Michigan Football vs Michigan State — Looking Back — 1970

The second installment of this year’s series looking back at the  football rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State takes us back to  1970. The Age of Aquarius had dawned, and we watched nightly clips of  the war in Vietnam. On the gridiron, Bo Schembechler and the Michigan Wolverines were the toast of the Big Ten, having earned a surprise trip to the Rose Bowl at the end of the previous season. Probably the only place where the Wolverines weren’t looked up to was their own state.

In his first season, it could be argued that Bo didn’t give enough credence to the rivalry with the Spartans, and he paid dearly for it as Michigan State gave the Wolverines a bruising welcome to the conference. But as Bo once said, “Don’t let one loss turn into two.” By 1970, Bo was ready, and his Wolverines were waiting for the Spartans. He turned running back Billy Taylor loose behind offensive linemen Dan Dierdorf and Reggie McKenzie, and the Wolverines romped over Michigan State 34-20. The victory was the first of eight for Michigan against their rivals, while the Spartans suffered their third consecutive loss of the season, coming on the heels of back-to-back losses to Notre Dame and Ohio State. Michigan State finished 4-6, while the Maize & Blue roared to a 9-1 record in 1970.

Our thanks to youtube poster WolverineHistorian for this coaches’ film
from the 1970 season below. As always, we own nothing and do not profit
in any way from this blog post.

Michigan Football vs Michigan State — Looking Back — 1980

The first installment of the series looking back at the rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State takes us back to 1980. The world we lived in was smaller and slower in 1980, and in many parts of the country, people were just discovering cable television. In Ann Arbor, the Wolverines had a new star in place kicker Ali Haji-Sheik. Haji-Sheik had been born in Ann Arbor, but he was raised in Texas, far from chilly fall afternoons in the Big Ten. And yes, the Wolverines also had a coach named Bo Schembechler, who possessed a pretty astute football mind, and maybe even more important, a tremendous football instinct.

After splitting their first four games, the Wolverines were 2-2, and their season could have gone either way. A loss to Michigan State could easily send the Michigan season spiraling downward, while a win could propel the Maize and Blue on a path toward the Big Ten championship. Enter Bo and his legendary instinct. With the score tied 13-13, Haji-Sheikh connected on a field goal, but Michigan State was called for roughing the kicker. With a considerable amount riding on his decision, Bo strayed from the conventional wisdom that you don’t take points off the scoreboard and opted to take the penalty instead, putting his faith in the Michigan offense. Quarterback John Wangler and wide receiver Anthony Carter rewarded that confidence when they connected for a go-ahead touchdown, and the Wolverines went on to top the Spartans, 27-23.

That win over Michigan State helped the Wolverines put a maize & blue stamp on the rest of the season, as they won the rest of their games, capturing the Big Ten championship and topping the Washington Huskies in the Rose Bowl, 23-6. Michigan finished the season with a record of 10 wind and 2 losses, ranked No. 4 in both the coaches poll and the AP poll.

Out thanks to ON TV Sports and youtube poster WolverineHistorian for the video below. As always, we own nothing and do not profit from this blog post.

Michigan vs Ohio State Football – Looking Back – 1978

The fourth installment of the series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State takes us to 1978. This was an unusual time in America, and particularly in southeastern Michigan. The automobile industry was undergoing changes and facing significant competition from foreign manufacturers. People wanted desperately to feel optimistic, but there was an uneasy sense in the nation. For Michigan students, alumni, and fans, the UM football team provided a temporary escape from their concerns.

While head coach Bo Schembechler always preached the importance of focusing on the team, there’s no denying the fact that quarterback Rick Leach was the face of those Michigan teams from 1976 through 1978. Sure, Michigan boasted its usual staunch defense and pulverizing offensive line, but Leach grabbed most of the headlines as he slashed his way through defenses. In 1978, Leach led Michigan back to Ohio Stadium, where the Maize and Blue had routed the Buckeyes two years earlier. This time, it would be a little more challenging. Michigan running back Harlan Huckleby didn’t play and fullback Russell Davis was sick. Compounding that was the fact that Leach pulled a hamstring in the second quarter. So, how did Leach respond? He threw a pair of touchdown passes, one for 30 yards to Rodney Feaster and one for 11 yards to Roosevelt Smith, to lead the Wolverines to a 14-3 win over their rivals from Columbus.

Still, any report on this game would be remiss if it didn’t mention the Michigan defense. The Wolverines held the Buckeyes to just 48 passing yards, and Michigan’s third down efficiency was impressive, to say the least. Michigan allowed Ohio State to convert only four of 16 third down opportunities, ushering the Buckeye offense off the field swiftly. Linebacker Ron Simpkins led the Wolverines with 15 total tackles, and middle guard Mike Trgovac had two tackles for loss.

The win marked Michigan’s third consecutive triumph over Ohio State, and it was the 10th and final game between Bo and Ohio State coach Woody Hayes. The series continued to be intense in subsequent years, but it lacked the galvanizing coaching personalities that marked that 10-year period, which many consider to be the height of the rivalry.

Thanks, as always, to ABC Sports, and to YouTube posters WolverineHistorian and Dr. Sap. I own nothing and this blog and the accompanying videos are posted strictly for the enjoyment of readers.