Michigan Football vs Michigan State — Looking Back — 1976

UMGOBLUE.COM

The third installment of this year’s series looking back at the Michigan-Michigan State football rivalry takes us back to 1976. The Nation was celebrating its Bicentennial, and Michigan was celebrating the development of a new quarterback, then sophomore Rick Leach. Today, Leach would be called a run-pass option QB, but the option was part of Michigan’s package back then, and the triple option was fairly prominent across the nation. Leach could it all, run, pass, read the defense, you name it. And when he handed the ball off, his “lack of ball” fakes gave the defense an extra element to think about — as if they didn’t already have enough problems!

Sadly, it’s virtually impossible to find a box score, or a game story, or anything on this game except the final score (Michigan 42, Michigan State 10) and the film below, which doesn’t have any audio. The most important thing to know is this: Michigan dominated Michigan State. That win was the Wolverines’ seventh of eight consecutive victories against the Spartans, and it’s clear that Bo quickly learned never to underestimate Michigan State, a lesson that paid dividends throughout Bo’s tenure in Ann Arbor.

In addition to Leach, there were many outstanding players on the 1976 Michigan team, including four players who were named All-Americans, Rob Lyle, Calvin O’Neal, Jim Smith, and Mark Donahue. But one of the most interesting stories came from left tackle Mike Kenn, who was never a household name. Kenn went on to play 17 years with the Atlanta Falcons in the National Football League, and gained acclaim as one of the few players who could hold his own against Lawrence Taylor. Long, rangy, and very light for an offensive tackle, Kenn relied on technique and smarts to overcome most pass rushers, skills he learned from Michigan offensive line coach Jerry Hanlon. Listening to Hanlon speak, it’s almost difficult to imagine that such a soft-spoken man could develop such dominant offensive linemen.

As always, I own nothing and I do profit from this blog post in any way. Many thanks to YouTube and YouTube poster Ed G. Berry for the video below.

About Jeff Cummins

Jeff Cummins has written about football since 1998, including nine years with The Record of Hackensack, N.J. He frequently contributes feature stories to Touchdown Illustrated, an insert in the national college football game program, published by University Sports Publications, and he has also written the official pregame stories for the game programs of the Rose Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Gator Bowl, and the BCS National Championship game. He has written the preview story for the official program for the NHL Winter Classic at MIchigan Stadium, and numerous college basketball feature stories for College Hoops Illustrated, another game program insert published by University Sports Publications. In addition, he has written stories about theater, music, physical therapy, and newsletter marketing. He’s an avid Michigan football fan and long-time New York Jets season ticket holder, and he can be reached at jeffcummins@optonline.net.