Friday, June 30, 2006

1976 team: A Bicentennial Powerhouse

The 1976 team was a dominant squad and was ranked #1 in the nation for most of the season. The Wolverines began the year ranked #2 but after posting a 40-27 victory over Wisconsin in the season opener U of M ascended to the #1 ranking in the AP poll. The Wolverines offense featured sophmore sensation Rick Leach at quarterback, Heisman Trophy candidate Rob Lytle at running back, All-American Jim Smith at wingback, and All-American Mark Donahue at offensive guard. The defense was led by tri-captain and All-American middle linebacker Calvin O'Neal. As the #1 team in the nation, the Wolverines rolled to an 8-0 record. In those first eight games, U of M scored at least 31 points in each contest and the defense shut out the opponents in four of those first eight games. However, a tough 16-14 road loss to Purdue in the ninth game dashed U of M's dreams of an undefeated season and the National Championship.

The Wolverines resumed their winning ways the following week by drilling Illinois 38-7 which set U of M up for their annual season ending showdown with Ohio State. U of M was 0-3-1 against the Buckeyes over the previous four seasons and the Wolverines were looking to go to Columbus and come home with a victory. The talented Wolverines overwhelmed OSU and U of M pounded their way to a 22-0 win over the Buckeyes. This win propelled U of M back to the #2 ranking and into a spot in the Rose Bowl for the first time since the January 1, 1972 game. In a battle against the #3 ranked USC Trojans, the Wolverines fell 14-6 in a classic contest. The Wolverines finished the season with a 10-2 record and a season ending ranking of #3 in the AP poll. The top-3 finish marked the second time in 3 years that U of M finished in the top-3 (1974 & 1976). It was also the eighth consecutive year that U of M finished in the top-10 in the AP poll (1969-1976). Go Blue!

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Chad Henne: Year-by-Year

The popular notion is that junior QB Chad Henne suffered a sophmore slump last season and that he needs to bounce back in 2006. However, a comparison of his statistics from his first two seasons as U of M's signal caller reveals that Chad's performance in his sophmore season rivaled if not equaled that of his freshman season. Although the Wolverines as a whole did much better in 2004 (9-3 overall, Big Ten co-Champs, trip to the Rose Bowl) than they did in 2005 (7-5 overall, 3rd place tie in Big Ten, trip to the Alamo Bowl), Henne's performance was rather consistent during the two seasons. Just take a look:

  • 2004: 240/399 60.2% 2,743 yds. 25 tds. 12 int.
  • 2005: 223/382 58.4% 2,526 yds. 23 tds. 8 int.

Henne's Passer Efficiency Rating was 132.6 in 2004 while it was a very similar 129.6 in 2005. Thus, I do not believe the hype that Henne suffered a "sophmore slump" and, consequently, I do not believe he has anything from which he has to "bounce back." I do believe that Henne can have a break-out year in 2006 if Mike Hart can stay healthy and establish the running game.

My prediction is that with the help of new Offensive Coordinator Mike DeBord that Henne will set a new single-season record for touchdown passes with thirty. The current record is 25 which he co-holds with Elvis Grbac (1991). It should be noted that although Chad is starting only his 3rd season, that he is only 24 touchdown passes away from tying the career record for touchdown passes (72) by a Michigan player which is currently held by John Navarre. In fact, Henne will own most, if not all, the major passing records at U of M by the time he is finished.

Henne has been consistently very good during his first two seasons but I think he is poised for greatness this season. Let's just hope he can stay healthy and the receiving corps can catch what he is throwing their way. Go Blue!


"Big Jon" ready to start new streak

Director of Equipment Operations Jon Falk has been filling all the team's equipment needs since accepting Bo's job offer back in 1974. "Big Jon" worked 384 consecutive games at Michigan through the Iowa game last season. In that fateful game, however, his leg got snapped and so did his consecutive game streak. More specifically, "Big Jon" got bowled over in the Iowa game on a play where the tacklers tumbled out-of-bounds and Jon suffered a broken leg. The injury was so severe he missed the game the following week versus Northwestern and then he underwent surgery two days later. Prior to his surgery the team captains awarded "Big Jon" the game ball from the victory over Northwestern. After missing the rest of the season and undergoing physical therapy that would make one of the starters cringe, "Big Jon" is back this year and ready to start a new consecutive game streak.

As the head equipment manager, "Big Jon" is responsible for dressing the team for success. He has a staff of four full-time assistants and seven student workers. One of the duties that "Big Jon" has taken on his own shoulders in the past is to personally drive the "Michigan Football" 18-Wheeler to Columbus, OH on the Thursday night before the U of M/OSU game. In recognition of his many years of hard work and dedication to the University, the Letterwinners M Club bestowed upon Jon the title of "Honorary M Man" in 1993. Go Blue!


Friday, June 23, 2006

Trend of having players graduate high school early to start college practice

In what is turning into an annual occurence, it appears Michigan will have one of its new recruits (Ryan Mallett) graduate early from high school so that he can enroll at U of M for the Winter Semester while his high school classmates will still be enjoying their senior year. Kevin Grady (sophmore) and Carlos Brown (freshman) are previous early-entry Wolverines. I oppose this trend as I believe that high school players should graduate with their high school class as the players need time to develop and mature before they engage in the rigors (athletic, academic and social) of college life at U of M.

Kevin Grady graduated early from East Grand Rapids High School in Grand Rapids, MI so that he could attend the 2005 Rose Bowl (and participate in the bowl game practices) with the team as well as participate in the 2005 spring practices. Normally, Kevin would not have started practicing with the team until he enrolled for classes for the Fall Semester in August, 2005. However, by virtue of his early enrollment, Kevin was able to practice with the team during the eight months prior to his commencing his freshman season in 2005. The extra practice may have paid off as Kevin was one of only six true freshman to see game action in 2005 and Kevin was the team's 2nd leading rusher on the season with 483 yards. He also led the team in rushing touchdowns with five.

Hoping to duplicate the freshman success of Kevin Grady is this year's early-entry player: Carlos Brown. Carlos, like Grady, is a running back. Carlos was able to participate in 2006 spring practices with U of M because he enrolled as a Winter Semester student after graduating early from Heard County High School in Franklin, GA. U of M looks to be planning to utilize Brown in many different ways in 2006.

As noted previously, current committed recruit and high school senior Ryan Mallett of Texarkana, TX apparently plans to graduate high school early (December, 2006) and enroll in U of M for the Winter Semester of 2007. Mallett, as everyone who has not been hit in the head repeatedly with a mallet knows, is the all-everything QB who is projected to be a 3-year starter for the Wolverines. Mallett hopes the early-entry will allow him more time to learn the offense and study film.

There is certainly a benefit to the team and maybe even to the player to having the player enroll at U of M early. However, I think the negatives far outweigh the positives. Most 17 and 18-year old high school seniors are ill equipped to deal with the daily pressures that go along with being a member of such a high profile team at such a tender age. While the new player gets the opportunity to practice with the team by enrolling early, the player is also being thrown instantly into the craziness of campus life where everyone wants a piece of the program's new "savior." Furthermore, the early-entry player is left relatively unprotected in that he does not have the support network of other incoming freshman players to rely on. He immediately has to find his place among his more experienced teammates while he is viewed as the young newbie who has to show he belongs. That is a lot to ask of anyone.

The downside to throwing a high school student (even a supremely talented one) into the college ranks before his time is that the player's development could be irreparably damaged. Young superstars need to be nurtured and brought along. If a player gets off to a poor start, has his confidence shaken, has trouble meshing with the upper classmen and/or becomes homesick the player's growth and development as a Michigan player could be stunted and that will hurt both the player and the program.

As it is, the recruiting process intrudes on the high school experience of the blue-chip prospects. It becomes too much, however, when the college experience begins before high school even ends. There is plenty of time (four years) for the players to perform in the pressure cooker of "The Big House." Let the high school blue-chippers do the graduation walk with their classmates and have the fabulous freshmen start together in the fall as they have traditionally done. Go Blue!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Coach Carr's record vs. OSU: Putting it in perspective

There continues to be a low but persistent buzz surrounding the Michigan football program regarding the status of Coach Carr. The thinking in some circles is that Coach Carr is on the proverbial "hot seat" this year due in large part to U of M's 1-4 record vs. OSU over the past five years. However, there is no reason to panic because of a bad stretch versus one opponent even if the opponent in question (Ohio State) is the Wolverines arch-rival. Coach Carr's detractors just need to put things in a little bit of perspective.

First of all, Coach Carr has a winning record vs. Ohio State. He is 6-5 during his 11 year head coaching tenure. He started out by winning 5 of his first six games in this series. Coach Carr's detractors who only look at the last five years are being very myopic. While I understand the "What have you done for me lately" attitude, I think it is only fair to judge Coach Carr on his entire coaching career. Achieving a winning record in the series vs. OSU is no small accomplishment. Coach Schembechler was 5-5-1 in his first 11 games vs. OSU and, thus, Coach Carr's 6-5 record does not look so shabby in comparison.

Secondly, history tells us that teams are going to go on small runs in the U of M/OSU series. Even Bo went 0-3-1 in the series from 1972-1975 while OSU made 4 straight Rose Bowl trips. Just as it appeared that OSU was gaining the upper hand, Michigan won the next three games from 1976-1978. Under Coach Carr, as noted above, Michigan went 5-1 before OSU made their run winning four of the last five games. Although U of M would like to dominate the series all the time like it did during the "John Cooper years", I think that was an aberration and the series will continue to be a back-and-forth struggle between the two power schools of the Big Ten Conference. The fact that OSU has made a small run should have been anticipated and it is certainly not a reason to put Coach Carr on the "hot seat."

Those who ignore history lose perspective and act irrationally. Michigan need only stay the course and this to shall pass. Coach Carr's detractors are going to have to come up with a better reason than his record against OSU to run Lloyd out of "The Big House." Go Blue!

A Wolverine was in Top 10 in Heisman balloting 8 of 9 years from 1974-1982

One of the favorite topics of the college football preview magazines is the race for the Heisman Trophy. It is never too early for the Heisman hype to start. However, there is nary a mention of any of the Wolverines when it comes to talk of 2006 Heisman Trophy predictions. I figured that was fine for this year because unless you are USC, a school is not going to have a Heisman Trophy contender every single season. Or so I thought. I rationalized that Heisman Trophy candidates are rare players. They only come along once in awhile and I already feel spoiled by the fact that Michigan had two winners in the 90's in Desmond Howard (1991) and Charles Woodson (1997). However, then I came across the fact that there was a time under Bo when we did have a Heisman contender (almost) every single year. The Wolverines had a player finish in the Top 10 in the Heisman balloting eight times in the nine years from 1974 through 1982. Those Top 10 finishers were:

  • 1974: Dennis Franklin, QB (6th)
  • 1975: Gordon Bell, RB (8th)
  • 1976: Rob Lytle, RB (3rd)
  • 1977: Rick Leach, QB (8th)
  • 1978: Rick Leach, QB (3rd)
  • 1979: N/A
  • 1980: Anthony Carter, WR (10th)
  • 1981: Anthony Carter, WR (7th)
  • 1982: Anthony Carter, WR (4th)

For Bo to have 5 different players at 3 different positions each finish in the top 10 in the Heisman balloting during this era is truly impressive. I think this feat matches the fact that U of M had the two Heisman winners only six years apart in the 1990's. The lack of a Heisman contender on the 2006 team is not necessarily a shortcoming but the run between 1974-1982 shows me that it is possible to have a Wolverine in Heisman contention (nearly) every year. Traditionally, Michigan has not made a big push for a player's Heisman candidacy. However, U of M receives so much national media exposure that a Wolverine can play himself into contention just by performing on the field. As for 2006, you can never count out a healthy Mike Hart from stepping up and running himself right into the Heisman race. Go Blue!

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Michigan Sports Center post re: announcement of Big 10 Channel

The Big 10 Channel has just been announced and Sean over at Michigan Sports Center has an excellent post that gives all the details. Check it out.

The official Big Ten Conference press release of June 21, 2006 announces both the details of the new ABC/ESPN contract as well as the formation of the forthcoming Big Ten Channel. The Big Ten Channel is planned to launch in August, 2007. A quick Fact Sheet regarding the Big Ten Channel can be found here while a quick Fact Sheet regarding the Big Ten Conference ABC/ESPN Agreement can be found here. It sounds like there will be plenty of Big Ten action on television to keep us entertained for years to come. Go Blue!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

1975 team: Led by a Freshman Sensation

After three consecutive Big Ten co-Championships but no bowl trips, the 1975 team was primed to qualify for a post-season bowl game. The Big Ten Conference changed the antiquated Rose Bowl-only rule prior to the 1975 season meaning the Wolverines were eligible to play in a post-season bowl game other than the Rose Bowl. Nevertheless, U of M only had the Big Ten Championship and Pasadena on its mind when the season started. This despite the fact that Bo was starting a true freshman (Rick Leach) at quarterback. U of M was able to maintain its lofty goals despite having an inexperienced signal caller because Leach was that talented of a player. Bo's faith in his new quarterback proved to be well founded as Leach guided U of M to an 8-0-2 record heading into the final regular season game with the 10-0 OSU Buckeyes in a game that would once again decide the Big 10 title and the Rose Bowl berth. U of M led OSU 14-7 but two fourth quarter touchdowns by the Buckeyes gave OSU the 21-14 win, the Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl berth.

For the first time since the 1972 Rose Bowl game, however, U of M would be playing on New Year's Day rather than ringing in the new year at home. Unfortunately, it was in the Orange Bowl rather than the Rose Bowl but, Michigan was nevertheless glad to be back in a bowl game. Their opponent was the Oklahoma Sooners (10-1) and the game turned out to be a classic. It was a hard hitting contest and Leach sat out the 3rd quarter with a concussion and the Sooners ultimately pulled out a 14-6 victory over U of M. Oklahoma's Orange Bowl win coupled with Ohio State's Rose Bowl loss to UCLA earlier that New Year's Day gave Oklahoma the 1975 National Championship. Although U of M finished 8-2-2, the Wolverines still had a final poll ranking of #8 in the AP poll and they knew they had laid the foundation for success in the coming seasons. Go Blue!

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Tom Slade: The 1971 starting QB faces a new challenge

Tom Slade was the quarterback for Bo's 1971 team that rolled to an 11-0 regular season record and fell just short of a perfect season when it lost the Rose Bowl on a last second field goal. (See post of June 3, 2006- 1971 team: 14 seconds from perfection). More than for his passing, Slade was known for being a tough run-blocker who cleared the way for Billy Taylor and the other Wolverine running backs after he handed the ball off. Slade was tough as nails. Now 54 years old, Slade's toughness is once again coming in handy as he faces an even bigger challenge than knocking over an opposing linebacker. Slade has been diagnosed with leukemia. The University of Michigan Club of Greater Flint recently featured Slade's story in their online Alumni newsletter in which it reprinted a newspaper article written by Paul Neumeyer of the Saginaw News. The Mid Michigan ABC affiliate also recently did a story on Slade in which it reported that The Tom Slade Marrow Donor Registration Drive will take place Saturday, June 24, 2006, at the Braun, Kendrick, Finkbeiner Law Offices in Saginaw Township not far from Fashion Square Mall. If you are in the area and able to stop by, please do so. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of QB Tom Slade (17) conferring with Coach Schembechler on the sidelines from Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.


Bo discusses health in recent speech

Coach Bo Schembechler, 77, was the keynote speaker on Tuesday, June 13, 2006, at the Oakwood Healthcare System's inaugural Men's Heart Health Program at the Dearborn Inn. An article regarding the event was published in the Sunday, June 18, 2006, edition of The News-Herald (a Heritage Newspaper). During his speech, Bo discussed his medical history and he related how it impacted his years coaching. Bo also gave the crowd advice on how to stay healthy. He further discussed his current medical situation which includes the fact that he had a pacemaker installed about a year ago and he takes four shots a days for diabetes.
He said the Oakwood program was the first time he was ever asked to speak about his medical history. He was introduced by one of his Michigan players, Dr. Marc Milia, who is an Oakwood orthopedic surgeon. An overriding theme of Bo's speech was regarding the importance of "attitude." He said, "I give myself credit for one thing. I took the attitude this will not stop me."
Coach Schembechler finished his career as Michigan's all-time leader in coaching wins with 194 victories. Go Blue!

Trivia: Last Player to be Solo Team Captain?

Trivia Question: Who was the last Michigan Football player to serve as the sole team captain for the team?

Answer: Jim Mandich in 1969.

1969 was Bo's first year and TE Jim Mandich was the only team captain on that 1969 team. Following that year, Bo had multiple team captains serve each year in that position of honor. Sometimes it was two players serving as co-captains and sometimes it was three players serving as tri-captains. However, at least one player always came from the offense and at least one player always came from the defense each year. Coach Moeller and Coach Carr, during their respective tenures, continued the tradition of having multiple players serve as captains each year. Thus, Mandich remains the last team captain to have served without a counterpart.

Jim Mandich is now a sports talk radio host in Miami. He is beloved there as a key member of the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins team. Mandich now answers to the moniker "Mad Dog" as part of his radio shtick. He returned to Michigan for a night a couple of years ago to serve as Master of Ceremonies for the 2004 Michigan Football Bust put on by the U of M Club of Greater Detroit. Go Blue!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Detroit News "Cliffs Notes" of Big Ten Preview Magazines

The Big Ten Football Preview magazines have hit the racks much to the delight of information starved bloggers and fans alike. The problem is there is a mountain of information that is presented in the four major preview publications: Lindy's, Phil Steele, Athlon, and The Sporting News. It could take a long time to digest all that information. What can a college football fan do if they do not want to read all that information? Well, they could do the same thing they probably did in high school. Consult the "Cliffs Notes" version. In this case, that would be Detroit News sportswriter Dave Dye's article in the Thursday, June 15, 2006, edition of The Detroit News in which he summarized the findings of all four of the afore-mentioned preview publications.

Dave Dye, who covers MSU for the Detroit News, wrote the general consenus among the four magazines is that U of M will finish 2nd in the Big Ten Conference whereas opinions regarding MSU vary widely and have the Spartans finishing anywhere from 4th to 8th place next season. On the national scene, U of M has a preseason ranking ranging from as high #11 to as low as #17. Not surprisingly, MSU did not make any preseason top 25 polls. Although preseason rankings do not mean anything (see U of M's 2005 season), I still always like to be ranked higher than lower going into a season as that means we will have fewer teams to jump in the rankings on our way to #1 on the road to the National Title. Go Blue!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Blah Blah Blah: Offensive Indicators of Victory Revisted

Blah Blah Blah: Offensive Indicators of Victory Revisted

Robert over at Blah Blah Blah has put together, as usual, some interesting analysis. Check it out by clicking the link above. It establishes the benchmarks that new Offensive Coordinator Mike DeBord's players will have to meet in order to put the team in the best possible position to win. Go Blue!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

U-M vs OSU game on 11-18-06 has 3:30 p.m. kickoff

It has been announced that the kickoff for the U-M at OSU game on Nov. 18th is set for 3:30 p.m. U of M also announced that the Sept. 9th home game vs. Central Michigan will have a Noon kickoff.

As noted in the article in the Detroit Free Press, the 3:30 kickoff time for the U of M/OSU game is a departure from the traditional mid-afternoon start time. The change this year is being done, of course, to accomodate the television network. ABC will broadcast the game. It is fully expected that next year's game in A2 will have the normal Noon or 1:00 p.m. kickoff time. Go Blue!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A Deep Backfield Gets Deeper

Amidst all the hoopla surrounding this past weekend's Carr Wash 4 Kids, the news of senior running back Jerome Jackson rejoining the team was lost in the shuffle. The return of Jackson will add that much more depth to a solid backfield that features:

  • Mike Hart (Junior): The 2004 Big Ten Freshman of the Year who returns healthy and ready to go after after having his sophmore year slowed by injuries.
  • Kevin Grady (Sophmore): He graduated high school early so he could attend the 2005 Rose Bowl and participate in spring drills last year, Grady was one of six true freshman to see playing time last year. He was the team's second leading rusher last year with 483 yards behind only Mike Hart.
  • Mister Simpson (So./Fr.): He did not see game action last year but the 5'10", 210 lb. back is ready to show what he can do.
  • Carlos Brown (Freshman): People have high expectations for this all-everything former high school QB with blazing speed. Expect to see Offensive Coordinator Mike DeBord try to get the ball in Brown's hands in a lot of creative ways this season.

The return of Jackson, the group's only senior, will be a steadying influence on the extremely talented but somewhat inexperienced squad of running backs. Jackson is a two-time letter winner and has played in 24 career games including two starts at tailback in his career. Welcome back Mr. Jackson! Go Blue!

Photo Op!

In my post of Saturday, June 10, 2006, in which I gave a sud-by-sud account of my experience at the Carr Wash 4 Kids I mentioned that I did not take any photographs . However, the Ann Arbor News took one of me. More accurately, the picture was of my Jeep while it was getting soaped up by Offensive Coordinator Mike DeBord and a group of players at the "soap station". The picture was published in the Sunday edition (June 11, 2006) of the Ann Arbor News in the sports section on page D5. It was a great full-car shot taken from above by Robert Chase. The online version of the A2 News does not have the pictures included in the article so I'll have to scan the picture so I can post it here on the blog. What are the chances of all the cars going through the Carr Wash that a photo of my car getting washed would be selected for publication in the paper? Thank you Ann Arbor News! Go Blue!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

D-Coordinator Ron English wants "Attitude"

During the Carr Wash 4 Kids, new Defensive Coordinator Ron English was interviewed on the radio on WTKA-AM (1050). He was asked if he had to describe his 2006 Michigan defense in one word what word would he use. English said that most people answering this type of question answer "aggressive" but the word he would use would be "attitude". Coach English went on to explain his answer by saying that he wanted a certain mind-set on the field. He said (and I'm paraphrasing) that the team won't surprise people with what we are going to do. We are going to just line up and say we are more talented than you and we think we can beat you.

To me this means that Coach English doesn't plan to do a lot of stunting, scheming or blitzing to cover weaknesses. The defense will line up in a base package and everybody better cover their assignment. Such a philosophy may work if you really have the best talent but I'm not sure that we do. I don't remember still seeing Charles Woodson or Marlin Jackson's names on the roster. This philosophy may be fine in June but I'm not so sure it will survive a Big Ten season intact. My attitude is one of wait-and-see. Go Blue!


Coach Carr's charitable contributions do not go unnoticed

In the Sunday, June 11, 2006 edition of the Detroit Free Press there is an extensive article by Mark Snyder profiling Coach Carr and highlighting Lloyd's charitable activities particularly the car wash which took place the previous day. There is also a separate article by Mark Snyder regarding the particulars of the car wash which includes descriptions of how the players danced to the tunes spun by DJ Morgan Trent while they were washing cars. There is also a link embedded on that page which will take you to a series of Free Press photos from the car wash.

Although everyone involved in the car wash obviously had a lot of fun there was a serious purpose being served beyond merely raising funds for the hospital. Such events bring home to the players the responsiblitly they have in the community as it is a privilege to be a Michigan Wolverine football player. Rick Leach mentioned on WTKA-AM (1050) during the radiothon on Wednesday that Bo strongly felt this way and obviously this philosophy continues to this day. It is this kind of thinking that makes a player a "Michigan Man". Go Blue!


1972-1974: Three Big 10 Co-Championships, No Bowl Games

The 1972-1974 seasons were some of Bo's most successful seasons but they were also some of his most frustrating during his 21 year tenure as Head Coach at U of M. The Wolverines were a remarkable 30-2-1 during those three seasons. They tied for the Big Ten Championship each of those seasons yet they did not earn a bowl bid during this time frame. Prior to 1975, the Big Ten Conference had a rule that one conference champion would go to the Rose Bowl while every other team would be ineligible for postseason bowl games. As it worked out, Co-Big 10 Champion Ohio State went to the Rose Bowl game each season from 1972-1974 and U of M was left out in the cold.

The 1972 team tried to pick up where the 1971 team had left off. The '71 Wolverines had a perfect 11-0 regular season record. The '72 team featured a new QB in Dennis Franklin and the tandem of Ed Shuttlesworth and Chuck Heater in the backfield. The season got off to a slow start as U of M struggled to beat Northwestern 7-0 in the season opener. Game two was a night road game against UCLA at the Rose Bowl Stadium. UCLA's QB was Mark Harmon the son of Michigan Heisman Trophy Winner Tom Harmon. Despite the fact it was playing in its first night game in 28 years and the fact that it had lost two games in a row on that field (the '70 & '72 Rose Bowl games), U of M beat UCLA easily by the score of 26-9. In fact, the nine points the Wolverines yielded to the Bruins in this game would be the most points it allowed any opponent during the first 10 games of the season.

U of M proceeded to go 10-0 in 1972 heading into the final regular season game showdown with Ohio State. OSU pulled ahead 14-3 in the third quarter when freshman sensation (and later two time Heisman Trophy winner) Archie Griffin scored on a 30-yard touchdown run. However, U of M battled back to 14-11 in the fourth quarter. An interception by wolfman (that is what they called his position back then) Randy Logan gave U of M a shot to take the lead. The offense drove to the 1-yard line where on 3rd and 1 tailback Harry Banks was stopped just short of the goal line. Rather than go for the tie, Bo opted to go for it on fourth down. He called for a QB sneak but Dennis Franklin couldn't get in and OSU won 14-11. With no bowl bid, U of M finished the year 10-1 and with the #9 ranking.

In 1973, the Wolverines ran the table of their regular season schedule leading up to the final clash with OSU. U of M entered the game at 10-0 and Ohio State was 9-0. This game marked the second time during the Bo/Woody era that both teams entered the game undefeated. In a classic, the teams battled to a 10-10 tie. However, during the game Michigan's QB Dennis Franklin suffered a broken collarbone. Because of the tie, the decision regarding which team should be sent to the Rose Bowl was left up to the Big Ten Athletic Directors. (Note: There was no elaborate tie-breaking procedure as there is now). The Athletic Directors voted 6-4 to send OSU to the Rose Bowl citing Dennis Franklin's injury as a reason that U of M would not be as competitive. Consequently, although U of M was co-Big Ten Champion, it stayed home again as it did not go to a postseason bowl. U of M finished the year ranked #6 in the polls with its 10-0-1 record.

The 1974 team reeled off ten victories to head into the annual showdown with OSU with a 10-0 record and the #3 ranking. In fact, this was the fifth consecutive season that U of M had won their first nine games of the season. U of M was eager to return to the Rose Bowl after the debacle of the previous season. #4 OSU had other ideas, however, and everything came down to a last second field goal attempt. OSU was leading 12-10 with :18 seconds left in the game when U of M set up for a 33-yard field goal attempt for the win. The kick missed and U of M was left with another co-championship while OSU went to the Rose Bowl for the third consecutive year. U of M's record in 1974 was 10-1 and they finished #3 in the final AP poll.

The 1972-1974 seasons. They were the best of times, they were the worst of times. It is hard to argue against a 30-2-1 record over 3 seasons with 3 co-Big Ten Championships. However, it was the near misses and questionable decisions by Conference officials that make memories of this era so frustrating. Things got better in the mid to late-70's, however, thanks in large part to a QB from Flint, MI who wore #7. Stay tuned. The saga continues...


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Wash Me!

The 3rd Annual Carr's Wash 4 Kids was held today at Michigan Stadium this afternoon and the event appeared to be very successful. It was great weather for it and the team was highly efficient in getting the cars through the line. This was the first time I had ever attended Carr's Wash 4 Kids and I was impressed with how they have this process down to a science. The other thing that struck me is that although the players were obviously having a lot of fun the coaches were still "on top" of the players even at an event such as this car wash. The event ran from 12:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m. and I arrived at almost exactly 1:30 p.m. and there was a steady stream of cars but no waiting. What follows is a blow-by-blow (or wash-by-wash) description of my somewhat surreal trip down the Carr Wash line:

  • I pulled into the Stadium concourse through Gate 9 (North endzone) and headed for the east side of the stadium. I was immediately welcomed by Scott Draper (Assistant Athletic Director) who thanked us for coming and who sent me up the concourse to a bevy of helpful volunteers to part with my charitable contribution.
  • Charitable contributions could be any amount but $25 got you a t-shirt w/ your car wash while $50 got you a hat, t-shirt and your car wash. I decided to be a big spender and give $50 meaning I got a hat and what they said was the last XL t-shirt.
  • While driving on to the next station, I saw a series of signs that instructed patrons to "Please stay in their cars." I figured (correctly it turns out) that I was not really going to get a chance to take photos.
  • On my right was the WTKA radio broadcast platform and while I was still looking back at it all of a sudden my Jeep was getting blasted by water from hoses on each side of the vehicle while my window was still down from when I had paid. I had driven into the first station (the hose down station) without even realizing it. Johnny Sears was on the driver's side of my Jeep and he accidentally nailed me with water through the open window as he didn't realize my window was down. I was scrambling to put my window up while he was laughing when offensive coordinator Mike DeBord came over and he was fuming at both of us. Man, I tell you what. I was scared and this was just a car wash. You NEVER want to make Coach DeBord mad.
  • Coach DeBord led me to the next station where all of a sudden 6-10 players descended on every square inch of my Jeep and soaped it from top to bottom. He then told me to drive up to the next station. The only problem was that I couldn't see out my front window.
  • I drove crawling along to the next station where Alan Branch guided me to a stop. I kept thinking, oh great, I'm going to hit Alan Branch and he is going to be out for the year with an injury he suffered at the car wash because I couldn't see out my soapy window. However, I managed to stop in time. While the other players proceeded to wash the soap off my Jeep, Alan stayed in front of my vehicle and he started dancing to the music that was playing. It was a sight to behold!!! Alan Branch is 6'6", 330 lbs. and that man can move. Before we drove to the next station I bumped fists with him which I think he thought was a little dorky but he went with it. (*Photos of Alan Branch from The Wolverine)
  • As we proceeded to the next station Coach Carr came up to the car and shook my hand and thanked us for coming and we then drove to the final station (towel dry).
  • As the players were towel drying my car they started hooting on my passenger for wearing a MSU t-shirt so I rolled down my window and Assistant Head Coach Erik Campbell told the players not to dry the side of the car the MSU person was sitting on but that they could dry the driver's side of the vehicle. The players were laughing hysterically. They loved it.
  • Before we left the concourse, we bought some lemonade (which was quite good) at a lemonade stand and waved to a few final players who thanked us for coming.

So there you have it. My 5 or so minutes through the Carr Wash. I would recommend it to someone who is considering attending next year but I would caution you that this is not an event where you will be able to take a lot of pictures. I didn't take any as I had my hands full with driving. Nevertheless, it was for a great cause and everyone had a lot of fun. Go Blue!

*Note: The photos used in this post are from The Wolverine. I used them because they are representative of what was going on when I got my Jeep washed. I did NOT take these pictures. If you want to see great pictures like these and read fantastic articles about Michigan sports you should subscribe to The Wolverine (

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Making the Grade: Shari Acho

If you have attended any of the season end Michigan Football Busts at Laurel Manor in Livonia the past few seasons you know the routine of the players who are accepting their M rings. They thank the U of M Club of Greater Detroit for their M ring, they thank their Mom, and they thank God (not necessarily in that order). Additionally, over the past several seasons, almost all of the players thanked someone named Shari Acho. They each said they would not have made it through their years at Michigan were it not for her. They also mentioned how she was tough on them. I remember thinking she must be one of the athletic trainers. Hardly. She is in charge of training their minds.

Shari Acho is an Associate Athletic Director/Academic Football Counselor. She is also co-Director of the Academic Success Program at the University of Michigan. She will be entering her seventh year with U of M. At last year's Football Bust, senior Paul Sarantos told a funny anecdote about Mrs. Acho (a clip of Sarantos telling the story was even shown on that weekend's Michigan Replay). Sarantos was a top student/athlete and he said that one day he found a note on his car windshield because his car had accidentally been hit by Shari Acho in the Schembechler Hall parking lot. The note read something like, "You better keep your grades up or next time I'll hit you instead of your car. Shari Acho" Now that's one tough academic counselor. The players seem to really respect (and even fear) her and she has done a fantastic job of making sure the players excel in the classroom as well as on the field. So the next time you are at a M Football Bust and hear the players thank Shari Acho, you'll know why. You can learn more about Mrs. Acho by clicking here and scrolling to the last page to read her bio from the Spring Football Media Guide which is in pdf format. Go Blue!


Friday, June 09, 2006

Where are they now? Rich Hewlett

The sign in the locker room (and the url for this site) reads: Those who stay will be champions. During Bo's first season, a player who was quitting the team scrawled in magic marker on the sign: "Those who don't, will be doctors, lawyers, and other important people." Well, for Rich Hewlett both things came true. Rich Hewlett or Richard T. Hewlett as he is now professionally known was a back-up quarterback on the 1980 team that won the Big Ten Championship and the 1981 Rose Bowl game which was Bo's first Rose Bowl victory. However, Hewlett is probably best remembered for the fact that he was the starting quarterback in the 1979 Michigan/Ohio State game when he was a true freshman. Hewlett is now a successful attorney with the silk stocking law firm of Butzel Long. Thus, he stayed at U of M to be a champion AND he became a successful lawyer. Now when you get Rich Hewlett's autograph you can get two birds with one stone. When Mr. Hewlett signs the Complaint to initiate a lawsuit, you are getting the autograph of a famous U of M player and you are striking fear into the heart of the Defendant that they are about to lose the lawsuit. Go Blue!


Steve Smith: the forgotten link in the chain of great QBs

Maybe it is because his last name is Smith or maybe it is because he hails from a place called Grand Blanc. Whatever the reason, Steve Smith (starting QB from 1981-1983) is often completely overlooked in discussions about great Michigan quaterbacks of the modern era despite the fact that he had a rather stellar career. U of M was 26-10 during his three years as a starter and he led the Wolverines to a Rose Bowl berth (Big 10 Championship), a Sugar Bowl, and a Bluebonnet Bowl.

Smith was Bo's last great "running-offense" oriented QB. By 1984, when Jim Harbaugh was the starting QB, Bo's offense had been re-tooled to a more modern NFL-style passing offense as opposed to his old option-style offense that he ran with Rick Leach as his starter. In fact, with the new offense, Harbaugh led the nation in passing efficiency in 1985. However, Smith operated under a much different system. Although he was a decent passer, Smith was also employed as a primary ball carrier as is evidenced by the fact that that he is #24 on Michigan's career rushing yardage leaders.

Although Smith is not widely hailed as one of Michigan's elite quarterbacks, his statistics compare favorably with those of the greatest U of M QB (and my favorite player) of all-time Rick Leach. As you will certainly recall, Leach was a 4-year starter from 1975-1978. Leach led Michigan to three consecutive Big Ten Championships and, consequently, to three consecutive Rose Bowl Game appearances as well as an Orange Bowl game appearance. U of M was an astounding 38-8-2 during Leach's four years as a starter.

Here are the passing statistics for the two:

Leach: 250/537 46.6% 4,284 yds. 48 tds. 35 int.

Smith 324/648 50.0% 4,860 yds. 42 tds. 32 int.

The passing statistics are fairly close. Smith stacks up well. Now for the rushing statistics:

Leach: 487 att. 2,176 yds. 4.5 yds./att. 34 tds.

Smith: 329 att. 1,736 yds. 5.3 yds./att. 31 tds.

Again, Smith's statistics hold up well in a comparison against those of Rick "The Peach" Leach. The bottom line is that Smith deserves to be mentioned among the elite U of M quarterbacks of the modern era. Most conversations about U of M being "Quarterback U" start with Jim Harbaugh and proceed with the litany of NFL bound QBs including Elvis Grbac, Todd Collins, Scott Dreisbach, Brian Griese, Tom Brady, Drew Henson and John Navarre. Then some old school traditionalists throw in Rick Leach's name for his stand-out accomplishments and John Wangler for delivering Bo his first Rose Bowl win. Steve Smith earned the right to have his name mentioned in that conversation as well. Go Blue!


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Coach Carr wants YOU as his new recruit!

Coach Carr is on the recruiting trail and this time he is looking for you! Coach Carr sent out a mass e-mail yesterday to all the season ticket holders looking for 116 people to fill the "roster spots" in the 1st Annual Michigan's Men Fantasy Football Experience. The two day camp will be held on August 3rd and 4th, 2006 and the proceeds will benefit the "Men of Michigan" Prostate Cancer Research Fund at the University of Michigan.

The Fantasy Camp will include two-a-day practice sessions installing offensive and defensive schemes coached by the Michigan coaching staff. Participants will attend a typical team meeting in Schembechler Hall (don't be late), review actual practice film (don't fall asleep in the back), and suit up in the Michigan Stadium locker room (don't spend all your time posing for pictures in front of Steve Breaston's locker). You will have your own locker in the Big House and receive an authentic Nike game jersey (a $150 value).

The cost for these priceless memories is a paltry $2,500 per person for the two day experience (that is only $1,250 per day). The $2,500 price tag includes the cost of meals and overnight accomodations at the Campus Inn Hotel where the team stays prior to every home football game. To join the team, contact Steffannie Samuels @ 734-615-9843 or e-mail her at

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Happy Birthday Coach Fred Jackson

Assistant Coach Fred Jackson will be celebrating his 56th birthday this Friday, June 9th. Coach Jackson is in his 15th season with the Wolverines and is the longest tenured assistant coach on the Michigan staff. Coach Jackson joined the coaching staff in 1992 during the Gary Moeller era. Coach Jackson has primarily worked with the running backs during his years coaching the Wolverines. However, during Lloyd Carr's first year as Head Coach in 1995, Coach Jackson became the Offensive Coordinator. He stayed in that position for the 1996 season as well but was replaced by Mike DeBord before the 1997 National Championship season. So as not to make it appear as a demotion, Coach Jackson was given the title of Assistant Head Coach in 1997 in addition to his duties as Running Backs Coach. He held those titles through the 2002 season when Coach Carr named Erik Campbell as Assistant Head Coach prior to the 2003 season. Coach Jackson was elevated to the title of "Associate Head Coach" that had been vacated by the departed Brady Hoke who had left to take the head coaching position of his alma mater Ball State University. Associate Head Coach is the title that Coach Jackson still holds today as well as, of course, his postition as the Running Backs "Mentor". Whatever his title, Coach Jackson has performed extremely well during his many years with the program. Coach Jackson has coached some of the biggest Wolverine superstars during his tenure and he is also a fabulous recruiter. Happy Birthday to Associate/Deputy/Lieutenant/Apprentice/Accomplice/Aide-de-camp/ Assistant Coach Jackson.


What happened to home field advantage in 2005?

Heading into the 2005 season, the Wolverines had won 15 consecutive games at the "Big House" dating back to 2002. This consecutive home game winning streak encompassed the final two home games of the 2002 season and the entire home schedules of the 2003 (7 games) and 2004 (6 games) seasons. Thus, I was confident heading into last season about our ability to continue our prowess on our home turf. (note: I am using "home turf" both figuratively and literally as Michigan switched back to Field Turf from grass for the playing field surface after the 2002 season. Sorry Amy Fouty, the Prescription Athletic Turf (PAT) experiment never worked out. But I digress).

U of M was 58-6 at the "Big House" under Coach Carr heading into the 2005 season. I knew we had a couple of tough home games in Notre Dame and Ohio State but we had beaten both of those teams in 2003 including a 38-0 drubbing of ND so I was not overly concerned. So you can imagine my surprise and dismay when U of M stumbled to a 4-3 home record in 2005. U of M had not suffered three home losses in a single season since 1994. I am still at a loss to explain why the rug got pulled out from under us last season after we had enjoyed so much success for so long in the seasons leading up to 2005. The explanation could be as simple that our home field "advantage" was neutralized in that our team on the field is going to play equally well (or poorly) at home or on the road. That is a double-edged sword. I like the fact that the guys won't be affected on the road but I think most U of M fans would like to think that they can help influence the Wolverines to win by cheering them on in the "Big House". I'm not sure how much of an impact the fans can have on the outcome of the game but I do know one thing for certain. I know that I prefer to leave the "Big House" after having witnessed a victory. Therefore, I hope that Coach Carr can recapture that home-field advantage he had in prior seasons and that 2005 was just an aberration.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

1971 team: 14 seconds from perfection

The 1971 team was arguably Bo's best team in his entire 21 year coaching career at Michigan. They went 11-0 and won a trip to the Rose Bowl where they played Stanford. U of M was ranked #4 in the nation and this would mark the only time in Bo's coaching career that he made the Rose Bowl with an undefeated team. U of M was tied with the #16 ranked Stanford Indians (n/k/a Stanford Cardinal) 10-10 late in the fourth quarter. With about 3 1/2 minutes to go in the game, U of M tried a 46 yard field goal attempt to take the lead and preserve its perfect season. Field Goal Kicker Dana Coin was well short on the attempt but then Stanford's Larry Ferguson fielded the errant kick and attempted to run it out of the endzone. He was tackled by a quick thinking Ed Shuttlesworth (U of M's future star halfback) giving U of M a safety and a 12-10 lead with 3:18 remaining. However, Stanford eventually got the ball back and drove down to U of M's 14 yard line with 14 seconds remaining with Michigan leading by two. Bo was only 14 seconds from perfection. After breezing through the non-conference schedule, thumping many Big Ten opponents by big margins and defeating OSU in another classic, the possiblity of an undefeated season was all coming down to this. Stanford's Rod Garcia made the 31 yard field goal giving Stanford the 13-12 victory and giving Michigan one of its most heart wrenching defeats in its entire history. Although he did not know it at the time, it turned out that this 1971 team was the closest Bo would ever come to winning a Rose Bowl with an undefeated team. Thinking of the story of the 1971 team makes me appreciate the 1997 National Championship all the more because it makes me realize just how difficult it can be to attain perfection. Go Blue!


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Red Zone = Danger Zone in 2005

The Red Zone. I don't know how long this term has been around but it seems to have gained widespread popularity in the past 10-15 years. The Red Zone is defined as having the ball inside the opponent's 20 yard line. Last year, the Red Zone was the Danger Zone for U-M on both sides of the ball. On offense, Michigan ranked an embarrasing eighth place in the Big Ten in Red Zone scoring percentage at 79.3 percent. Defensively, U of M performed even worse. The Wolverines finished 10th in the Big Ten in Red Zone scoring defense at 86.5 percent last season.

For the offense, in 2005, these stats mean it was unable to score 20% of the time it had the ball as far as the opponent's twenty yard-line. Coming away with no points that often when the ball is in scoring position can mean the difference between winning and losing in a close game. Oh wait, that's right, we lost 4 games last season by 4 points or less. Blown scoring opportunities will come back to haunt a team in close games and it happened repeatedly to last year's team. The Wolverines couldn't cash in on scoring opportunities early in games and suffered for it late.

As for the defense, once the opponent got into the Red Zone they were money to come away with SOME points as the opponents scored at an 86.5% rate last season once they reached the Red Zone. Michigan has long been known for a "bend-but-don't-break" defense but last year there was more breaking than bending. New Defensive Coordinator Ron English will have to find a way to have the "D" lock it down more often once the opponents get into the Red Zone. Otherwise, U of M might find themselves on the wrong end of some more close games in 2006.