Ugh.  For the record:

This day in history – I mentioned to the fellas on air in the Victors Lounge that I’m actually getting crap on Twitter for citing history and historical events.  Umm…that’s what I do and almost all I do.   It this site’s raison d’être.   Needless to say I march on.

So while sadly Saturday was a low point of sorts, November 22 will remain an epic anniversary for Michigan football for decades to come, if for no other reason these two games:

celebration  takethat

Two Hundred.  Holy fandom endurance awards – props to uber fan Mike Khomutin for attending this 200th straight U-M game (yes, that’s home AND away).  I believe that dates back to 1998.  See Sap’s Decals for your decal.

Jake No Patch – Some of you noticed that Jake Ryan didn’t wear his Bennie Oosterbaan Legends patch during the Northwestern game.  I’m efforting some details from media relations on why.  To my knowledge this hasn’t been addressed by anyone…and if you think this little detail is silly, I’d offer that it’s no sillier than anything else people are writing about this team at this moment.

Willie Heston – Yo!  My piece short bio piece on Willie Heston appeared in the game program on Saturday (page 4).  I’ll repost it here soon and note that historian/pal John Kryk helped me out with a few nuggets.  A clip:

Heston 

According to Kryk, Yost considered Heston an exceptional tackler, but because he played behind U-M’s dominant line he rarely got the chance to make a play.  Strangely enough his first touchdown at Michigan actually came on defense. In the 1901 season opener against Albion, he broke through the line, snatched the ball from the quarterback and dashed the rest of the way for his inaugural visit to the end zone.

Senior day – The seniors were honored on the field before the game as usual, but this year the players received framed jerseys instead of righteous commemorative pigskins that they’ve been given in recent years:

Brady Hoke hugs Denard Robinson - MVictors.com

Seven Decade Usher! – Another great tradition on the last home game is honoring the longest tenured stadium ushers.  I read this off of the closed captioning on the scoreboard, but I believe they acknowledged one Robert Prieskorn (sp?) for 75 years of service!  Holy moly.  That means Robert was on duty when Tom Harmon won the Heisman Trophy in 1940.

Wile and Hagerup – My co-Most Improved Players.

Mood UpdateComing up later.  Hint:

MMB – Their halftime routine summoned up a comet to blow up the Buckeye Marching Band’s dinosaur:

That’s all here.

Elsewhere:

Maize and Blue Nation:

We’ve been waiting almost 3 whole years for Dennis Norfleet to return a kick/punt for a touchdown after almost breaking loose numerous times. So it stands to reason the one and only time he takes one to the house…which probably would’ve put game away and slammed the door on any Maryland comeback…was called back for a highly questionable block in the back call.

mgoblog – Ace instant react

As far as I know, Brady Hoke hasn’t been informed he’s fired, but he knows. We all do. With bowl eligibility on the line—unless you’re holding out hope for a miracle in Columbus—Hoke’s squad couldn’t get out of its own way.

 

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[Ed. Bless you Sap for putting some heart into the final home decals of the year after…that.]

OFFENSIVE CHAMPION

DEVIN GARDNER – To me, New 98 is the LaVell Blanchard of the Michigan Football Team. Great kid. Smart kid. Face of the program for the past few years. Much like Blanchard, Gardner has been caught in the middle of a coaching change during his career. Caught in the middle of a program trying to find its way. Caught in the middle of a university trying to figure out what kind of identity they want their football team to have. Much like we do when looking back on the career of Blanchard, I’m sure we will say much the same for Gardner: “Oh, the Gardner years! Tough kid. Never quit. Never gave up. Sad that his record wasn’t better.”

At the half, I saw no one on offense who stepped up to spark this unit. This offense rushed for almost 300 yards and only Gardner got into the endzone. You can see he’s feeling better, but he is obviously still a shell of himself, physically, and probably mentally. There’s an old Canadian hockey saying about a goalie that gets peppered with so many shots that draws a parallel to a QB in football who gets hit and sacked a lot: “That guy has seen more rubber than a dead cat on the 401 Highway.” I’m sure DG can somewhat relate. Great kid. Smart kid. Tough kid. Sad…

DEFENSIVE CHAMPION

JAKE RYAN – During the first half, I was pleasantly surprised to see the old Michigan Football adage come to life – the expectation is for the position, not the player. Mario Ojemudia, #53, was making plays like #57 used to! The Maryland offense had been kept in check and kept out of the endzone. But in the second half, much like #57 was not on the field, I didn’t hear #53’s name called much.

What I DID see all game long was #47 flying all over the place trying to make something happen for the defense. Sure enough, Ryan caused a fumble, but as luck would have it, the Maryland ball carrier had the ball fumble right back to himself. I don’t have it in me for a Jake Ryan player analogy. Another talent come and gone without the proper career sendoff. Sad…

SPECIAL TEAMS CHAMPION

JOE KERRIDGE – I loved the fake punt call and was thrilled to see Kerridge rumble 52 yards to convert the 4th & 6 into a first down. But as soon as I saw that he didn’t quite make it into the endzone, this ominous feeling came over me that the Michigan offense would have to settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown. Some people love to quote movie lines. I choose to quote lines from past Michigan Football games. After this play, I immediately thought of the 1986 Fiesta Bowl telecast where NBC color commentator Sam Rutigliano (former Cleveland Browns Head Coach) said, “If you block downfield you get touchdowns instead of first downs.” A better block downfield puts Kerridge in the endzone. Just sayin’…

UNIFORM CHAMPION

SENOR DAY PATCH – I didn’t see any uniform callouts this week, but did come up with one idea of my own. Seeing that UM has a Spring Game Patch on the jerseys for their April inter-squad scrimmage/practice, I’m sure we’ll one day see a Senior Day Patch to commemorate the last home game for all the departing seniors. Why not?

UFER FAN AWARD

MIKE KHOMUTIN200 straight Michigan football games, home and away, dating by to 1998(?).  Oh, the highs and the mediums and the lows and the lows.  Well done.

Last Saturday WTKA played the Ufer broadcast of the 1964 Ohio State game (the 10-0 win that sent Bump Elliott’s crew to the Rose Bowl).   Dang those broadcasts are gems and this was no exception (remind me to try to get a copy of Ufer’s halftime interview with Fritz Crisler and post it here).  

If you read this site you know how I feel about that squad and their legacy—they have to be the one of the most underappreciated teams in U-M history.  I think this year a few folks have done a lot to help right that wrong, leading with historian Bruce Geelhoed. 

For starters Geelhoed has an outstanding story in the current edition of Michigan History magazine on the 1964 Ohio State game titled, ‘The Game that Turned Around the Michigan-Ohio State Rivalry’.  You can pick it up at local Meijer and Barnes and Noble stores or online here.

photo Captain Conley’s righteous pigskin – the Ohio State game ball

But foremost — Geelhoed recently published this, a 248 page book on the 1964 season itself:

Geelhoed Book If you are the type of fan who has books like John Kryk’s Natural Enemies and John Bacon’s Blue Ice on your shelf, this is no brainer— go out and get a copy.   It includes an endorsement from yours truly on the back cover.

That incredible season had so much drama—and it’s all captured here, finally, for the record.   A big hat tip to Geelhoed for pulling this book together – I know it’s been years in the making.

 

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Over the years people have asked me why I’m so interested in the history of The Little Brown Jug.  While there are a few reasons, a biggie for me is that the jug itself is the ultimate piece of college football memorabilia.   And college football fans love memorabilia.  How many of you reading this have a shrine of some form another at home or work dedicated to your beloved Wolverines?

Of course ticket stubs have been a popular piece of of memorabilia for a long time (I have a shoebox somewhere with a bunch of gems).   111 years ago I don’t think people felt as compelled to hang onto stuff like ticket stubs but either way, one thing that always surprised me was that I’d never seen a stub to the 1903 Michigan-Minnesota 6-6 tie—the game that spawned the jug tradition.   It was such a huge game especially for the folks in Minneapolis so it’s bugged me for a while that to my knowledge a stub had never surfaced (and I’ve mentioned it on these pages before):

Righteous Stub
So we know approximately 20,000 witnessed the famous clash and we do know that the gross receipts for the game were precisely $30,933.50 (with the Wolverines netting a $13K cut).  Assuming the ducats, based on others from that year, were probably about two bucks, it’s fair to assume Doc Cooke’s athletic department produced somewhere between 12,000 and 15,000 tickets. 

This leads to one missing piece of Jug Lore—I’ve never seen a ticket stub to the 1903 Minnesota-Michigan game.

I polled a couple of the most famous U-M memorabilia collectors.  Jack Briegel, who owns a ticket to every game played in Michigan Stadium and many more emailed me confirming that he’s doesn’t have one and in fact, he’s “never seen a ticket from that game.”

Ken Magee, who runs Ann Arbor Sports Memorabilia and owns an extensive vintage U-M collection, hasn’t seen one either.

I reached out to the U-M Bentley Library (they do have a collection of tickets) but I don’t think they have one.  Paul Rovnak of University of Minnesota media relations wrote to me and said they don’t have a ticket from the game either.

My guess?  Someone out there has a ticket stub to this game.   Reveal yourself(!)..and become a piece of Little Brown Jug lore.

FOUND!
Fast forward to last week when I got a text with the news and a pic.  Yes indeed, Ken Magee of Ann Arbor Sports Memorabilia, located someone selling an old scrapbook that included newspaper clippings from the 1903 game and inside the scrapbook was this:

1903 Minnesota Ticket Stub

While I don’t have a reference point to compare, it looks legit.  Based on a peek at other tickets from 1903, it looks like the font and general style is the same (I assume schools often used the same printing companies).  Check out stubs from U-M games against Wisconsin (played in Ann Arbor, via Jack Briegel) and against Chicago (played in Chicago – via the Bentley Library):

wisc chicago

I say case closed.  Nice find!

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Today marks the 110th anniversary of Willie Heston’s final game at Michigan.  Heston was Michigan’s first superstar, a two-time All-American, who scored (somewhere around) 72 touchdowns.  From 1901 to 1904, Heston’s teams went 43-0-1 and are credited with four national titles.

willieheston

I’ll have more on Heston later this year.

Hearing Willie
Back in 2012 I posted a short audio clip of Fielding Yost from the 1940 nationwide radio tribute the man titled, ‘A Toast to Yost from Coast to Coast’.   Check it out if you missed it.   In that post I promised to share a few more clips, and thanks to the Bentley Historical Library for passing these along.

The man who introduced Yost to the crowd in attendance and the radio audience was none other than the great Heston.   Here are two clips of the great Willie and in the first we have a surprise.   Before offering up his tribute to his old coach, Heston acknowledges that current student athlete and national icon Tom Harmon in the audience.  Old 98 shares the mic & even has a little back and forth with Heston that is all in all pretty priceless.

The second clip has Heston delivering his testimonial to Yost.  Enjoy:

As an aside, while I’m sure you’ll be hard pressed to find another audio clip of the Harmon and Heston together but they did appear elsewhere…namely on this campaign pin for Heston [original 2008 post].   This is probably a decent representation of what each man looked like back in 1940:

image

Seeing Willie
Don’t ask me to point out who’s who (maybe Brian can whip out a UFR), but here’s footage from Willie’s final game played at Regents Field in Ann Arbor, a 22-12 victory over rival (and Yost’s nemesis) Amos Alonzo Stagg and Chicago.  The footage was taken by Thomas Edison’s firm (note the “gridiron” – the lines painted on the field like a grid):

 

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Bless you Sap for serving up decals after that rough game.  Here you go:

OFFENSIVE CHAMPION

DE’VEON SMITH – Now you know why coaches like Bo and Bill Parcells loved to have a strong running game. When you can close out a game, or at least milk the clock, it puts pressure on the opposing team to either use all their timeouts late in the game or drive the length of the field to win. Smith has given the Michigan offense the strength and stability it desperately needs – especially when U-M’s QB is basically playing on one leg.

DEFENSIVE CHAMPION

FRANK CLARK – Finally a solid, break-out, statement game from Clark. Dude was the classic guy who came to play right from the opening snap to the final play of the game. I haven’t seen such a strong and steady big play performance from a Michigan defender since some guy wore #2 in 1997.

SPECIAL TEAMS CHAMPION

KICK TEAM – I don’t want to sound like an old coach, but don’t EVER take another extra point for granted. If Matt Wile doesn’t convert his PAT, the score would have been 9-9 instead of 10-9, and all Northwestern would have needed was a PAT of their own to win.

 

I know, I know, Wile had one kick blocked, but aside from that, the entire Kick Team played lights out against the Wildcats. From Will Hagerup’s Aussie Drop style punts being downed at the Northwestern one-yard line, to Jehu Chesson recovering a Wildcat muff, the execution of the Michigan Kick Team flipped field position in this contest the entire night. And when playing against an offense that was as scintillating as Northwestern’s was (NOT!), it tilts the field even more in your favor.

UNIFORM CHAMPION

YELLOW SHOES – If I can accept the blue stockings (instead of the traditional maize shoes white socks), y’all can give me the yellow cleats that Blake Countess strutted out on Ryan Field on Saturday night. Talk about sick!?!? I LOVED that look with the white jersey, maize pants and white socks!!

 

If Michigan ever goes back to the Canary Yellow unis, you gotta complete the ensemble with those wicked yellow Countess cleats!

EDITOR’S CHOICE

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JAKE RYAN -  The position move to middle linebacker was a tough transition for Jake but man, he’s looked solid the past few games and he was an badass out there Saturday.  On the NW sideline Fitz must have seen shades of his old playing days watching #47 out there.  He had one series (that ended with his interception) that is a mini-highlight package all in of itself.  FWIW he didn’t wear his Legends Bennie Oosterbaan patch on the #47 jersey for some reason—I half wondered if he removed it and sewed it on Fitz’s ass during pregame.

 
   

This week we rolled back 17 years (wow, 17 years!) to November 8, 1997 for one of the most anticipated and hyped-up Saturday’s in recent history.  ESPN dubbed it Judgment Day, and the big winner of the whole exercise was your beloved Wolverines who crushed JoePa and the Nittany Lions 34-8:

While I didn’t get to it in the clip, that game featured one of the hardest hits that I’ve ever seen when U-M’s Daydrion Taylor smoked Penn State’s Bob Stephenson.  The collision ended the careers of each man.

You can catch all of the This Week in Michigan Football History clips here

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[Ed. Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis is featured here each postgame with Dr. Sap’s Decals.  You might know that his detailed knowledge of uniform tweaks since the Bo era helped spearhead the Uniform Timeline.    Bottom line – the Sap mind blended with the Sap archives is a Wangler-to-Carter-esque combination.    Here’s another great Bo-era story from the mind of Sap.]

 

Guest post by Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis

 

Nowadays it’s commonplace for quarterbacks to wear red (or sometimes orange, /wink) colored jerseys in practice. This of course is a reminder to all players and coaches that they are not to be hit or tackled in drills. Last year, former Michigan quarterback Rick Leach told me that he never wore a redshirt at practice during his four years as Michigan’s man under center. I was shocked to hear that, especially when you consider two things: 1. Bo liked to hit in practice as much as possible and; 2. Leach ran Bo’s option offense and got hit quite a bit carrying and pitching the ball.

 

So all this got me thinking – who was the first QB to wear a redshirt at practice for Bo?  I know it wasn’t Tom Slade shown here at practice in 1972:

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And like Leach said, no redshirts here in 1976 when President Ford dropped by to see the Wolverines at practice:
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Or in 1977 when the Prez popped in again:
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Here’s Michael Taylor and Elvis Grbac in 1989, but I knew it didn’t start with them:
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I knew Taylor & Grbac weren’t the first because I saw this on Michigan Replay:

Michigan red jersey

That’s Jim Harbaugh and Chris Zurbrugg under center wearing red tunics during Spring Practice in 1985. 

 

Legendary U-M equipment manager Jon Falk told me that the QBs wore the red tunics only during scrimmages in the mid 80s.   I asked Big Jon if Steve Smith wore a redshirt in 1983 after he separated his shoulder in the 1983 Rose Bowl.   He did not recall Smitty wearing a redshirt, but remembered him wearing a harness underneath his shoulder pads to keep his shoulder in place.   That was a serious injury – especially for a QB.  So I thought, if it wasn’t Smith, it must have been…..John Wangler.

 

“[Wangler] just came off a very bad knee injury and we wanted to make sure he could take hits,” Falk recalled. 

 

That injury was thanks to Lawrence Taylor, who pounded Wangler’s knee In the 2nd quarter of the 1979 Gator Bowl.  I remembered Wangs being held out of spring practice in 1980, but did he wear a redshirt when he finally rehabbed his knee and returned to practice in the fall?  

 

“Well, actually, I didn’t wear a redshirt during the season,” Wangler told me.  “I wore one during two-a-days in the fall of 1980. But even though I had the redshirt on, it didn’t stop my good friend Mel Owens from tackling me one time at practice!” [laughs]

 

Former Michigan assistant and longtime West Virginia head coach Don Nehlen told me that because Bo had his guys going all out in practice, the only way he could get them to stop, when he wanted them to stop, was to use a short whistle.  Wangler confirmed this.  “He would use that short whistle to make sure you didn’t get hit hard.  I mean there would be some contact, and guys could wrap up, but he would limit the hard hitting with his whistle.”

 

So in lieu of having his quarterbacks look like prima donnas by wearing different colored jerseys, that’s what the General had used for all those years to protect his quarterback – a short whistle.

 

After finding all that out, I had one last question for old #5– Did ALL the QB’s wear a redshirt during two-a-days in 1980, or was it just him because of the knee injury?

Wangler’s response? 

 

“Just me. The other guys were a lot tougher!”

———————————————

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Last week I talked about finding the “bottom”, that is, the end of the spiral of crappy things happening to this football team.  I don’t know if we’re there, but out there before the game Saturday you felt a weight was lifted and the mood was actually a bit festive.

 

Re: Big Dave – Ultimately what did Brandon in weren’t the changes he made to the athletic program.  Even the biggest haters would admit there were some things he did that worked.  For me, I’ll fondly remember his role in smoothing out the practice-gate mess (even before he was AD), bringing in the night games and adding the Legends Program.   What sunk Brandon was that he treated people like crap. 

 

As I’ve seen (and heard behind the scenes), being an outsider, President Schlissel took a look under the covers during these past few weeks he found a very conspicuous lack of people standing up to defend Big Dave.  Take Hoke.  You are probably tired of hearing how he is a such good dude.  While very few (if any) people think Brady will be coaching next year, when he’s evaluated I’m certain he’ll have many folks to throw support his way in some form or another, because he’s down to earth, lacks a noticeable ego and relates to people.  You can be a strong leader and make major changes without being a complete cock. 

 

Historic Shift Afoot – I’ll probably hit more on this later, as you might guess were are living through one of the biggest regime swaps in athletics/football department history.  Off the top in no particular order:

* Late 1960s – Don Canham “wins” AD position, Bump moves out of coaching into athletic department, Bo Schembechler hired.

* Late 1930s – Harry Kipke fired, Yost’s authority suppressed when Ralph Aigler brings in Fritz Crisler.

* 2000s – Dave Brandon takes over, fires RichRod and hires in Brady Hoke.

* Today – New President Schlissel fires Brandon fired and (football coaching situation TBD).

 

After the jump – Arena, Mood, and more

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