Michigan vs Ohio State Football – Looking Back – 1980

Looking Back is a Special Feature Highlighting
Key Rivalry Games by Jeff Cummins

The second installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State takes us back to 1980. When most historians think of the final score of 9-3 in that rivalry, thoughts usually turn to the Snow Bowl in 1950. But in 1980, Bo Schembechler’s Michigan team had started the season with two losses in the first three games, leaving many fans worried about the team.

Those worries were put to rest in the game for the Little Brown Jug, as the Wolverines routed the Minnesota Golden Gophers, establishing the identity of the ’80 team. Once November arrived, Michigan recorded three connective shutouts against Indiana, Wisconsin, and Purdue, leading to the regular season finale at Ohio State. The Buckeyes grabbed the lead first when Vlade Janakievski hit a 33-yard field goal for Ohio State’s only points of the game. Ali Haji-Sheikh then tied the score several minutes before halftime with a 43-yard field goal. The second half continued with more defense, but five minutes into the third quarter, John Wangler connected with wide receiver Anthony Carter as he darted between two defenders at the goal line, and suddenly the Wolverines had a 9-3 lead. With 1:08 remaining in the game, Ohio State got the ball back on its own 32-yard line. The Buckeyes then advanced all the way to the Michigan 32-yard line before the Wolverines’ defense stiffened. On 3rd down and 10 yards to go, the Michigan defense pressured Ohio State quarterback Art Schlichter into an intentional grounding penalty, bringing up one final chance for the Buckeyes. On fourth down, Michigan’s Robert Thompson hit Schlichter before he could react, and the sack gave Michigan the ball and the victory, as Wangler took the snap from center and kneeled down on the game’s final play.

When the season was over, Michigan finished with a 10-2 record, recording a 23-6 win over Washington in the Rose Bowl, and allowing just nine points in the last five games. Michigan’s defense had entered the Ohio State game with 14 consecutive scoreless quarters. The argument could certainly be made that no team coached by Schembechler improved as much over the course of a season as the 1980 team did.

Many members of the 1980 team went on to prominent careers. Reserve linebacker Jim Herrmann became the Michigan defensive coordinator, and coached the Wolverines’ defense during the perfect season in 1997, and coached the New York Giants’ linebackers during the Giants’ Super Bowl-winning campaign in the 2011 season. Defensive back Brad Bates became the athletic director at Boston College. Assistant coaches Bill McCartney, Lloyd Carr, and Les Miles each went on to coach national championship teams at the collegiate level. Finally, Anthony Carter and George Lilja both went on to be named All-Americans.

Thanks to YouTube, ABC Sports, and YouTube posters WolverineHistorian and Dr. Sap. As always, I own nothing and do not profit from this blog post in any way.

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 — 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.