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Another Jinx Faces M At Minneapolis

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ANOTHER JINX FACES M AT MINNEAPOLIS By Wayne DeNeff Bo Schembechler and his 1969 Wolverines already have removed the Purdue jinx which had been around since 1961. But the Michigan football coach and his charges face an even more prodigious whammy at Minneapolis this Saturday. Michigan hasn’t won a football game at Memorial Stadium since 1959. The Minneapolis jinx—and it has to be labeled just that because the Wolverines have roughed up the Gophers in their Ann Arbor appearances in the even years—has more meaning to some Michigan fans. There were years, before Michigan State entered the Big Ten and before Ohio State rose to such consistent prominence, when the Michigan-Minnesota struggles settled the Big Ten race and caused tremors from coast to coast. The Minneapolis frustrations began in 1961 when the Wolverines seemed to have “The Little Brown Jug” all wrapped up, 20-16, with little more than two minutes to go. Michigan had just stopped a Gopher drive at the nine and as Ben McRae circled end for a good gain it seemed certain the clock could be run out without the Gophers ever getting another chance to go on offense. But at the 14, McRae, who was having a great day and now stars for the Chicago Bears, was hit by one of the hardest and most memorable tackles ever made in the old, horseshoe-shaped arena. Linebacker Wayne Teigen delivered the jarring blow and it could be said that the tackle put the Gophers in the Rose Bowl. The ball squirted out of McRae’s arms and nine yards back to the five where it was covered by one of Teigen’s teammates. Minnesota then scored for a 23-20 triumph and later put down UCLA, 21-3, in the Rose Bowl. Neither Michigan nor Minnesota were Pasadena candidates in 1963 but they waged a mighty defensive struggle, typical of the games played in the 1920s and 1930s. The Gophers pulled it out, 6-0, twice stopping Michigan inside the 10-yard line. The Wolverines, who dominated the second half, had a fourth-and-two at the Minnesota seven. Quarterback Bob Timberlake got the necessary yards on a punch over tackle but before the whistle was blown the ball had somehow popped from his grasp and was recovered by the Gophers. Michigan trailed, 14-7 in 1965, when quarterback Wally Gabler started racing the clock with a patched up lineup. Right half Carl Ward had been ejected and injuries to fullbacks Dave Fisher and Dennis Morgan had left Coach Bump Elliott playing linebacker Tim Radigan at fullback. But somehow Gabler directed the team 52 yards in seven plays to make it 14-13. Then came the heart-breaking play as Gabler rolled out to try for two extra points. A pair of Gophers diagnosed the play and forced Gabler to abandon plans to run. He turned around and started in the other direction, looking desperately for a pass receiver. All of a sudden Jack Clancy was open in the end zone but the ball was out of his reach and out of the end zone. “Fate has been unkind to these players and it breaks my heart to see it,” said Elliott about the defending Big Ten champs whose losing streak stretched to four after two victories at the start of the season. Minnesota scored one of its touchdowns after a week Gopher punt bounced and hit a Michigan blocker. Minnesota covered the ball on its 46 and marched 54 yards for the score. Ill-fate reached a peak two years ago when Michigan, possessing a 1-4 record, rocked back a group of Gophers who eventually shared the championship with Indiana and Purdue. The Wolverines jumped into a 15-0 lead early in second quarter but lost, 20-15, when Minnesota scored two fourth-quarter TDs. It was a painful defeat because the Wolverines had worked like dogs on a new defense throughout the week and succeeded in confusing their old rivals. They also had a long TD run by Ron Johnson, an outstanding game by quarterback Denny Brown, no fumbles, no dropped passes and intercepted three passes. But it wasn’t enough to overcome a rash of 15-yard penalties and the tough Gophers. They scored their first touchdown with only 49 seconds left in the half. The TD drive was kept alive by a 15-yard penalty to the Michigan 31 after the Wolverines had pushed them back on third-and-one at the 46. At the 14, Minnesota fumbled and Michigan recovered. But the Wolverines were offside and the Gophers had a first down at the nine. Then they scored. Two plays into the fourth quarter, Minnesota had third-and-four at the Michigan 45. It had to be one of the big plays of the game and it was—quarterback Curt Wilson launching “the bomb” to Mike Curtis. Now it was Michigan 15, Minnesota 13. A penalty on the extra-point attempt resulted in a Minnesota kickoff which sailed into the end zone. Then, with third-and-two Michigan got another 15-yard penalty back to its 13. From there, a punt went out of bounds in Michigan territory on the 36. Another 15-yard penalty brought the ball to the 21 and it looked like the end of the line for the struggling underdogs. But the tenacious Wolverine defenders held and then another punt forced Minnesota to start from its own 49. The Gophers were not to be denied this time and drove to the end zone. Twice Coach Murray Warmath ordered the Gophers to attack at the line of scrimmage instead of trying for a field goal in fourth-and-one situations. Now it was Minnesota 20, Michigan 15. Was Michigan finished? Not by a long shot though time was running out. The Wolverines came back with a rush, all the way to the Gophers’ 20 where four straight passes fell incomplete, the last one overshooting Jim Berline, who was open in the end zone. Michigan still wasn’t ready to give up. Minnesota made only one yard in three line smashes and was forced to punt to George Hoey who earlier had made a great runback to set up one of Michigan’s first-quarter touchdowns. Just as hard as the Wolverines had worked on a new defense for the Gophers, they had worked to spring Hoey free on the punt returns. Now Hoey had the ball and the Gophers were dropping like ten pins as the wall formed and Hoey raced down the sideline. Finally, only one Gopher remained for Hoey to beat. “Cut, George, cut.” But Hoey couldn’t beat the last defender and was knocked out of bounds at the 26. Frustration? The Wolverines have really had it at Minneapolis.