Michigan Football vs Michigan State — Looking Back — 1976

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.

Michigan Football vs Michigan State — Looking Back — 1968

The second installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State takes us to 1968. With the notable exception of 1964, the Wolverines hadn’t exactly prospered in the ‘60s. Michigan had two players who were named to several All-America squads in 1968. Running back Ron Johnson gained more than 2,500 yards that season, while defensive back Tom Curtis intercepted 10 passes. The Michigan roster was stocked with many talented players, but the more talented team doesn’t always win the Michigan-Michigan State contest.

In fact, Michigan opened the 1968 season with a loss to California, which made coach Bump Elliott’s seat even warmer than it had been. Going into the game against Michigan State, the Wolverines had a 1-2 record, and they had lost the previous three games against the Spartans. For Johnson, in particular, this game would be his last hope for victory against Michigan State. If the Wolverines didn’t win this one, Johnson, and the other seniors on the Michigan squad, would be haunted by the result for the rest of their lives.

Johnson didn’t take long to make his presence felt, scoring on a 38-yard run to give Michigan the early lead. But in the fourth quarter, Michigan State quarterback Charlie Wedemeyer found receiver Frank Foreman in the end zone, and after the two-point conversion, Michigan State led, 14-13. Facing yet another potential defeat by their rivals, the Wolverines leaned heavily on Johnson, and he delivered. Johnson carried the ball 19 times in the game, gaining 152 yards, and touchdowns by future All-America tight end Jim Mandich and Montclair, New Jersey native Garvie Craw led the Wolverines to a 28-14, giving the outgoing seniors their shining moment in the in-state rivalry.

After college, many members of the 1968 team went on to prominent careers. After prospering in a blue jersey in college, Johnson wore blue with the New York Football Giants, where he became the first player in franchise history to gain at least 1,000 yards in a season. Curtis, too, wore blue in the NFL, where he won Super Bowl V in the 1970 season with the Baltimore Colts. Mandich went on to win two Super Bowls with the Miami Dolphins, and served as the de facto spokesperson for the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins for many years after his retirement. Sadly, both Johnson and Mandich passed away in recent years.

Thanks to YouTube, the University of Michigan, and YouTube poster WolverineHistorian for the following video clip. As always, I do not profit in any way from this blog post and video, which are presented strictly for the enjoyment of blog readers.

Michigan Football vs Michigan State — Looking Back — 1954

The first installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State takes us back to 1954. The nation was enjoying postwar prosperity, fueled largely by the automobile industry, which was headquartered in Michigan. The season before, a trophy was introduced into the rivalry. Michigan State won the Paul Bunyan Trophy in the first game involving the trophy, but Michigan had dominated the rivalry for the most part until 1953. In 1954, the Wolverines were ready to re-establish control of the rivalry.

In terms of the game, sadly, few details remain, other than Michigan’s victorious 33-7 score. Arguably the most noteworthy event of the whole game was how Michigan treated the Paul Bunyan Trophy. Unlike recent victories, the 1954 team showed a disdain for the trophy, and that’s been the pervasive attitude for decades. Unlike the Little Brown Jug, which is treasured by everyone with maize & blue in their DNA, the Paul Bunyan Trophy has long been regarded as more of locker room trophy, the logic being that Michigan should always beat the Spartans.

If anything, the most important thing to come out of the 1954 game was that the Paul Bunyan Trophy breathed new life into a rivalry that had been one-sided for decades. Michigan State’s win in 1953 marked only the 10th time that the Spartans had defeated Michigan in a series that dated back to 1898. Suddenly, some of Michigan’s hubris was replaced by animosity, and football fans in Michigan benefited, whether they wore maize & blue or green & white.

But make no mistake, in 1954, Michigan proved that the best team in the state resided in Ann Arbor, trophy or no trophy.

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #03 – 11/11/2019 – Disaster Averted

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played one game this week, and they won it.  On Tuesday (11/05/2019), they beat Appalachian State 79-71 in Crisler Arena.  Michigan’s record is now 1-0.

What Happened?

As the title says, a disaster was (barely) averted.  Michigan almost blew a 30-point lead in the 2nd half against an obviously inferior opponent.  Almost.  The 1st half went smoothly, with UM opening up a nice 20-point lead (41-21) with 3:54 left, and pushing it up to 23 points (46-25) at halftime.  The first 5 minutes of the 2nd half were fine as well, with UM building up a nice, safe, solid 30-point lead, 63-33.  The lead was still 30 points (67-37) with 12:59 left in the game, when the bottom fell out.  Michigan went to sleep on both ends of the court, and allowed ASU to go on a miserable 27-3 run over the next 10:36, which made the score 70-64 with 2:23 left.  During that stretch, Michigan went 1-for-12, with 9 turnovers.  Fortunately, UM woke up in the last 2:23 to seal the victory that almost got away.

Stats

Michigan shot reasonably well overall (29-for-61 = 37.5%), they shot 3-pointers reasonably well (9-for-25 = 36.0%), and they shot free throws pretty well (12-for-19 = 63.2%).  They (barely) won the rebounding battle (34-33) and the turnover battle (17-19).

Who Started?

The starters were Zavier Simpson, Eli Brooks, Adrien Nuñez, Isaiah Livers, and Jon Teske.

Who Looked Good?

Brooks was the leading scorer, with a career-high 24 points.  He shot a decent percentage overall (7-for-15) and from 3-poiht range (5-for-11).

Teske had a double-double (17 points, 13 rebounds), but was only a factor in the 1st half, when he had 15 points and 11 rebounds, which means he only scored 2 points and grabbed 2 rebounds in the 2nd half.

Livers was the only other Michigan player in double figures, with 14 points.  He played hard, but just wasn’t very hot.

Colin Castleton almost hit double figures, with 8 points.  He looked pretty comfortable out there.

Nuñez had 5 points, including a 3-pointer that was the only points UM got in the 27-3 ASU run.

Brandon Johns, Jr. had 5 points, and looked OK out there.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

David DeJulius played 28 minutes, and scored 0 points on 0-for-3 shooting.

Who Else Played?

When Michigan got ahead by 30 points with 13 minutes left in the game, I expected to see a bunch of subs, but then UM frittered away almost all of that lead, and Coach Howard had to keep his starters in the game until the very end.  So, this game featured a “short bench”.

Who Didn’t Play?

Franz Wagner still has a broken wrist, and didn’t suit up.  He’s out for at least another month.

Cole Bajema and Austin Davis were the only 2 “regular” players who didn’t get in.

The practice squad (C.J. Baird, Jaron Faulds, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, and Luke Wilson) didn’t get in.

What Does It Mean?

The good news: Michigan is good/talented/poised enough to dominate a lesser opponent and open up a 30 point lead in 27 minutes.

The bad news: Michigan is young/inexperienced/fragile enough to lose most of a 30-point lead in 13 minutes.

The games are going to start getting tougher very soon, and the “good” Michigan team better show up.  The “young” Michigan team will get spanked.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan plays 2 games, both in Crisler Arena.  On Tuesday (11/12/2019, 6:30 p.m., FS1), they play Creighton, then on Friday (11/15/2019, 7:00 p.m., BTN), they play Elon.  The Creighton game is part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games, which is essentially the Big East/Big Ten Challenge.  The Elon game is associated with the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament that Michigan is playing in over the Thanksgiving break.  Elon is in what they call the “Mainland Bracket”, which means that they play one game “on the mainland” (as opposed to the Bahamas, where the “Championship Bracket” is played) against one of the “Championship Bracket” teams, in this case Michigan, and then they play 2 other teams in the “Mainland Bracket” at home.

Creighton was 20-15 last season, and went to the NIT.  They have some height (2 players at 6’11”), they have 5 of their top 6 scorers from last season returning, and they shoot a lot of 3-pointers.  This will be a good test for Michigan.

Elon was 11-21 last season, and they don’t look to be much better this season.  They don’t have much height (2 players at 6’8”), and they’ve got a pretty young team.  Michigan should handle them pretty easily, but that’s what I said about Appalachian State.

Come on down to Crisler to check out this season’s team, and stop by Sections 209-210 to say hi.

Go Blue!