26. September 2014 · Comments Off on Bennie O. to Bump, and the Unforgettable 1964 | This Week in Michigan Football History · Categories: 2014 · Tags: , , , , , , , ,

This week we start with 1958, Bennie Oosterbaan’s final season at the helm in Ann Arbor and roll up to the coach and the team being honored Saturday in Michigan Stadium: Bump Elliott and the 1964 Big Ten & Rose Bowl Champions:

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On this day when we recognize one of the oldest college football traditions in the Little Brown Jug rivalry, we head back 56 years to September 27, 1958. On this day head coach Bennie Oosterbaan, arguably the greatest Meechigan athlete of all time, was playing the season opener against the Trojans of Southern Cal.

On a pleasant fall day in front of 77,000 fans, the Wolverines showed the Trojans what it’s like to travel this direction, and came away with a 20 to 19 win. Later that year Oosterbaan got his final victory as the Wolverine head coach when he defeated the Gophers by that same score of 20 to 19 and retained the Little Brown Jug.

In 1959 Oosterbaan was succeeded by another former superstar athlete, specifically one Mr. Chalmers “Bump” Elliott. A historical side note: did you know that no one, not even Elliott’s mother, is exactly sure how that nickname of “Bump” came to be? But nonetheless it stuck and between us, probably fared better on the playground than Chalmers.

Bump actually started as a multi-sport athlete in Purdue in the early 40s, but was sent off to serve in China in World War II.

After the war enrolled at Michigan – where he became a true star by joining his brother Pete in the famed ‘Mad Magicians’ backfield and was named All-American and Big Ten MVP during that national championship season.

The highlight of Elliott’s coaching career came 50 years ago this season in 1964, and TODAY Bump and his championship team will be honored on the Big House gridiron.

The story of the 1964 team is fascinating, and a truly underappreciated in M lore. After winning just a few games in 1962 and 1963, the squad transformed a POWERHOUSE

Faced with a brutal schedule they put away four top-10 squads, including powerful rivals Michigan State at East Lansing and Dr. StrangeHayes & Ohio State in Columbus.

They crushed teams led by the returning Heisman-winning quarterback in Roger Staubach of Navy, and an Illinois crew that featured Dick Butkus, arguably the greatest linebacker in football history.

They came just inches short of a perfect season when Purdue, led by Brian Griese’s old man, defeated the Wolverines 21-20 because Bump would not settle for a tie. After a 4th quarter touchdown put Michigan down a point, Bump did the gutsy thing and decided to go for 2 – but a run by All-American quarterback Bob Timberlake was stopped mere inches short.

But they rallied — and they recovered — and together they captured Michigan’s first Big Ten title since 1950 then pummeled the Oregon State Beavers 34-7 in the Rose Bowl.

This was without a doubt one of the finest seasons in Michigan football history, and certainly one of the most talented – consider that 16 players on that ’64 roster played at the next level.

So today, a call to action — when 89 year old Bump Elliott, Captain Jim Conley and the rest of the 1964 Wolverines are honored inside the Big House – stand up, tip your hat and show these men the appreciation they deserve..