Meads Terry Barr
1956 team 2nd 7–2 233 123 Tom Maentz Dick Hill
1957 team 6th 5–3–1 187 147 Jim Orwig Jim Pace
1958 team 8th 2–6–1 132 211 John Herrnstein Bob Ptacek

1948 national championship[edit]

1948 national championship team

In 1948, under first-year head coach Bennie Oosterbaan, Michigan compiled a 9–0 record, defeated six ranked opponents by a combined score of 122–17,[2] and won both the Big Nine Conference and national football championships. In the final AP Poll, Michigan received 192 first place votes, twice as many as second-place Notre Dame which garnered 97 first place votes.

The 1948 season was Michigan's second straight undefeated, untied season. After Fritz Crisler led the 1947 team to a perfect 10–0 record, the Wolverines entered the 1948 season with a 14-game winning streak dating back to October 1946. Despite the loss of all four backfield starters from the 1947 team (including Big Nine MVP Bump Elliott and Heisman Trophy runner-up Bob Chappuis), the 1948 team extended the winning streak to 23 games.

On offense, Michigan was led by a new backfield that included All-American quarterback Pete Elliott and halfbacks Chuck Ortmann and Leo Koceski. The team scored 252 points, an average of 28 points per game.[3] With Ortmann as the principal passer, the Wolverines relied on an air attack, gaining more yards in the air (1,355) than on the ground (1,262). Dick Rifenburg, the team's leading receiver, was picked as a first-team All-American at the end position. Team captain Dominic Tomasi was selected as the team's Most Valuable Player. The 1949 Michiganensian wrote of the 250-pound guard, "Famous for his sharp shattering blocking, Dom tore huge gaps in the opposing lines to pave the way for Michigan's steam roller offense."[4]

On defense, the Wolverines allowed only 44 points, an average of 4.8 points per game. The defense was led by tackles Alvin Wistert and Al Wahl, center Dan Dworsky, and fullback Dick Kempthorn. The team shut out Oregon despite the passing game of College and Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Norm Van Brocklin. It also held ranked Purdue and Northwestern teams to 36 and 47 rushing yards, respectively. The defense forced a total of 32 turnovers (including 21 interceptions), an average of three-and-a-half turnovers per game.[5]


Michigan State[edit]

During the Oosterbaan years, Michigan compiled a 4-6-1 record in the Michigan - Michigan State football rivalry. Oosterbaan became the first head coach in Michigan history to compile a losing record against the Spartans.[6]


During the Oosterbaan years, Michigan compiled an 8-2-1 record in its annual Little Brown Jug rivalry game with the Minnesota Golden Gophers.[7]

Notre Dame[edit]

Michigan and Notre Dame did not play each other during the Oosterbaan years. After playing against each other in 1942 and 1943, the programs did not meet again until 1978.[8]

Ohio State[edit]

During the Oosterbaan years, Michigan compiled a 5-5-1 record in the Michigan–Ohio State football rivalry.[9] Significant games during the Oosterbaan years include:

  • 1948 - Michigan concluded an undefeated season and secured the national championship with a 13–3 win over Ohio State in Columbus. The game was played in front of a crowd of 82,754 spectators – the second largest crowd in Ohio Stadium history up to that time. Although Michigan was favored in the game by 14 points, Ohio State dominated the line of scrimmage in the first half, allowing only three first downs by Michigan, one of which came on a penalty. Ohio State took a 3–0 lead in the first quarter on a 26-yard field goal by Jim Hague. The kick followed a fumble recovery by Jack Lininger after an errant lateral by Chuck Ortmann. Michigan took the lead in the second quarter on a 92-yard drive culminating with a 44-yard touchdown pass from Ortmann to Harry Allis. In the fourth quarter, Michigan drove 62 yards for a second touchdown led by the passing of Wally Teninga and Pete Elliott. The touchdown was scored by fullback Tom Peterson. Allis converted the first extra point, but missed on the second. Ohio State outgained Michigan on the ground 130 yards to 54, but Michigan outgained Ohio State in the air 116 yards to 73.[10][11]
  • 1949 – The teams came into the game ranked #5 and #7 in the AP Poll and played to a 7-7 at Michigan Stadium. With the tie, the teams finished as Big Ten Conference co-champions.
  • Snow Bowl (1950) - On November 25, 1950, Michigan defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes, 9–3, earning the Big Ten Conference championship and a berth in the 1951 Rose Bowl. The game was played at Ohio Stadium under severe winter conditions, including snow and wind, that altered the normal playing of the game dramatically. Michigan won the game despite never getting a first down and failing on all nine pass attempts. The teams punted 45 times, sometimes on first down. The strategy was based on the weather in that both teams felt it better to have the ball in the hands of their opponents near the end zone and hope for a fumble of the slippery ball. The game became famous because of the weather and the difficulty of playing football when the players can't see the lines on the field. The Buckeyes' first and only score was Vic Janowicz kicking a field goal, after Robert Momsen recovered a blocked Wolverine kick. Michigan scored on a blocked kick that rolled out of the end zone for a safety. With 47 seconds remaining in the first half, Tony Momsen of Michigan blocked a Buckeye punt and fell on it in the end zone for a touchdown and the final score of 9–3.
  • 1951 – In the first year of the Woody Hayes era, the Wolverines defeated the Buckeyes 7-0 at Michigan Stadium.
  • 1958 – In the final game of the Oosterbaan years, Ohio State defeated Michigan 20-14 at Ohio Stadium.

Coaching staff and administration[edit]

Assistant coaches[edit]

  • Jack Blott – assistant coach, 1924-1933, 1946–1958 (head football coach at Wesleyan, 1934–1940)
  • George Ceithaml - assistant coach, 1947-1952
  • Don Dufek, Sr. – player, 1948-1950; assistant coach, 1954-1965
  • Bump Elliott – assistant coach, 1957-1958 (head coach 1959-1968)
  • Robert Holloway – assistant coach 1954-1965
  • Cliff Keen – assistant coach 1926-1930, 1932-1936, 1941, 1946-1958 (also Michigan's wrestling coach, 1925-1970)
  • Pete Kinyon – assistant coach 1954-1956
  • Ernie McCoy, 1940–1942, 1945–1951 (also Michigan's head basketball coach, 1948–1952; athletic director at Penn State, 1952–1970)
  • Bill Orwig - assistant coach 1948-1953
  • Matt Patanelli – assistant coach 1953-1958
  • Don Robinson, 1948-1956
  • Wally Weber – assistant coach, 1931-1958
  • J. T. White – assistant coach, 1948-1955


  • Ralph W. Aigler – chairman of Michigan's Faculty Board in Control of Athletics, 1917-1942, faculty representative to the Big Ten Conference, 1917-1955
  • Fritz Crisler – athletic director, 1941–1968
  • Jim Hunt - trainer, 1947–1967
  • Marcus Plant - University of Michigan's faculty representative to the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Big Ten Conference, 1954-1978


Name Start Year Last Year Position(s) Notes
Harry Allis 1948 1950 End, Placekicker Big Ten scoring leader, 1948
Fred Baer 1952 1954 Fullback MVP, 1954 Michigan football team
Terry Barr 1954 1956 Halfback Played 9 seasons in the NFL with the Lions; Two-time Pro Bowl selection
Lou Baldacci 1953 1955 Quarterback, Fullback Set Michigan record for longest field goal, 1953; Played 1 year in the NFL with the Steelers
Tony Branoff 1952 1955 Halfback MVP 1953 Michigan football team; Leading rusher for Michigan, 1953 and 1955
Jerry Burns 1947 1950 Quarterback Later became head coach at University of Iowa and in NFL for the Packers and Vikings
Gene Derricotte 1946 1948 Halfback, Quarterback Holds Michigan's single season record for punt return average
Donald R. Deskins 1958 1959 Tackle Played in all 14 games for the Oakland Raiders in their first season (1960); later became an author and professor of urban geography and sociology
Don Dufek, Sr. 1948 1950 Fullback
Dan Dworsky 1945 1948 Fullback, Center, Quarterback
Don Eaddy 1951 1951 Halfback All-American in baseball; later played Major League Baseball with the Cubs in 1959
Pete Elliott 1945 1948 Quarterback, Halfback
George Genyk 1957 1959 Guard, Tackle 1959 team captain; drafted by New York Titans in the first AFL draft
John Ghindia 1947 1949 Quarterback, Fullback, Halfback
Darrell Harper 1957 1959 Halfback
John Herrnstein 1956 1958 Fullback Later played Major League Baseball from 1962-1966 with the Phillies, Cubs and Braves
Dick Hill 1954 1956 Guard MVP of the 1956 team; played one season with the Montreal Alouettes
Bob Hollway 1947 1949 End Later served as head coach of the St. Louis Cardinals, 1971-1972
Tom Johnson 1948 1951 Tackle Most valuable defensive tackle in the Big Ten, 1950; First-team All-American, 1951; Second African-American to play for the Green Bay Packers
Fred Julian 1957 1959 Defensive back Leading rusher for UM 1959; led New York Titans in interceptions 1960
Zeno Karcz 1954 1954 Linebacker, Running back Later played for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for 9 years; Won the 1965 Most Outstanding Canadian award
Dick Kempthorn 1947 1949 Fullback MVP 1949 Michigan team; Won Distinguished Flying Cross as a jet fighter pilot in the Korean War
Gene Knutson 1951 1953 End
Leo Koceski 1948 1950 Halfback Known as the "Canonsburg Comet"; Played for undefeated 1948 national championship team
Ralph Kohl 1947 1948 Tackle Later coached at Eastern Illinois and was head scout for the Minnesota Vikings
Ron Kramer 1955 1956 End All-American, 1955–1956; Played 10 years in NFL for Packers and Lions; First-team All Pro, 1962; Inducted into College Football Hall of Fame, 1978
Ted Kress 1951 1953 Halfback
Jim Maddock 1954 1956 Quarterback
Tom Maentz 1954 1956 End
Jerry Marciniak 1956 1958 Tackle Played in the CFL for the Saskatchewan Roughriders
Ed Meads 1953 1955 Guard Captain of the 1955 team; awarded Bronze Star for work as combat surgeon in Vietnam War
Tony Momsen 1945 1950 Center Played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins
John Morrow 1953 1955 Center, Tackle
Stan Noskin 1957 1959 Quarterback
Chuck Ortmann 1948 1950 Halfback
Dick O'Shaugnessy 1951 1953 Center All-Big Ten, 1952
Jim Pace 1955 1957 Halfback
Lowell W. Perry 1950 1952 End
Don Peterson 1949 1951
Bob Ptacek 1956 1958 Halfback
Bill Putich 1949 1951 Quarterback, Halfback
Tubby Raymond 1946 1948 Quarterback, Linebacker Coach at Delaware, 1966–2001; inducted to College Football Hall of Fame
Dick Rifenburg 1944 1948 End Played for the Detroit Lions, 1950
Tony Rio 1957 1959 Fullback
Joe Schwarz 1956 1956 Center
Quentin Sickels 1944 1948 Guard Played on Michigan's undefeated 1947 and 1948 national championship teams
Willie Smith 1956 1958 Tackle Played for the Denver Broncos (1960) and Oakland Raiders (1961)
Joe Soboleski 1945 1948 Guard, Tackle Played 4 years for Chicago Hornets, Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions, New York Yanks, and Dallas Texans
Wally Teninga 1945 1949 Halfback
Bob Timm 1950 1952 Guard All-Big Ten, 1952
Dominic Tomasi 1945 1948 Guard Captain and Most Valuable Player of the National Champion 1948 Michigan Wolverines football team
Ted Topor 1950 1952 Quarterback, Linebacker Michigan Wolverines Most Valuable Player, 1952
Bob Topp 1952 1953 End
Jim Van Pelt 1955 1957 Quarterback Played 2 seasons in the CFL with the Blue Bombers; Set CFL records with 7 TD passes in 1 game and a 107-yard TD pass; Scored a record 22 points in 1958 Grey Cup
Robert Wahl 1948 1950 Defensive tackle, Offensive tackle All-American, 1949 and 1950; Blocked punt to win the 1950 Snow Bowl
Art Walker 1952 1954 Tackle All-American, 1954; Played 3 years in the CFL for the Eskimos; 1957 CFL All-Star
F. Stuart Wilkins 1945 1948 Guard Founding director and chairman of the board (1984–1997) of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio; Served as chairman of the board of the American Automobile Association
Irv Wisniewski 1946 1949 End Later coached football and basketball at Hillsdale College and the University of Delaware
Alvin Wistert 1947 1949 Tackle All-American, 1948 and 1949; Inducted into College Football Hall of Fame, 1967; Oldest college football player ever selected as an All-American at age 33; His No. 11 is 1 of 5 retired numbers at Michigan
Roger Zatkoff 1950 1952 Linebacker, Fullback, Offensive tackle All-Big Ten 1952; Played 6 years in the NFL for the Packers and Lions


  1. ^ "Style Guide: Colors". Office of Global Communications, University of Michigan. July 7, 2015. Retrieved July 7, 2015. 
  2. ^ Michigan opened the season against Michigan State and Oregon. Those games were played before the first AP Poll of the 1948 season was released. Accordingly, no rankings were available at the time Michigan State and Oregon played Michigan. Michigan State was ranked No. 14 in the final AP Poll, and Oregon was ranked No. 9 in the same poll.
  3. ^ "1948 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library. Archived from the original on 18 December 2007. Retrieved 21 November 2007. 
  4. ^ 1949 Michiganensian, Dom Tomasi profile, p. 96.
  5. ^ 1949 Michiganensian, pp. 104-111.
  6. ^ "Michigan vs Michigan St.". College Football Data Warehouse. 
  7. ^ "Michigan vs Minnesota". College Football Data Warehouse. 
  8. ^ "Michigan vs Notre Dame (IN)". College Football Data Warehouse. 
  9. ^ "Michigan vs Ohio St.". College Football Data Warehouse. 
  10. ^ "Michigan Topples Ohio State, 13 to 3: Wolverines Come From Behind to Gain 23d Victory in Row, Keep Big Nine Honors". The New York Times. November 21, 1948. Retrieved 10 January 2012. 
  11. ^ 1949 Michiganensian, Ohio State game summary, p. 111.