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1940 Michigan Wolverines football team

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Title: 1940 Michigan Wolverines football team  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Fritz Crisler, Number (sports), Clark Shaughnessy, Michigan Wolverines football, 1940 college football season, 1940 Ohio State Buckeyes football team
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

1940 Michigan Wolverines football team

Conference Big Ten Conference
AP #3
1940 record 7–1 (3–1 Big Ten)
Head coach Fritz Crisler (3rd year)
Offensive scheme Single-wing formation
MVP Tom Harmon
Captain Forest Evashevski
Home stadium Michigan Stadium

The 1940 Michigan Wolverines football team represented the University of Michigan in the 1940 college football season. Under third-year head coach Fritz Crisler, Michigan compiled a 7–1 record and finished the season ranked No. 3 in the final AP Poll. The team outscored opponents 196 to 34. The team's sole setback was a 7–6 loss on the road against a Minnesota team that finished the season No. 1 in the final AP poll.

The 1940 team featured one of the greatest backfield in football history with all four principal starters going on to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as either a player or coach. Left halfback Tom Harmon was a consensus All-American and the winner of the Heisman Trophy as the best overall player in college football. Harmon became the focus of nationwide media coverage, even appearing on the cover of Life magazine in November 1940. Quarterback Forest Evashevski won the Big Ten Medal as the school's best senior student-athlete and was later referred to by Coach Crisler as "the greatest quarterback I ever had."[1] Fullback Bob Westfall, known as "Bullet Bob," was the country's fourth leading rusher in 1940, gaining 808 yards in eight games. (Harmon had 852 rushing yards.) Westfall went on to become a consensus All-American in 1941 and also won All-Pro honors for the Detroit Lions in 1945. David M. Nelson, who started the most games at right halfback, went on to a 20-year career as a college football coach and was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a coach.

The line playing in front of Michigan's Hall of Fame backfield was also one of the best in school history with four of the seven starters going on to play in the NFL. Left tackle Al Wistert had his jersey retired at Michigan, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, and was an eight-time All-Pro selection for the Philadelphia Eagles. Left guard Ralph Fritz was a first-team All-Big Nine player in 1940 and later played for the Philadelphia Eagles. Center Robert Ingalls played for the Green Bay Packers and later served for 12 years as the head football coach at Connecticut. End Ed Frutig, who was Harmon's principal receiver, was selected as a first-team member of the 1940 College Football All-America Team and later played for the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions.

A fifth starter on the 1940 line, Milo Sukup, was the running guard and one of the principal blockers for Harmon and Westfall. Harmon in 1940 publicly praised Sukup and Fritz as "two big reasons for Harmon."[2] Sukup was reportedly on track for selection as an All-American until he suffered a career-ending injury late in the season.[3] In a November 1940 game against Illinois, Sukup suffered a blow to the head while blocking for Harmon. He was knocked unconscious, suffered from temporary amnesia and was later hospitalized for several days after suffering recurring headaches.[4][5][6] Sukup was propped up in a bed at University Hospital when the Wolverines left to play Minnesota and listened by radio from his hospital bed as the team suffered its only loss of the season.[7][8] Sukup missed the last three games of the season due to the concussion and did not compete further as a football player. Robert Kolesar, who replaced Sukup at right guard for the last two games, went on to play for the Cleveland Browns.


Date Time Opponent# Rank# Site Result Attendance
September 28, 1940 at California* California Memorial StadiumBerkeley, CA W 41–0   35,401
October 5, 1940 Michigan State* Michigan StadiumAnn Arbor, MI W 21–14   69,951
October 12, 1940 at Harvard* Harvard StadiumAllston, MA W 26–0   26,315
October 19, 1940 Illinois Michigan Stadium • Ann Arbor, MI W 28–0   39,975
October 26, 1940 #8 Penn* #3 Michigan Stadium • Ann Arbor, MI W 14–0   62,262
November 9, 1940 at #2 Minnesota #3 Memorial StadiumMinneapolis, MN L 6–7   60,481
November 16, 1940 #10 Northwestern #6 Michigan Stadium • Ann Arbor, MI W 20–13   75,099
November 23, 1940 at Ohio State #7 Ohio StadiumColumbus, OH W 40–0   73,480
*Non-conference game. Homecoming. #Rankings from AP Poll released prior to game. All times are in Eastern Time.

Season summary

Week 1: at California

Week 1: Michigan at California
1 234Total
Michigan 7 14713 41
California 0 000 0

Michigan opened the 1940 season on the road playing the California Golden Bears at Berkeley, California. Michigan won the game, 41-0, as the Michigan defense did not allow California to advance past midfield during the game. The big story of the game, however, was Tom Harmon. While celebrating his 21st birthday, Harmon scored four touchdowns, kicked four points after touchdown (PAT), and threw a touchdown pass to David M. Nelson. Harmon's first touchdown came on the opening kickoff, which he returned 94 yards. His second touchdown came in the second quarter on a 72-yard punt return in which he reportedly dodged and swerved from one side of the field to the other, running about 100 yards before reaching the end zone. His third touchdown was on an 85-yard run in the second quarter. During the third touchdown run, a spectator jumped from the stands and ran onto the field trying to tackle Harmon. Even the twelfth man, who was escorted off the field by police, could not stop Harmon from reaching the endzone. The Associated Press wrote that Harmon found California's defense "about as strong as a wet paper bag," noted that Harmon was "as hard to snare as a greased pig," and opined that the only reason Michigan's point total was not higher was that "Michigan's first-string players ran themselves into a complete state of exhaustion."[9]

Michigan's starting lineup against California was Frutig (left end), Wistert (left tackle), Fritz (left guard), Ingalls (center), Sukup (right guard), Kelto (right tackle), Rogers (right end), Evashevski (quarterback), Harmon (left halfback), Call (right halfback), and Westfall (fullback).[9]

Week 8: at Ohio State

Week 8: Michigan at Ohio State
1 234Total
Michigan 0 000 0
Ohio State 0 000 0

In the final game of the 1940 season, Michigan defeated Ohio State 40-0 in Columbus. In his final game for Michigan, Tom Harmon ran for three touchdowns, threw two touchdown passes (one to Forest Evashevski and the other to Ed Frutig, and converted four PATs. He also averaged 50 yards per punt on three punts. Harmon closed out his career with a total of 237 points in 24 games, on 33 touchdowns, 33 extra points, and two field goals. When Harmon left the field with 38 seconds remaining, the crowd game him a standing ovation. Paul Kromer also returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. Michigan had 447 yards of total offense in the game, 299 rushing and 148 passing.[10]

Michigan's starting lineup against California was Frutig (left end), Wistert (left tackle), Fritz (left guard), Ingalls (center), Kolesar (right guard), Kelto (right tackle), Rogers (right end), Evashevski (quarterback), Harmon (left halfback), Call (right halfback), and Westfall (fullback).[10]


Varsity letter winners

Varsity reserves

Awards and honors

Team players in the NFL

The following players were claimed in the 1941 NFL Draft.

Player Position Round Pick NFL Club
Tom Harmon Halfback 1 1 Chicago Bears
Forest Evashevski Back 1 10 Washington Redskins


Coaching and training staff


External links

  • 1940 Football Team -- Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan Athletics History
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