Michigan vs Ohio State Football – Looking Back – 1977

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 to 1977. Four years earlier, Woody Hayes and his band of Buckeyes attempted to tear down the M Club banner. This year, this Wolverines were ready. Before the game, a cadre of Wolverine graduates, dressed in street clothes, fended off the Buckeyes as they attempted to attack the banner. This time, Ohio State didn’t fare so well in its attack on the banner.

If Woody Hayes wasn’t concerned by the fact that the Michigan men thwarted the attack, he certainly should have been. Things only got worse for Ohio State after that. After driving deep into Michigan territory, Ohio State was forced to settle for a field goal. The momentum changed in the second quarter when UM quarterback Rick Leach connected with running back Roosevelt Smith to give Michigan a first down and goal at the Ohio State 9-yard line. Two play later, Smith punched the ball over from the 1-yard line, and Michigan never trailed again.

In the third quarter, Michigan hit Ohio State running back Ron Springs hard, causing Springs to fumble, and Michigan linebacker Ron Simpkins pounced on the ball immediately, giving Michigan possession at the Ohio State 20-yard line. Three plays later, Leach scored on an option play, and the Wolverines led, 14-3. Ohio State kicked a field goal to trim the lead, setting up the dramatic final quarter.

With four minutes left in the game, Ohio State had a first down and goal to go at the Michigan 8-yard line. Michigan linebacker John Anderson then drilled Buckeye quarterback Rod Gerald, knocking the ball loose, and Derek Howard recovered it for Michigan. The Wolverines then ran out the clock, while Hayes punched an ABC cameraman on the sideline.

The victory earned Michigan the Big Ten championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl, while Ohio State was relegated to the Sugar Bowl. Michigan fell to Washington in the Rose Bowl, but the lasting memory of the 1977 season is the throng of Michigan fans who stormed the field after the win over Ohio State.

Many thanks to ESPN Classic for the film of this game. As always, we own nothing, and this film and blog post are intended strictly for the enjoyment of readers.

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 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.

Michigan vs Ohio State Football – Looking Back – 1975

The third installment of the series looking back at the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry takes us to 1975. KC and the Sunshine Band had Americans listening to “That’s the Way (I like it)” and we had a Wolverine in the White House, with President Gerald Ford promising to “Whip Inflation Now”, while some clever, less optimistic people turned the WIN buttons upside down to convey “No Immediate Miracles.”

That last bit was good advice for the Michigan football team’s hope of beating Ohio State. Both teams came into the 1975 game without a loss, with Ohio State 10-0 and Michigan 8-0-2. The game started off like so many others had in that era, with Ohio State scoring first when Cornelius Greene connected with Peter Johnson for a 7-yard touchdown pass. Then Michigan struck back and went 80 yards, with running back Gordon Bell capping the drive by throwing a halfback option pass to Jim Smith for an 11-yard touchdown pass. In the fourth quarter, Michigan took the lead when Rick Leach scored on a 1-yard run to give Michigan a 14-7 lead. Michigan Stadium was buzzing with the hope for a Michigan win, but Ohio State had other ideas. On 4th down and one yard to go, Johnson dove in to the end zone to tie the score. Things got worse for Michigan when Leach dropped back to pass deep in Wolverine territory and was intercepted by Ohio State defensive back Ray Griffin, who returned the ball to the Michigan 3-yard line, setting up another touchdown run by Johnson and sending the crowd of 105, 543 back to their tailgate parties to contemplate what could possibly have gone wrong in the fourth quarter.

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For Ohio State, the celebration was brief. The Buckeyes traveled to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl for a rematch against a UCLA team that Ohio State had beaten earlier in the season. This time it didn’t work out so well for Ohio State, as UCLA won the Rose Bowl, 23-10. Michigan went to the Orange Bowl to play Oklahoma, which topped the Wolverines, 14-6. All in all, it was a frustrating season for Michigan, but fans of the Maize & Blue were encouraged by the youth of the team’s roster, and the knowledge that plenty of talented players would return for the 1976 season.

Thanks to youtube poster Ourhonordefend and ABC Sports. As always, I own nothing and all content is posted strictly for your enjoyment.

2009 M Football- Lloyd Carr gets Rick rolled

Lloyd Carr retired two seasons ago but his shadow still looms large over the Michigan football program.

Just ask former Wolverine QB Rick Leach, who this week blasted the former coach on local sports radio.

Leach, who has been a vocal supporter of Carr’s successor Rich Rodriguez, accused Carr of high treason for attending the Michigan/Iowa game and having “…the audacity, the unmitigated gall…” to not sit with the Michigan contingent.

It’s an ironic turn of events for two men who are both so closely identified with Michigan football.  Leach for his outstanding college career and Carr for leading the Wolverines to the 1997 National Championship.

Leach, who is revered by many Wolverine fans, seems to represent a vocal minority of Wolverines fans who were critical of Coach Carr and pushed for his departure.  What’s puzzling is why nearly two years after Carr’s retirement that the attacks continue.

My impression is that Leach wasn’t exactly one of the Lloyd’s favorite people.  When Rodriguez become coach Leach got a new lease on life as a program insider.  Since then Leach has been front and center in defending Rodriguez while continuing to take shots at Carr.

But Leach’s campaign against Carr will do nothing to stop the Detroit Free Press’ inquisition of current Coach Rich Rodriguez.

His radio tirade only exposes a fissure between two legends of the Michigan football program.

In times like this I wonder what Bo what would say about the situation.

My guess is he’d chide Lloyd for his choice of seating at the Iowa/Michigan football game.

But it wouldn’t anything compared to the ass chewing that he’d give Leach.

Go Blue!