15. September 2017 · Comments Off on Bo Reloads (1972) | This Week in Michigan Football History · Categories: 2017
Could Bo reload? That was the question before the 1972 season after losing 4 All-Americans. I’ll give you the answer now: Damn right Bo could reload!
But there were a few nervous folks in these parts as we kicked off Bo’s fourth season at the helm. Adding to the anxiety was the prospect of opening the season with a conference game, as the Northwestern Wildcats strolled into town. A few notes:
I’m not sure how the passing of Harry Kipke was treated in Ann Arbor. He won a national championship as a player and coach (twice), but his coaching regime ended in a shambles amidst scandal in the late 1930s, opening the door for Fritz Crisler. That’s why his name is on a service drive in the Michigan Stadium parking lot.
Speaking of the reception, I wonder if Michigan fans in 1972 had any emotions about having a black quarterback take the reins – did anyone care? I was too young, but I remember the buzz around guys like the Redskins’ Doug Williams and all that.
And speaking of breaking barriers, this game marked the first gender-integrated Michigan Marching Band. I did not know that there were no female musicians marching back in the day. Check out James Tobin’s fine piece in Michigan Today for more on this milestone.
Here’s the clip:
TWIMFbH is sponsored by Hillside Terrace of Ann Arbor, so go live there. This segment can be heard on the Keybank Countdown to Kickoff inside the Go Labatt Blue Victors Lounge starting at 8am on Saturday. You can listen live on 1050AM in Ann Arbor & on wtka.com around the world.
Not unlike your 2017 Wolverines, back in 1972 Meechigan head coach Bo Schembechler faced questions about replacing a group highly impactful players from the season before. All told 13 starters were gone from the 1971 team, including multiple All-Americans and big names like linebacker Mike Taylor, guard Reggie McKenzie, “Touchdown” Billy Taylor, who left as Michigan’s all time leading rusher, defensive back Thom Darden.
Notably 2 days before the season the Michigan family lost a legend as the Harry Kipke passed at age 73. The Lansing native was an All-American player and captain of Fielding Yost’s 1923 National Championship squad, and was head coach of the back-to-back national championship teams in 1932 and 1933.
Despite losing a ton of talent — NOBODY in the Big Ten was offering any sympathy for Bo, who already won 2 league titles in his 3 seasons and joined Woody Hayes in DOMINATING the rest of the conference.
In the season opener 45 years ago today, the Wolverines started with a critical conference game against Northwestern in front of a three-quarters-full Big House. The lone points of the game were from a 21-yard touchdown pass from Dennis Franklin to Bo Rather and an extra point kick by Mike “Super Toe” Lantry.
The winning TD was set up by an interception by linebacker Craig Mutch which he returned 18 yards to the Wildcat’s 31-yard line. While the defense pitched the shutout, “Easy” Ed Shuttlesworth paced the ground game with 75 yards on 17 carries.
The game was certainly a little closer than Michigan fans wanted but close didn’t really concern Bo – they got the win – a conference win – and the anxiety of season opener behind them.
The day was historically significant for a couple other reasons.
* Dennis Franklin started his first game and thus became the first African-American quarterback to play for Michigan.
* The game was also the first played in front of a gender-integrated Meeechigan Marching Band. That’s right, prior to 1972, the band had been an all-male unit. The 1972 crew featured six female musicians and a twirler.
Who will make history today? Stay tuned – Go Blue – Beat Air Force –