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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

MZone Time Machine: January 1, 1981

Another in an occasional series looking at some of the Michigan football programs I've found, acquired or been given over the years.


The Granddaddy of them All: The 1981 Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA

9-2 Michigan vs. 9-2 Washington


*  The 1980 season started in the rain in Ann Arbor.  Against a Northwestern team that was the punchline of college football at the time, it took a goal-line interception by Andy Cannavino with less than two minutes left to preserve a 17-10 U-M victory.

* The second game is one of the most memorable (and painful) in Michigan football history.  Playing the Fighting Irish in South Bend, John Wangler - who was injured in the Gator Bowl loss and possibly done with football as a result - came off the bench to rally Michigan from a 14-0 deficit to 27-26 lead with only :40+ seconds to play and ND with the ball on their own 20.  Then...well, then...let's let Bob Ufer tell you what happened.

* After Michigan's heartbreaking 29-27 loss to the Irish, the Wolverines came home to face the South Carolina Gamecocks.  Taking a 14-3 lead into halftime, U-M looked to have the game in control, and seemed to be about to put it away early in the third quarter as the Maize and Blue went on an 80 yard drive...when RB Stanley Edwards fumbled in the endzone.  Behind the running of George Rogers - the Heisman Trophy winner that year - SC came back, going ahead 17-14 and almost icing it themselves 24-14 until Robert Thompson intercepted the ball in the endzone giving U-M one final shot.  John Wangler led his team down the field, but his desperation pass into the endzone went off Anthony Carter's hands.

* Following this loss, at 1-2, the Wolverines were left for dead.  And coming off Bo's worst-ever season in '79 (an 8-4 campaign in which the Wolverines lost their last two regular season games and their Gator Bowl to UNC), folks were beginning to whisper that maybe Bo had lost his magic as he was 1-5 in his last six games.  But something strange happened on the way to oblivion.

*  Michigan next beat Cal, MSU, Minnesota and Illinois.  The score of the Illinois game was 45-14, with Illinois scoring their second TD with four minutes left in the first half.  At the time, it didn't seem like a big deal - but it would become the last touchdown scored against U-M's defense the rest of the season.  Michigan then blanked Indiana, Wisco and Purdue to set up its annual showdown with the Buckeyes in Columbus.  For the 11th time in 12 years, The Game would determine the Big 10 champ and Rose Bowl representative.  Michigan clung to 9-3 lead thanks to an Anthony Carter touchdown but, in the game's closing minutes, QB Art Schlichter took Tosu to Michigan's 35 yard line.  Buckeye dreams were dashed when Robert Thompson sacked Schlichter on 4th down, allowing Michigan to run out the clock and claim the crown.

* Coming into the 67th Rose Bowl, Michigan coach Bo Schembechler was 0-7 in previous bowl trips (Five Rose Bowls, one Orange, one Gator).  Michigan led only 7-6 at the half, but pulled away in the second to win 23-6 and give Bo his first bowl victory in one of his sweetest seasons ever.


* Notable because Gary Moeller returned to the staff as QB coach after serving three years as head coach at Illinois.  He brought with him one of his assistants: a young defensive backs coach named Lloyd Carr.
* This is the season in which, I believe, Bob Ufer coined the phrase "McCartney's Monsters" in reference to the Michigan defense under DC Bill McCartney.


* No mention of Michigan during this season would be complete without something on its All-American sophomore receiver, Anthony Carter - the man who started the storied tradition of the #1 jersey for U-M's greatest receivers.

* My favorite part of these old programs is the ads.  Like this one featuring former Yankee slugger and Mr. October Reggie Jackson hawking this bitchin' Panasonic portable VHS camera.  Oh yeah, that's what I'm talking about:


whetstonebuck said...

Umm, as a friend, I think it may be time for an intervention.

BaggyPantsDevil said...

This season bears much of the responsibility for why I still follow college football as a fan of Michigan. I can still remember watching the 9-3 victory over the Buckeyes (who were favored due to Art Schlichter being prolific at passing at that point in his life). I also remember--in an almost Rain Man-esque fashion--the fine fall weather that afternoon. Although still cool, it was warm for late November in Michigan with clear skies. Having spent most of my adult life in the southeastern U.S. I feel a great deal of nostalgia for those brisk, Michigan autumn afternoons.

Also, Bo finally won a bowl game! Not unlike how we all feel now that Michigan is bowl eligible.