The Teams: 1940


Manage episode 273778836 series 2360053
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Previously: 1879, 1901, 1918, 1925, 1932, 1947, 1950, 1964, 1973, 1976, 1980, 1985 p.1&p.2, 1988, 1991, 1999

Special Guest: Greg Dooley from MVictors

[Writeup and player after THE JUMP]

1. Setup

(starts at 1:00)

Coming off the 1930s when the Yost Era peters out with a 1934 season with one win and another terrible 1936, with Michigan losing to all of the rivals in the late-'30s. Kipke's program is cheating AND losing, he gets removed, and Michigan goes with the John Beilein option, Fritz Crisler, in 1938, which is a major departure from Yost's SEC-ish era. What do you do with Kipke's recruits, including Harmon, who have these illicit promises?

Chicago is gone: who's the new 10th? Nebraska wants in: played 3 Big Nine teams, losing by 1 score to Minnesota and beating IU and Iowa, also played in the Rose Bowl. Top rival is Minnesota. In 1939 Harmon finishes 2nd behind Nile Kinnick in the Heisman.

2. The Team

(starts at 43:48)


  • RHB "Wee" David Nelson, future HoF coach who created the Wing-T offense, wrote the NCAA rulebook, and is the reason the Delaware Blue Hens look like washed out Michigan.
  • FB “Bullet” Bob Westfall: AA, 5th overall in the 1942 draft. Grew up poor in the shadow of Michigan Stadium. Worst case of asthma they’d ever encountered; once crawled home after he couldn’t get into the health center, and PLAYED the next day. Started every game 1939-’41. His career 1864 yards was the fullback rushing record until Bo. Listed size is a lie: he was 5’6/180. “Chunky Fullback” --WIsconsin State Journal. After the war he was finishing his degree but the Lions wanted to sign him, and his plan was to do both, but everyone fainted at the idea.
  • QB Forest “Evy” Evashevski: Played against Michigan for the Iowa Pre-Flight team in 1942. Was just 16 when he arrived after skipping 2 grades, wasn’t allowed to play in high school until he led the intramural team to an upset over the varsity team. Played LB on defense. Went on to be Iowa’s HC, and AD, caught cheating and was replaced by Bump Elliott. Evy came very close to getting the Michigan job after Bump.
  • HB Tom Harmon: If you don't know.
  • HB Paul Kromer: He and Harmon are the “Touchdown Twins” after combining for 9 of the 20 Michigan scored in 1938. Indeed in 1939 they combined for 17 TDs, though Harmon scored 14 of those. Injured all year, tried to play vs MSU but that didn’t work. Returned for OSU.


  • Guard Milo Sukup. Injured by Harvard, listens to the Minnesota game on the radio.
  • Guard Ralph Fritz. Could move really well for a guard, also really small and boxy.
  • Center Bob Ingalls. Good snapper but better on defense.
  • End Ed Frutig: Favorite receiver. Best punt blocker in Michigan history: had eleven career, five in 1940.
  • LT Albert “Ox” Wistert. Youngest brother, 2nd to play for Michigan. Number is retired by the Eagles. This one was a great offensive tackle. Tall and fast for a lineman.
3. The Nonconference Harmon Show

(starts at 1:01:53)

41-0 @ CAL. What, no warmups? Weren’t alone: Illinois played USC, Minnesota went out to Washington, who’d finish #10. Indiana got a visit from Texas. The Harmon Show on his 21st birthday. Returns the opening kickoff 94 yards. Returns a punt in the 2nd quarter 72 yards, Cal newspaper claims he ran another 100 going back and forth across the field. Then he had an 85-yard run and a Cal fan tried to tackle him on the goal line; he too failed. Scored 4 TDs, kicked all the PATs, threw a TD pass to Nelson.

Held Cal to 8 rushing yards, and let them past midfield only once Harmon sat for Cliff Wise. Also this happened:

MICHIGAN STATE COLLEGE. Attendance: 69,951: this is 2x any other home game. Harmon scores all three TDs, outgains MSU 312 to 49 in rushing. MSU was a passing team but you can’t throw on Michigan. They man you up. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: MSU gets a new coach during Michigan’s down year, 1934, and finally beats UM. This gets their coach a long-term contract and 8 years later his team’s a bunch of flailing tryhards who are obsessed with beating Michigan and don’t show out for any other game.

@HARVARD 26-0. Series: Michigan made three trips during the period that Seth & Craig Ross write about, and Yost went out there in 1914 during Michigan’s time in the wilderness. Then they scheduled home and home 1929 and 1930 that Michgian won. Now they agreed to another: Michigan goes out there first, with the return game in 1942. Harmon: 3 TDs and passed for a fourth, missed an XP. Outgained them 2014 to 61. M’s subs were out after 2 minutes in the 3rd Q.

4. The Conference Harmon Show

(starts at 1:23:27)

ILLINOIS 28-0. Avenging the upset in 1939. Harmon runs one and passes one to Frutig. Michigan outgained them 240 yards to 24.

PENN 14-0: JUDGMENT DAY. George Munger’s Penn team is ranked #8 and undefeated. One of the first games to be nationally broadcast over radio. Harmon: 28 carries for 142 yards, 8/12 for 51 yards and a TD, also punted. Scored on a 19-yard outside run when he got the edge.

Eastern football was old fashioned: if you were beating them up they would beat you up. After quite a bit of this Harmon’s shirt was already ripped half off his back. Finally Penn takes it out on Harmon’s teammates. Evy goes out and gets replaced by George Ceithaml. Milo Sukup with a vicious headshot late in the game. He’s hospitalized and his career is over.

5. The Three Contenders

(starts at 1:33:29)

Without Sukup. Starting Kolesar in his place. Halfback George Franck was the fastest player in the Big Ten, Tackle Urban Odson was also a consensus 1st team All-American, and guard Helge Pukema (hell-geh POKE-ehma). Junior halfback Bruce Smith had emerged as a breakout star while Franck redshirted in 1939. With sophomore Bill Daley prepped to break out as well, Minnesota had three outstanding runners, the former two of which would go on to make the College Football Hall of Fame. So would tackle Dick Wildung, another one of those important sophomores. Minnesota didn’t pass.

Gophers soaked the field to slow down Harmon. He could still pass: 9/14 for a TD to Evashevski. Minnesota’s one score is an 80-yarder when two guys fall down in the mud getting to him. Harmon slipped on a 4th down on the Minnesota 1 that would have put them up 7-0. Later he missed the XP on the Evy TD.

Another missed chance when Frutig blocked a punt.

December 6 Milwaukee Sentinel:

"It makes me sick to think of the chances we blew that day. We should have beaten them by four or five touchdowns. They're a good club, but we're better, and so is Northwestern."

Michigan: 15 first downs to Minn’s 6, one of which a bogus penalty. Minnesota goes 0/3 passing.

20-13 NORTHWESTERN: Coach: Pappy Waldorf. #3 team in the Big Ten, finished #8 AP with a 1-point loss to Minnesota. Michigan had gone 0-3-1 the last four years against these guys. Frutig blocks a punt out of bonds inside the NWern 1, Harmon converts, 7-0. Next drive NW has to punt from their endzone again, Harold Lockard caught it on the 30 returned it 25 yards to the 5. Westfall TD, 14-0 MIchigan in 1st Q.

1st play of the 2nd Q DeCorrevont throws a 49-yard pass but they muff the XP. GAME ON. But Cats muff another punt, wind takes it OOB (Fitzgerald.gif) at the NW 26. Westfall scores, Harmon misses the PAT. 20-6 Michigan. NW scores a TD near the end of the game to make it a 1-score game but Michigan drives out the remaining clock. Tackle Alf Bauman was 1st team AA, Guard Joe Lokane and center Paul Hiemenz were consensus 1st team all-Big Ten.

40-0 @ OHIO STATE: Nov 23. Four guys on this team were drafted: 1st team All-Big Ten QB in Don Scott, also HB Jim Langhurst, center Claude White, and HB Jimmy Strausbaugh. OSU won four games from 1934 to 1937 but Michigan won the last two.

OSU bulletin board material: Evy lit up a victory cigar with 30 seconds to play vs OSU in 1939. Teams traded possessions then Harmon had a long TD run. Paul Kromer returned from injury and returned a punt 80 yards. Harmon ran for three more TDs, threw two TDs (Evy and Frutig) kicked four PATs and averaged 50 yards on his three punts. Standing ovation for Harmon. 447 yards of offense to 125 for Ohio State (65 of which were on their last drive against the scrubs).

Aftermath: Ohio State appointed a special committee to “Investigate the football situation” which recommended they fire the HC. They would hire Paul Brown.


  • "Vigilante Man"—Woody Guthrie
  • "With Plenty of Money and You"—The Ink Spots
  • "Sing, Sing, Sing"—Benny Goodman
  • "Little Brown Jug"—Glenn Miller Orchestra
  • “Across 110th Street”

If you want to compare him to a modern Michigan player it’s Denard, but it’s Denard running around a bunch of white chain smokers in 1940.

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