The Washtenaw County Clash of 1930

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:



Author: Erik Pedersen

During my thirty nine years at Eastern Michigan University in the Department of Health Physical Education and Dance, I heard many stories about persons, events, and athletic contests of the past. The one story that always intrigued me was about a 1930 football game between the Michigan Normal School in Ypsilanti and the University of Michigan. Upon reviewing articles on the 1930 game, it didn’t take long for me to realize that this game had several interesting aspects to it. In other words, there were many stories within a story. Reflections of someone who was at the game, the game itself, the accolades of an outstanding player, and the influence of a legendary coach were areas that evolved.

The motivation for this article started when I was making a History of Football presentation to the Silver Maples Retirement Community in Chelsea, Michigan on November 29, 2012. While mentioning the September 27, 1930 football game between the University of Michigan and the Normal School in Ypsilanti, a person attending the session, John Keusch, said “I was at that game.”

I was very surprised to actually meet someone who attended a football game that took place over 82 years ago. I asked John if he would be willing to be interviewed regarding his observations of that game and he said he would be happy to do so. John was 103 years old at the time of two interviews held in February of 2013. Regardless of his age, at the time of these interviews, John still had some memories of that game. The strength of the Normal School line and the outstanding play of Andy Vanyo were still clear in his mind.

The 1930 game was of special interest to him since he attended the Normal School in Ypsilanti for his freshman year. He transferred to the University of Michigan in 1928 to attend law school. John indicated that he was an avid football fan. He hardly missed a game and eventually purchased season tickets. His enthusiasm started at ten years of age while watching games played on Ferry Field on the University of Michigan campus. During his lifetime he attended seven Rose Bowl games. He recalled that in the 1930’s the University of Michigan football stadium was not always sold out as games are today. Many times only half the seats were filled during the depression years. People just didn’t have the money to attend athletic events.

Normal School Football and the 1930 Season: The Normal College News of September 29, 1930 noted that “Elton Rynearson had been molding a powerful Huron eleven since his first season as coach in 1925.” Records from 1925 to 1930 support that statement. In his first six years, 1925 to 1930, as the Huron football coach, his teams won 40 games, tied two, and lost only four. Rynearson’s teams piled up 1,069 points to 111 for opponents during that period. During the years 1925 through 1930 the Hurons won one Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Championship and four Michigan Collegiate League Championships.

The 1930 season was considered by many to be the most successful for the Normal School. Although it started with a 7-0 loss to Michigan, many considered the loss as a moral victory. During the 1930 season the Hurons tallied 145 points to their opponents 14. Michigan went on to an undefeated season and were considered to be one of the elite college football teams in the country. They tied for the Big Ten Championship with Northwestern. The Huron squad also went undefeated for the remainder of the 1930 season and won the Michigan Collegiate League Championship.

1930 Football Record

University of Michigan...........................7
College of City of Detroit.......................6
Western State Teachers College.......0
Central State Teachers College..........0
Georgetown (Kentucky) College.........0
University of Notre Dame "B"..............0
Iowa State Teachers College..............0
TOTAL.....................................................13
Normal.................0
Normal...............33
Normal...............19
Normal...............13
Normal...............45
Normal...............16
Normal...............13
TOTAL..............145

Another highlight of the 1930 season was a Huron victory over the Notre Dame B football squad. “The Notre Dame B squad was the strongest the South Bend mentor, Knute Rockne, had put on the gridiron for many years. And the loss was the first that aggregation had suffered that season.” The game was played as part of Normal’s dedication of the new McKinney Union. The 16 to 0 score was also the second victory over Notre Dame in as many starts.

The Game: The 1930 football game between the Normal School and the University of Michigan was the first game of the season for both teams. Michigan was probably intending for its meeting with Ypsilanti to be a preseason warm-up. The fact that the day included a football double header supports this position. The University of Michigan second string opened play earlier in the day against Denison University. Although no score was given, newspaper accounts noted that the University of Michigan “walked off with a top heavy score.”

The same was expected of Michigan against the Normal football team. Although Harry Kipke, Michigan’s coach, “showed a decided respect for Normal when he announced that he would save his first team for the second game against the Hurons, there were few among even the staunchest supporters of the green and white who dared hope that a Michigan eleven could be held to a low scoring game.” An interesting quote in the Normal News noted “and Michigan’s confidence made the outlook none too bright for Normal.”

Starting line Ups

Michigan
Hewitt
Purdum
Lajuenesse
Morrison
Cornwell
Samuels
Daniels
Tessmer
Simnall
Heston
Hudson
vs.
L.E.
L.T.
L.G.
C.
R.G.
R.T.
R.E.
Q.B.
L.G.
R.H.
F.B.
Michigan Normal
Wood
Buckholz
Bernhagen
Stover
Vanyo
Shoemaker
Muellich
Arnold
Hawk
Tuttle
Simmons

Much of the doubt about how the Normal team would perform centered around the fact that they would be starting three inexperienced players in the backfield. The 1929 backfield was considered to be the “greatest trio that Normal ever had on the same team.” In their place were two sophomores and one junior who had very little playing experience. However, there was some optimism in the Normal camp. “The coaches felt confident as they added the finishing touches to a new Huron eleven on Friday afternoon that it contained ample ability to provide Harry Kipke’s Wolverines with an extremely busy session and that at worst, Michigan would only win by a narrow margin.” Coach Rynearson’s hope centered with the nearly all veteran forward line which as it turned out was a dominant force in the game.

“Michigan had the advantage of a “much bigger offensive line, a highly touted array of backs, and superior reserve strength.” Yet Michigan could only manage seven first downs for the game compared to six for the Normal squad. Game accounts indicate that most of Michigan’s yards were gained on “flank plays” and passes by its quarterback Tessmer. One example of the Normal team’s line strength came in the third quarter when Michigan had a second and one situation on Normal’s eighteen yard line. Michigan tried three running plays through the middle of the Huron line and failed to make one yard and consequently had to give up the ball. In the press box “the conversation among the assembled scribes was high praise for the Huron line and how much Normal would take to trade lines with Michigan.”

For everyone except the Huron football team, the outcome was a surprise. Newspaper headlines the next day read “Hurons Make an Unexpected Stand Against Wolverine Eleven,” Normal Line Stops Michigan Cold,” and “Wolverines Eke Out 7 – 0 Victory Over The Normal Eleven.” Before the game, one Wolverine extremist was heard offering odds that the Maize and Blue would pile up a score of 35 to 0 at the half. He probably has a severe headache as a result.”

Coach Rynearson, his staff, and players were very happy with the outcome of the game even though they lost. The Normal School went undefeated the rest of the year and had only one touchdown scored against them for the remainder of the season.

It is difficult to note the performance of just one player from the 1930 University of Michigan and the Normal School football game. Captain Paul Shoemaker and George Muellich, along with Andy Vanyo, formed the highly recognized right side of the Normal line and all deserve recognition. One writer noted “the splendid fighting spirit of Captain Shoemaker and his mates won the hearts of the football world at large. “However, the people who attended the game and those in the press box remarked at the excellent play of Normal’s Andy Vanyo.”

According to the Ypsilanti News, “There was one in particular among the brilliant group of forwards who shown out above his mates. Andy Vanyo simply could not be stopped and he was seen in practically every play. Three times he kicked off to Michigan and twice he tackled the man who received it.” The other time he recovered a Tessmer fumble which proved to be the most exciting moment in the game. “Vanyo brought the 65,000 fans up shouting when he recovered a fumble and raced 67 yards, outdistancing several Michigan men to the goal line. In the excitement of that moment there were few who accurately sensed the situation and the word ‘Touchdown’ was flashed on a dozen telegraph instruments and written on twice as many typewriters before the play was recalled an instant later.” The ball was brought back under a rule, which at that time, made a fumble dead at the point of recovery.

Vanyo’s outstanding play continued all season. Football critics claimed that he was without peer in the Midwest at guard. Robert Zuppke, the University of Illinois coach, was scouting Michigan for an upcoming game and was so impressed with Vanyo’s play that he asked him to play for the 1930 Midwest-Southwest All Star Game on New Year’s day in Dallas, Texas. Knute Rockne selected him as member of his Midwest All-Star Team and he was named to Walter Camp’s All-American Team as a second team selection. Vanyo was elected to EMU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1978.

Although the main focus of this article has been the 1930 football game between The University of Michigan and the Michigan Normal School at Ypsilanti, I would be remiss not to acknowledge the influence and some of the accomplishments from Elton Rynearson’s career. Rynearson assumed the full time duties as athletic director, head football coach, and teacher at the Normal College in 1925. He was the Normal School football coach for 28 years. He compiled a won-lost record of 114 wins, 58 losses, and 15 ties. He never had a losing season. “Rynie” coached every varsity sport at one time or another and also served as athletic director during his 46 years at the Ypsilanti Normal School. He was elected to the Eastern Michigan University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1976.

Elton Rynearson: Rynearson was respected and admired by his students. He was considered a coach of the “old school” who had a personal interest in those he worked with. Those who knew him said he spoke his mind and stood by his convictions. Among his many professional awards was being inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame.

With regard to the “1930 Washtenaw County Clash,” one Normal school supporter summarized the feelings of many when he commented, “and in back of this team is our coach – Elton Rynearson. No one knows how much he did and how hard he worked to put onto the field such a squad of clean and fine representative athletes.”

(Acknowledgements: As noted earlier, the interviews with John Keusch started the process of gathering information for this article. Much descriptive detail was obtained from The Normal News and the Ypsilanti Press publications from September 26th to November 13th, 1930. Statistical data was provided by Greg Steiner, the Assistant Athletics Director for Media Relations at Eastern Michigan University. General background and biographical information was obtained from, A History of Physical Education at Eastern Michigan University, 1852 – 1996, by Erik J. Pedersen.)

(Dr. Erik Pedersen is a retired Professor from Eastern Michigan University where he taught for 37 years in the Teacher Preparation Program in the Department of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.)


Photo Captions:

1. One of four Michigan Collegiate League championship trophies won by Michigan Normal School from 1926 to 1930.

2. John Keusch holding the helmet worn by Olin Sanders in the 1930 football game.

3. The 1930 Normal School football team.

4. Andy Vanyo.

5. (Needs no title – Vanyo of the Normal)

6. Coach Elton Rynearson.