Michigan vs Michigan State Football – Looking Back – 1975

The college football landscape was much different in 1975. For that matter, the entire world was different. Nobody had even heard of the term “social media.” If you saw anyone carrying anything like a cell phone, it was either part of a science fiction movie, or one of those spectacular gadgets that James Bond used. On the gridiron, Michigan fans hadn’t yet developed a fear of mobile quarterbacks and spread offenses, and the team certainly didn’t have a defensive coordinator who designed blitzes to stop the spread. And if you wanted to wait for a sandwich at the corner of Kingsley and Detroit, you wouldn’t even have to wait on a line. Of course, that wouldn’t have helped you get a sandwich, since it was several years before Zingerman’s opened its doors.

There were a couple of things that were similar to our modern era, though. Michigan actually wore white pants in 1975, marking the last time a Wolverines team wore white pants in East Lansing. Of course, there are rumors of a Michigan uniform surprise this Saturday, but I digress.

The other thing the 1975 Wolverines had in common with the current Wolverines was a determination to run the ball behind a powerful offensive line. Head coach Bo Schembechler was so detail-oriented that he used a ruler to measure the splits between the stances of his offensive linemen. Schembechler was going to make sure his teams ran the ball well, a skill that has often proved to be the deciding factor against Michigan State. Michigan had a left tackle that season named Mike Kenn who went on to become one of the few offensive linemen in the NFL to have some success against Lawrence Taylor. The maize and blue also had a backup offensive lineman named Les Miles who went on to experience a fair amount of success as a football coach, though none of it occurred in Ann Arbor.

Most of all, the offensive line opened holes for running backs Gordon Bell and Rob Lytle. Together, Bell and Lytle combined for 216 yards on 39 carries against Michigan State, as the Wolverines seized possession of the ball and the game’s pace, averaging more than five yards a carry. Add in 69 yards on the ground by quarterback Rick Leach and it was obvious to see why Michigan controlled play that day. Ironically, Leach was the same type of quarterback who frustrated Michigan defenses in the early years of the 21st Century.

Still, the Spartans weren’t about to go quietly. After three quarters, the teams had split two field goals apiece, and it wasn’t until Bell scored on an 18-yard run in the fourth quarter that Michigan pulled away for good, leaving East Lansing with a 16-6 win over Michigan State. Unfortunately, the season ended in less-than-stellar fashion, as Michigan surrendered a late lead against Ohio State and fell to eventual national champion Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. But with Leach, Bell, and Lytle on the offense, and linebacker Calvin O’Neal and safety Dwight Hicks on defense, 1975 was merely a prelude of things to come for Michigan football.

There was another thing that was interesting about 1975. President Gerald Ford was a Michigan graduate, having played on the undefeated national championship teams of 1932 and 1933.

Enjoy this clip of Michigan football practice from 1975.

Brady Hoke – Last Stand of the Michigan Man?

I grew up with Saturdays being “days of holy obligation.” When I played football in high school I wore a Michigan t-shirt to counter the bad karma of our very Buckeye-looking uniforms. On a recruiting trip to Michigan I made my case for how Bo needed a 5′ 8″ linebacker with above average speed to play football for him. When I attended the University of Michigan I did my best to spread the Wolverine gospel to my classmates. I followed Moeller, initially scoffed at Lloyd’s appointment but happily celebrated in Pasadena as the Wolverines led by Charles Woodson won the National Championship (KMA coaches poll!!)

When Lloyd retired, I understood that the line of Michigan Men coaching the Wolverines was probably over and that the Michigan Football program was fundamentally changing.

I questioned whether I was fan of Michigan Football or Michigan Football as defined by Bo Schembechler.

Continue reading “Brady Hoke – Last Stand of the Michigan Man?”

The Last Time I Saw Bo…

 

It’s taken me a long to write this article.

Last year I led a group on a private tour of Michigan Stadium on the Thursday before the Michigan/Ohio State game.

This tour took us all through the press box, on the field, through the tunnel and into the Michigan locker room.  But the highlight of the tour was running into Bo Schembechler in the press box  Bo was on his way to film an interview segment for HBO about the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry.

He didn’t look well.  But when he was introduced to our group he smiled and shook hands and seemed to light up.  His health may have been in decline but he still had boundless charm.  It was the highlight of the tour to say the least.

The next day Bo died.

I feel incredibly blessed that I got to see him one last time before he passed because Bo Schembechler and Michigan football changed my life.

Several years ago Bo and Jim Brandstatter did a book tour for “Tales from Michigan Stadium”.  One night when Bo and Jim and were signing copies at the local Ann Arbor M-Den I hung around until the lines dissipated and took the opportunity to speak with Bo.

I wanted him to know what an impact he had on my life.  I told him how I decided at young age to attend the University of Michigan.  That a lot of people told me that it would never happen- that kids from my high school didn’t go to Big Ten Universities.  That in my heart I knew what the mind can conceive and believe the mind can achieve and I was going the University of Michigan.  I told him how I saw Anthony Carter score a touchdown at my first Michigan game but the Wolverines lost 9-7.  I told him how although my high school football uniform was practically identical to Ohio State I wore a blue shirt underneath my pads for Michigan.  Of how I disappointed I was to get waitlisted when I first applied to Michigan, of how I wouldn’t give up until I was admitted.  I told how I drove cross country to see him coach his last game in the Rose Bowl only to see the referees call a bogus holding penalty to negate a 4th down conversion to end Michigan’s chances late in the game.  I told him how after UM commencement in the stadium I walked out the tunnel of Michigan Stadium for the first time.

Bo looked at me for second and then said, “You done good!”

I’m sure he heard these kind of stories all the time.

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After this I thanked him and got his autograph on a photo of us taken during a recruiting visit to Michigan football practice.  The photo is proudly displayed on my wall.

The word hero gets thrown around a lot and some question whether a football  coach is worthy of such praise.

But what is a hero?  I believe a hero is someone who inspires us to greatness.

Bo Schembechler is one of my heroes.  And I make no apologies to anyone for that.

Bo Schembechler- The Glory is Departed

 

To: Bo Schembechler

From:  GOD

RE: My UM/OSU party

 

Dear Bo,

For a while now, I’ve had the pleasure of watching the annual Michigan/Ohio State football game with a friend of yours, one Woodrow AKA “Woody” Hayes.

Well, Bo you know that Woody can be a little one sided in his game commentary so I’ve decided to call upon you to balance out my game watching experience.  I have to warn you though, Woody keeps talking about how bad he wants a re-match of the 1969 game.  You guys will have to work that one out yourselves.

Don’t worry about bringing anything.  I’ll have it all covered.

Sorry I had to call you before your television segment was filmed- I know how you love the cameras- but there are a lot of people here who want to talk to you.  Some guy named Ufer has been honking a horn for the last 24 years and can’t wait for you to hear his play-by-play from the 1998 Rose Bowl.  And Fritz Crisler and Fielding Yost want to have a long talk about how your teams threw the ball WAY TOO MUCH for their tastes.

Don’t worry about the folks down in Ann Arbor- BTW one of my favorite places on earth- they won’t ever forget about you.  The impact you’ve made on countless lives insures that while you’ll be missed you will NEVER be forgotten.

I have a feeling it’s going to be a GREAT GAME.  Sorry I didn’t run this by you beforehand but I know how stubborn you can be.

GO BLUE!*

GOD

* Come on now- you knew all along whose side I was on.  I made the sun maize and the sky blue for heavens sake!