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!

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