MINNESOTA GAME SERVICES AS CATALYST FOR MICHIGAN
By Wayne DeNeff
There is at least one notable similarity between this Michigan football championship team and the one which one the title in 1964.
They both used Minnesota as the launching pad for championship drives.
Bump Elliott, coach of the 1964 team which thumped Oregon State in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 1965, always has referred to the 19-12 victory over the Gophers as the turning point.
More specifically, he pointed to a great goal-line stand which turned the game’s momentum back to the Wolverines. In 1964, the Wolverines met the Gophers following a loss to Purdue and the title and Rose Bowl hopes would have all but disappeared with another loss.
This year’s squad also came off a loss—to Michigan State—to pull itself together at Minneapolis on a cold, damp day.
“The turning point was the second half of the Minnesota game,” said Coach Bo Schembechler whose Wolverines trailed the Gophers, 9-7, at intermission but then smashed to a 35-9 victory over the improving Gophers, who went on to win four straight games from Iowa, Northwestern, Michigan State and Wisconsin.
“I knew in the Minnesota game I had quality kids,” said Schembechler, “they wanted to win. If you have quality kids they will come back after a loss. The way a team plays after defeat is very important.”
Michigan’s defense was tremendous at Minnesota.
It kept the Gophers outside the Michigan 18-yard line and only three well-placed field goals put the Gophers on the board.
Meanwhile, an offense which sputtered throughout the first half came to life for four TDs.
Schembechler was in a jubilant mood when he met with sportswriters yesterday and he acted like a proud father, breaking open a box of cigars and passing them around.
“I’m a big name now,” he laughed. “They used to say, ‘Who’s that guy from Michigan,’ and he mispronounced his name.
“Okay, let’s get this over with,” he continued with a broad grin. “I’m calling the shots now.”
But when the conversation grew serious, Schembechler refused to take credit for the Wolverines 8-2 record and stunning upset over Ohio State last Saturday.
“Bump Elliott recruited these players,” said Schembechler, “and most of the seniors on this year’s squad were the nucleus of last year’s team, which also won eight of 10 games.”
“You seldom have a successful football team unless your seniors are having their best year ever,” he continued and he mentioned a number of players such as safety Tom Curtis, end Jim Mandich, defensive back Barry Pierson, defensive end Cecil Pryor, fullback Garvie Craw and others.
“That’s the toughest part of the transition from one coach to another. The seniors are the hardest to convince but our guys did it.
“They made a successful transition. It all takes time. I think it was just a matter of putting it all together. I think our inconsistency earlier may be attributed to transition.”
But Bo Schembechler the perfectionist says Michigan did not play a perfect game against Ohio State and did not reach the ultimate in capability.
“I don’t think you can ever say that about a team,” he said. “If you were to look at films of the game you will see things that will make you mad. We made some mistakes. But overall, I would say it was our best all-around effort of the season.”
Schembechler continued answering questions for the better part of an hour, noting that he had received pre-game telegrams from as far away as London and including one from Gov. William Milliken.
Then he looked at his watch.
“It’s time to go,” he said.
“I’ve got a lot of speaking engagements all of a sudden and right now I have to start making plans for the Rose Bowl.”
But Schembechler couldn’t find his coat. He picked up one and then another. “Where is it?” he asked. Someone showed him one. “That isn’t it. Mine’s the one with the frayed sleeves.
“Now where did I put my cigars?” he asked, apparently flustered for about the first time this season.
Finally, Schembechler was on his way—as if he hasn’t already arrived—and one had the feeling that he wasn’t so much in a hurry to meet appointments as he was to get together with his staff to make plans for the Rose Bowl game against Southern California.
“They look like they’ve got a great team,” he said.
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