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Emotion May Be Biggest Factor In Rose Bowl Battle

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By Wayne DeNeff

PASADENA, Calif.—There are two fine football teams undergoing strenuous training in this area for the 1970 Rose Bowl game and physically Michigan and Southern California are regarded about even.

In such a situation, the edge is apt to go to the team which is most emotionally ready to play.

It’s obvious Southern Cal coach John McKay has some psychological weapons at hand:

-USC, a school with a great athletic tradition, has never beaten Michigan in a football game.

-The Trojans were drubbed, 49-0, the only time the schools met previously in the Rose Bowl.

“Don’t you think Southern Cal will have an emotional edge because Michigan won, 49-0, in that 1948 game?” a reporter asked Bo Schembechler on the Michigan coach’s first day here.

“Why, heck, most of these kids were only one year old then,” said Schembechler, indicating this would not be a significant factor for USC players.

There seems little question, though, that if it had been Southern Cal beating Michigan that way, Schembechler would get the message to the Wolverines.

In his first year as Big Ten coach, Schembechler has demonstrated both an ability to interpret a team’s emotional condition and to arouse the players to a great performance. Those certainly are keys to successful coaching.

At the half of the Minnesota game, Schembechler resisted the temptation to “chew out” the Wolverines. He took the quiet approach, appealing to their higher sensibilities, and they responded with a four-touchdown barrage which was the turning point of the season. From 3-2, the Wolverines roared on to an 8-2 record, a Big Ten co-championship and a smashing 24-12 victory over a “super” team, Ohio State.

The triumph over Ohio State was an ample demonstration of Schembechler’s ability to motivate his players.

While McKay has some big emotional weapons at his command, don’t underestimate what Schembechler can do with some things call pride and self-respect.

Pride and self-respect have figured prominently in Michigan Rose Bowl success, starting with a 49-0 victory over Stanford in 1902, a 49-0 trouncing of USC in 1948, a come-from-behind, 14-6 triumph over California in 1951 and a 34-7 shellacking of Oregon State in 1965.

According to the late Willie Heston, Michigan’s famed back of the early 1900s, three things, one of them personal, inspired the Wolverines to that first Rose Bowl victory.

1) The feeling here that Michigan could not survive four quarters of hard football in the Pasadena heat after leaving snowy Ann Arbor.

2) The feeling here that Michigan could not play well on the bare ground after a season of competition on Midwest grass.

3) Newspaper comments that Michigan could not be very strong if Willie Heston was a regular in the backfield because Heston had not impressed West Coast writers when he played for San Jose Normal before transferring to the Ann Arbor school.

As everyone familiar with Michigan athletic history knows, it was Stanford which tired in the heat and dust and it was Stanford which finally appealed to coach Fielding H. (Hurry Up) Yost to cut the game short.

Yost was noted for his attention to the emotional factors of football but no more than Michigan’s famed Fritz Crisler, who actually plotted the minutes and seconds leading up to a game.

Crisler says his 1947 team reached the peak of emotional readiness precisely at 2 p.m., Jan. 1, 1948, the time of the Rose Bowl kickoff.

Pride, of course, had to be a big factor motivating coach Ben Oosterbaan’s 1950 team in the second half after the Wolverines fell behind, 6-0, at intermission and had made only two first downs. They came back to dominate the second half and punch out two TDs against a California team which had not been beaten during the regular season.

Of course, no one in Michigan athletics is more sensitive to its traditions than Bump Elliott, and his 1964 Wolverines were as well prepared as any team could possibly be to take charge of a worthy opponent.

While administering an overwhelming defeat to Southern Cal in that 1948 Rose Bowl game, the Wolverines were much more sociable in two later regular-season games played against the Trojans. Oosterbaan’s 1957 team won, 16-6, and his 1958 crew nudged their Southern Cal rivals, 20-19.

Those were the only three times Michigan and USC have ever clashed on the gridiron.