1989...Bo's Final Ride...
The year was 1989. Where were you? The original George Bush was in his first year as your President. The Berlin Wall had crumbled a mere 18 days earlier, just as Bush's predecessor Ronald Reagan had hoped when demanding that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev "tear down this wall!" 29 months earlier in a speech in West Berlin while at home, the South Carolina coast was trying to recover from $10 billion in damages caused by Hurricane Hugo in September. Bobby McFerrin was winning a Grammy for telling people to "Don't Worry, Be Happy," and "Driving Miss Daisy" was claiming an Oscar for Best Picture. Matt Stout was a senior in a suburban Columbus high school less than a year away from enrolling as a student-athlete at the University of Michigan, and living his dream of becoming a Michigan Man. And the Wolverines were about to send a legend off with one final victory in The Game.
Michigan entered The Game with a 9-1 record and ranked 3rd in the nation under the direction of 21-year coaching legend Bo Schembechler. The Wolverines had stumbled to defending national champion and number one ranked Notre Dame 24-19 in a battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2 to open the season but had rebounded with nine consecutive victories to head into The Game. Senior option quarterback Michael Taylor and the bruising rushing duo of Jarrod Bunch and Leroy Hoard led a punishing Michigan running game on offense while All-American defensive back Tripp Welborne anchored the steady Michigan defense. Unbeaten in the conference, a Michigan victory over Ohio would allow the Wolverines to win back-to-back outright Big Ten titles for the first time since the 1947-48 national championship teams of Fritz Crisler and Bennie Oosterbaan. The win would also send the Boys in Blue back to the Rose Bowl for the third time in four years.
Ohio State came to Ann Arbor with an 8-2 mark and ranked 20th in the country. In just his second year in Columbus, Ohio coach John Cooper had rebounded from a disappointing 4-6-1 rookie campaign to lead his team into the thick of the Big Ten championship race in late November. Early season stumbles against Southern Cal and Illinois had been followed with six consecutive victories as the Buckeyes made a run at a 26th Big Ten title. Veteran quarterback Greg Frey and tailback Carlos Snow were stand-out performers on the offensive side of the ball while senior Derek Isaman and freshman sensation Alonzo Spellman paced an improving defense. An Ohio victory would earn the Buckeyes a share of the Big Ten title, and keep the Wolverines from returning to Pasadena.
Despite Ohio’s six game winning streak heading into The Game, Vegas odd makers tagged the Buckeyes as heavy 14-point underdogs to the Wolverines when the two bitter rivals met for the 86th time on the turf at Michigan Stadium.
For the first 30 minutes of The Game, Michigan proved worthy of their lofty ranking and heavy favorite’s role, running up 272 yards of total offense and a comfortable 14-3 halftime lead. The Wolverines struck gold for the first time midway through the opening stanza when Hoard scored from the Ohio one while back-up tailback Allen Jefferson added a second scoring jaunt from two yards out in the second quarter. Only a 20-yard field goal from Pat O’Morrow late in the half and two Michigan fumbles deep in Ohio territory had kept the first half from being a complete disaster for the Buckeyes.
As the two teams came out of the locker room after the intermission, Ohio was in desperate need of a shift in momentum, and their big break came on just the second play of the second half. Ohio’s Vinnie Clark picked off a Taylor pass, and the Buckeye offense went on the move before stalling at the Michigan 7. From there, O’Morrow booted a field goal from 22 yards out to close the score to 14-6.
Michigan took the football back on the ensuing kick-off and went nowhere against the suddenly stout Ohio defense. And when Wolverine punter Chris Stapleton shanked a 14-yard punt from his own 26, Ohio was quickly back in business at the Michigan 40. Nine plays later, Buckeye fullback Scottie Graham plunged in from the Michigan three and Ohio had closed the deficit to just two points. A missed two-point conversion attempt kept the score locked at 14-12 as The Game entered the fourth and final stanza.
As the final quarter began, the Michigan offense finally came off of life support. Rose Bowl MVP Hoard ripped off a 40-yard run to key a Michigan drive, and with a little more than 12 minutes remaining in The Game, Taylor hit Bunch for a five-yard scoring pass. The touchdown and subsequent point-after pushed the Michigan lead back to 21-12.
But Ohio responded, unwilling to bow to the heavily favored Wolverines in front of 106,137 at The Big House. The Buckeyes went 80 yards in just eight plays, concluding with a second touchdown run by Graham, this time from four yards out. Welborne blocked O’Morrow’s point-after but the Buckeyes had pulled the score back to 21-18, and once again breathed hope into the Ohio sideline.
After Michigan punted with less than five and one-half minutes remaining, Ohio took the pigskin back, intent on pulling the upset. But with less than three minutes remaining, Wolverine defensive back Todd Plate picked off a Frey pass at the Michigan 41 to kill Ohio’s final drive and the Buckeyes’ final hopes for earning a share of the conference crown.
The punishing Michigan running game worked the clock for the final two and one-half minutes, with Bunch ripping off a 23-yard touchdown to seal a 28-18 Michigan victory and second consecutive trip to Pasadena.
Prior to New Year’s Day, the legendary Schembechler announced that the 1990 Rose Bowl would be his final game on the sidelines after 21 seasons as Michigan’s Field General. And while Michigan would fall to Southern Cal 17-10 in the New Year’s Day Classic, Schembechler’s accomplishments at Michigan – 194 victories, 13 Big Ten Championships, and 10 Rose Bowl appearances – would be unparalleled.
But just as importantly, Schembechler would leave a legacy on the University of Michigan that survives to this day and will continue to survive through the test of time. From Schembechler Hall on South State Street to The Big House at the corner of Stadium and Main, Bo’s memory reminds us all that only “Those Who Stay Will Be Champions,” and that no man is more important than the team, “The Team, The Team, The Team.”
Glenn E. “Bo” Schembechler – April 1, 1929 – November 17, 2006
A LEADER AND BEST * A MICHIGAN MAN
Coming tomorrow...1997...Carr’s Crew Conquers Everest...