Classic Big Ten Football: Ohio State vs. Michigan Nov. 23, 1991

Adam JacobiBig Ten Football Lead WriterApril 6, 2012

Every week, the Big Ten Blog will break down one classic game from the Big Ten's long, storied history. Today, we're taking things back 21 years for one of the watershed moments of college football history.

"Hello, Heisman!"

How big, culturally, was Desmond Howard's Heisman pose during the 1991 Ohio State-Michigan game? It struck such a chord that Keith Jackson's call, one of the all-time greats, is a mere afterthought.

But let's back it up a bit.

Twenty years ago, the college football landscape was familiar, but undoubtedly different to what it is today.

The numbers in conferences' names actually meant something. Independence in college football was still a valid option, but indie powerhouses such as Florida State, Syracuse and Virginia Tech were making their way to the Big East. Linemen were beginning to top 300 pounds with regularity. And, most importantly, speed was just beginning to win the battle over stoutness as the dominant aspect of good college football teams.

One of the fastest players of the early 1990s was Michigan wide receiver and return specialist Desmond Howard. Howard was a lethal wideout in 1991, catching 19 touchdowns (and rushing for two more), and he averaged more than 30 yards per kick return. He wasn't a stellar punt returner, though, and he came into the season finale against Ohio State only averaging about 12 yards per punt return.

That was about to change, though; late in the second quarter, Howard made history:

That Heisman pose became one of the most indelible, iconic images of the last few decades of college football. It's even featured on the cover of EA's NCAA Football 06 video game.

But just how universal has it become?

Howard didn't even strike the pose correctly,—the actual Heisman Trophy has both feet down—but it became the pose everyone does anyway. Look at the Google Image Search for "Heisman Pose," and all the legs up. That's cultural currency.

At any rate, the 1991 game itself was rather dull; John Cooper was Ohio State's coach and Kent Graham was the starting quarterback, so the Buckeyes were doomed before they even showed up to the Big House that day. Michigan would go to the Rose Bowl only to get absolutely flattened by a Steve Emtman-led Washington team; the Huskies shared the National Championship with the Miami Hurricanes that year.

Ohio State, meanwhile, went on to lose to Syracuse in the Hall of Fame Bowl. John Cooper would remain on the sidelines in Columbus for another nine years, struggling all the while to beat Michigan.

So, all in all, this game didn't lead to much and didn't mean a whole lot to the college football universe.

But oh, that pose.