Photo Dec 10, 6 35 29 PM

I bumped into Ricky Leach last night when he was up at WTKA last night signing photo of he and Bo taken following the 1978 win over the Buckeyes.

Last week on air Leach promised anyone who donated $50+ to Debbie Williams-Hoak’s Magic of Christmas campaign that they’d receive a personalized copy from Old #7 and he obviously came through.   Here’s what he put on mine:

Photo Dec 10, 6 59 06 PMMajor props to Ira, Sam and the folks at WTKA for once again posting a record-breaking number of kids “adopted”..and hats off to saint Debbie for all she does in driving this great program.

 

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08. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: 2013 · Tags: , ,

[Ed. You know I’m a huge fan of Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis & he’s 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.    God willing Sap will be sharing a few of his favorite stories and anecdotes on these pages in the future and here’s one for you.]

Guest post by Dr. Sap

We all know that former UM All-American QB Rick Leach has Michigan ties that run as deep as perhaps any Wolverine player.  His dad and uncle both played varsity baseball for the maize and blue and Leach himself was born at the U-M Hospital.   But when Leach got married, there was a big red Nebraska tinge to his wedding day.

This was all explained during the 1986 Fiesta Bowl Preview Show that was hosted by Fred Hickman on Detroit’s WDIV-TV station.  Father Kenneth McDonald from Mason, MI officiated Leach’s wedding.   Not only was the Father a huge Cornhusker fan, he actually wore a red robe during Leach’s wedding ceremony!   Believe it:

Father Husker

When asked if he was a fanatic, the Father responded that he was “more of a loyalist.”

On a side note: There was also a bit of green at the Leach wedding.  Some of you may have heard Ricky last week on WTKA 1050AM talking about the MSU game.  On that show Leach mentioned that former Spartan flanker Kirk Gibson, his teammate on the Detroit Tigers, was one of his groomsmen that day!

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[Ed 5/2/13.  Adapted from a piece that was first published in the Detroit News last fall.]

I always struggle with all-time lists because it’s clearly so hard to compare the eras in which teams, coaches and players performed. The game has changed so much since Michigan first took the field against Racine in 1879 it makes the task nearly impossible.

One method is to compare players from the same era—and I get that—but that’s not what I went for here.  With some input from a few Michigan football historians, here’s a list of who I feel are the top twenty-five Wolverine pigskin players of all-time.

Final disclaimer: this is not a ranking in order 1-25.  This was hard enough (there are a dozen guys tied at #26 if you know what I mean):

Willie Heston The powerful back was lured to Ann Arbor from California by new coach Fielding Yost in 1901. Heston is credited a remarkable 72 touchdowns in his career and the Wolverines did not lose a game during his time in Ann Arbor. The Football Writers Association of America named Heston as the halfback for its all-time team for the first 50 years of college football.
Germany Schulz A beast of a man, Schulz dominated the line of scrimmage between 1904 and 1908. Named to 1951 Associated Press all-time All-American team, Schulz is credited with two innovations: the spiral snap and playing defense behind the line, effectively becoming the first linebacker. Michigan had a 32-4-1 record in his four seasons.
Harry Kipke Kipke is perhaps better known as the head coach of Michigan’s 1932 and 1933 national championship teams, but was a gifted athlete who was a star on the gridiron. During his years in the early 1920s he led Michigan to a 19-1-2 record, including the 1923 national championship. Not only a talented runner, blocker and passer, Kipke is arguably the finest punter in Wolverine history.
Bennie Oosterbaan Perhaps the finest all-around athlete in Michigan history, the Muskegon native started his career by helping to shut down Illinois’ Red Grange in 1925 and went three onto All-American seasons on the gridiron. Through known as a receiver, in his senior year of 1927, he helped defeat Ohio State in the Dedication game for Michigan Stadium by tossing two touchdown passes.
Benny Friedman The front end of the Benny-to-Bennie (Oosterbaan) combination that devastated opposing defenses in the mid-1920s, Friedman was a skilled passer generations before his time. A two time All-American, Friedman also won Big Ten MVP in 1926.
Harry Newman The Detroit native Newman was a crafty field general at quarterback who moved the ball with his feet and with his arm, leading Michigan to three straight Big Ten titles. In 1932 he put Michigan on his back to run the table and claim the national championship.
Tom Harmon A man amongst boys, Old 98 was dazzling combination of size, speed and finesse and could take over games. Harmon ended his career with a dominating performance against Ohio State that earned a standing ovation from the Buckeye faithful.
Bob Chappuis After honorable service in WWII, Chappuis starred on Fritz Crisler’s famed “Mad Magicians” on the 1947 national championship team. Although Chappuis played left halfback, he set several passing records and still ranks as the Big Ten’s most efficient passer.
Julius Franks An All-American as a junior, the quick and powerful Franks had his senior year was wiped out by tuberculosis. One of the most physically gifted lineman in U-M history, he was the most talented of Michigan’s famed line that was nicknamed “Seven Oak Posts” during the early 1940s.
Ron Kramer Along with Oosterbaan, one of the finest athletes in Michigan history. The nine-time M letterman dominated the gridiron with a combination of size, speed and smarts. Kramer played several positions and earned All-American honors in 1955 and 1956.
Bill Yearby The quiet but dominant tackle was one of the last lineman in Michigan history to play both offense and defense. Yearby anchored the line on the oft-forgotten 1964 Big Ten and Rose Bowl championship team that was mere inches from an undefeated season and a national title.
Jim Mandich An All-American and team captain in 1969, Mandich was named the team’s MVP while leading the Wolverines to the Rose Bowl in Bo’s first season. A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, Mandich’s 119 career receptions and 1,494 career yards remains tops among U-M tight ends.
Dan Dierdorf One of the finest offensive tackles ever to play for Michigan. Dierdorf was a consensus 1970 All- American and use strength and speed to anchor one of the finest rushing attacks in Michigan history.
Rob Lytle The punishing runner from Fremont, Ohio native converted to fullback at the request of Bo. Lytle was a consensus All-American and Big Ten MVP in 1976. He left Ann Arbor as U-M’s all-time leading rusher and averaged nearly six yards per carry.
Ricky Leach One of the most decorated quarterbacks in Big Ten history, Leach earned All-conference honors three times and was the league MVP in 1978. A four year starter, he broke Michigan’s career passing, total offense and touchdown records as well as the season record for touchdown passes.
Anthony Carter

 

 

Jim Harbaugh

The iconic #1, Carter remains one of the few 3-time All-Americans in Michigan history. The Big Ten MVP in 1982, Carter left Ann Arbor with the all time career scoring records and set several other standards for U-M receivers.

The first of what would be an impressive string of great Michigan quarterbacks in college and the NFL, Harbaugh shattered the season and career passing records and was named Big Ten MVP and All-American in 1986.

Mark Messner The 2 time All-American left Ann Arbor as Michigan’s career leader in tackles for loss. The powerful lineman from Hartland, MI led U-M in sacks from 1985-87 and started all 49 games of his career.
Steve Everitt The brutally tough center anchored the dominate offensive lines of the early 1990s. Michigan only lost a handful of games when Everitt was healthy. Physical leader of the offensive line which was named the collective MVP of the 1991 Gator Bowl.
Desmond Howard In 1991 had one of the finest seasons as a wide receiver in the history of college football. Opposing defenses (and everyone else watching) knew when the pass was going to Howard but could do nothing to stop it.
Steve Hutchinson The 4-year starter at left guard made 45 career starts and did not allow a sack during his final two seasons. Hutchinson was selected as Big Ten all-conferences all four years.
Charles Woodson Like Harmon, Woodson seemed to operate in a different gear than everyone else in college football. His flying one handed interception against Michigan State in 1997 was super human.
Mike Hart No major colleges seemed to have major interest in Hart, who had neither size nor great speed, out of high school. But once inserted in the lineup early on during his freshman year Hart pounded after carry after carry, eventually shattering the U-M career rushing record.
Braylon Edwards Edwards set U-M season and all-time records for receptions and receiving yards and left Ann Arbor as the career leader in touchdowns. A unanimous All-American choice, Edwards also won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wide receiver and was named Big Ten MVP. His performance against Michigan State in 2004 remains one of the most dominate in U-M history.
Denard Robinson While he never got a championship in Ann Arbor, Shoelace was one of the few athletes in Michigan history (see Woodson, Friedman, and Carter) who forced U-M coaches to rethink their conventional strategy to ensure the ball was in his hands.

[Ed. As the rosters for the postseason games start to emerge I thought this piece from Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis was timely. The QBs photo alone is worth it $.  This was an interesting point in history for college football and especially this region.  Beyond it being Leach’s final game, this was just days after Montana led Notre Dame to their classic Cotton Bowl comeback victory over Houston, and just a couple days after Woody Hayes was fired for punching a Clemson player.]

Guest post by Dr. Sap

When LSU football coach Charles McClendon was selected as head coach of the East All-Stars for the 1979 Hula Bowl, he knew he was going to have to address two problems: the first was how to stop the East’s two-game losing streak to the Western All-Stars in the Hawaii Classic.

The second problem centered around his quarterbacks. He had three of the most gifted signal-callers in the country, all with varied backgrounds. He had the best pure passer in Joe Montana of Notre Dame. He had the best dual-threat quarterback in Rick Leach of Michigan. And he had Chuck Fusina – Penn State’s runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 1978.  

1979 Hula Bowl - Rick Leach, Chuck Fusina, Joe Montana (L-R Leach, Fusina, Montana) Photo Credit: Ken Sakamoto

But the old ball coach wasn’t sure who would start the game and how to best use their skills.

“Each day we’re catching on a little bit more to each other. They’ve all come from different systems and are all used to different alignments. I’m trying to put together a team that will take advantage of what the good Lord gave ‘em,” the LSU coach said before the game.

Montana got the start and actually scored a touchdown on a quarterback draw, but the TD was wiped out by a penalty and a missed field goal left the East team scoreless.
The Irish QB was in for a rough day. He would finish a woeful 3 of 12 passing, for a meager 51 yards.

In the second quarter, Fusina got the chance to show his stuff but did not fare much better. The Penn State QB produced no scoring drives and 3 for 10 passing that resulted in only 42 yards.

hula bowl program coverHula Bowl program cover via eBay 

With the East All-Stars backed up deep in the shadows of their own goalposts, the coach knew he needed to jump start his team, so he dug deep into the playbook.

He sent Michigan State wideout Kirk Gibson wide to the left and Michigan’s Rick Leach to the slot on the right side.

Gibby

Going into the game, Leach’s passing skills were considered second-rate behind Montana and Fusina.  Some NFL experts even believed Michigan’s QB would be better suited as a receiver in the pro league.

So when Leach lined up as a slotback, everyone thought they’d finally see Leach catch a pass, not throw one.

But the Guts and Glue of the Maize and Blue took the handoff from Fusina on a reverse and the Wolverine QB threw a 79-yard rainbow to Gibson to give the East a chance for their first score of the game. Unfortunately the drive stalled with Fusina back in at QB and the East went into the locker room trailing 6-0 at the half.

In the third quarter, Leach got his turn under center and promptly guided the East team on a drive that looked like it would finally put some points on the board.   But an interception in the endzone left Leach disappointed and the old ball coach scratching his head.

McClendon kept Leach in at QB and the Flint Southwestern star showed everyone on TV and the 49,132 people in the stands why Bo Schembechler called him the best quarterback in the country.   After the West tallied two scoring runs to make it 24-14, Leach got back to work by mixing in runs and efficient throws and finally hit paydirt with a 10-yard TD toss to Gibby. [Ed. Gibby and Leach were later teammates again--on the Detroit Tigers].  A two-point conversion run by Leach cut the West lead to 24-22, with just under three minutes remaining in the game.

Here’s where things got interesting.

An odd Hula Bowl rule allowed the trailing team the option of receiving the kickoff after a score was made.  Naturally Coach McClendon took the option of receiving the kickoff and his red-hot southpaw QB drove the East All-Stars down the field for the winning score.

A 14-yard pass to Penn State’s Scott Fitzkee sealed the deal with 20 seconds left on the clock.

“I think the rule is good for the fans, the TV ratings and so on, but I think it was totally unfair to our players,” cried Arkansas’s Lou Holtz who served as the head coach of the West All-Star Team.

Leach finished the day going 7-12 for 187 yards and 2 TDs in the air, with another 52 yards on six carries on the ground.   His 4th quarter comeback that resulted in 23 points earned Leach co-MVP of the game and a little more national respect for his passing prowess.

 

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As part of WTKA 1050AM’s Key Bank Countdown to Kick-off pregame show, I’m taping a new segment this season called ‘This Week in Michigan Football History’ sponsored by Wolverine Beer.

Here’s Saturday’s version where we looked back to September 11, 1976 – the season opener against Wisconsin.  Ira had a few Bob Ufer calls from the game and we worked them in (I got chills), hope you like it:

Here’s where you can find Wolverine Beer, or check out the Beer Wench’s Blog (and yes, that’s a real thing).

I’ll be posting each of the This Week… clips here.

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