05. July 2015 · Comments Off on The Case of the Missing Decals | Storytime with Dr. Sap · Categories: 2015 · Tags: , , , , ,

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Guest Post by Steve ‘Dr. Sap’ Sapardanis

As I re-read my good friend John Kryk’s story (‘Wolverines on Your Head’) that appeared in the 2010 edition of mgoblog’s Hail To The Victors, I realized that there have been a few updates and corrections in the five years that have passed since it was written.  In my never-ending quest to accurately recap the history of the Michigan Football helmet stickers, I have since determined, and confirmed with Jon Falk, that there were indeed three versions of the Wolverine decals. The image below recaps the nuances of the three versions:

Helmet Sticker Eras

For more information, check out my decal Q&A with Big Jon from a few months ago.

Here is a pictorial recap:

Version 1 (1969-1974)

Decals 1 Barry Pierson (29) in 1969 |  Mike Lantry (36) from 1974

Version 2 (1975-1982)

Decals 2 Calvin O’Neal (96) in 1975 |  Anthony Carter (1) from 1982

Version 3 (1985-1994)

Decals 3  Jim Harbaugh in 1985 |  Tim Biakabutuka in 1994

So what happened in 1983 and 1984?  

1983:

1983

1984:

1984

If those photos aren’t enough evidence for you, scan the videos of the 1983 and 1984 Ohio State games.

I’ve asked former players and I’ve asked Big Jon, and no one seems to have a concrete explanation as to WHY there were no decals on the helmets in 1983 & 1984. Initially, everyone I talked to was adamant that the decals were on the helmets those two years, but once I produced pictures of several players throughout those two years with blank helmets, they had no explanation.

I DO know that they were being kept track of on a wall in the locker room, but no one has an answer – not even your friendly neighborhood, Dr. Sap.

If anyone can help explain this dilemma, please respond to the Bat-Decal Signal below!

decal bat signal

RelatedUniform Timeline

Guest Post by Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis

When looking back at some classic pictures and photos of Anthony Carter, you will notice that most of the time his jersey looked different from those worn by his Michigan teammates.  Your eyes aren’t deceiving you – AC, at times, did in fact wear a different jersey than his maize & blue brethren:

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From 1979 through the 1981 season, Carter wore tear-away jerseys made by Russell Athletic.

Created in 1967 and known for the name they were given, these jerseys would indeed rip and tear apart whenever an opponent tried to grab them.

Before the Michigan jerseys became skin-tight, custom sewn, works of art by a local Ann Arbor seamstress in 1987, football jerseys some 30 to 40 years ago were loose-fitting garments that draped over the players.  The excess material was perfect for a defender to grab onto and take an opponent down, sometimes even from behind. This technique was called a “shirt tackle.”  You’ve probably never heard of that term because when the tear-aways were banned by the NCAA in 1982 (the last year they were used in the NFL was 1979), football jerseys gradually became tighter fitting, making it almost impossible to bring down a ball-carrier via a shirt tackle.

Recently legendary Michigan Football Equipment Manager Jon Falk shared with me the story of how Carter got to wear the tear-away jersey at Michigan.   After sitting down with Bo Schembechler in the spring of 1979 and assigning the heavily recruited Riviera Beach, Florida wideout the #1 jersey Falk had a feeling Carter would be special.  Sure enough the first few practices indeed showed everyone how fast and dynamic AC was.  Never before had a receiver been able to catch every ball thrown to him in practice.  Carter was able to chase down any pass, no matter how far it was thrown.  For three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust-Bo and Michigan, this sight was truly shocking.

Schembechler noticed that the times Carter caught the ball in traffic, the only way the Michigan defenders could bring him down in practice was to grab his jersey.  He was just too quick and elusive to bring down any other way.

Two weeks before the season opener against Northwestern, the Michigan jerseys arrived from manufacturer Spanjian and this got Bo thinking – if Carter wore a tear-away jersey the opponents would never be able to bring him down!   Schembechler told Falk to get some tear-aways for his freshman wideout, but there was one problem – with the college football season only two weeks away, Russell was too busy completing jersey orders for other teams.  When Big Jon asked the manufacturer to make some tear-aways, he was told they couldn’t meet his request at that time.

Undaunted, Falk pulled out a trump card and called a longtime friend–the owner of Russell Athletic.  Sure enough, the owner ordered the Russell plant to stop all other production so that they could make some maize and blue #1 tear-aways for Anthony “The Darter” Carter. The rest is history.  Here’s how they looked (note: no Carter nameplate on the back):

Picture 030 Picture 029

Falk also confirmed my suspicion that Carter was the only player to wear tear-away jerseys at Michigan.  Big Jon told me that he would pack TEN (10) of the #1 tear-away jerseys for each game and that the most Carter went through in one game was four, which happened 3 or 4 times between 1979 and 1981.

Related:
Helmet Decal Details with Jon Falk
Keeping AC Warm – How Michigan Landed Anthony Carter

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30. March 2015 · Comments Off on I dub thee, “Hoss” · Categories: 2015 · Tags: , , , , ,

A nice little sequence, in two parts, from the Dr. Sap Archives.   Sap takes you to the 1991 Ohio State game, as called by ABC’s Keith Jackson:

Part I – Matt Elliott wants to be a Hoss:

Part II – Matt Elliott is a Hoss:

 

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Coach Harbaugh recently sent this tweet lauding a few great nicknames in M lore – and as you might guess most of them fall into the Bo era.  With some help from Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis and a few of his contacts, a nickname Rosetta Stone of sorts on that tweet:

SSS

One of the great M Men who was quick to dish out nicknames was of course the great announcer Bob Ufer.  Back in 2012 Sap ran down a healthy list of his nicknames and Ufer-isms that seems apropos:

Below are a few of the more famous nicknames from Bob “THE UFE” Ufer:

* Don Lund (Ufer’s color commentary man) – Lundo
* Jack Lane (Ufer’s stats man) – The Human Computer
* Tom Ufer – Old #3 son
* Bo Schembechler – Bo “George Patton” Schembechler, The General
* Woody Hayes – Dr. Strange Hayes
* Woody Hayes’s Buckeyes – Test Tubes
* Earle Bruce – “Darth Vader” Bruce
* Earle Bruce’s Buckeyes – Scarlet and Gray Stormtroopers
* Dan Devine – Dreary Old Dan Devine
* Michigan State – Jolly Green Giants
* Dennis Franklin – Dennis “The Menace” Franklin
* Ed Shuttlesworth – “Easy” Ed Shuttlesworth
* Mike Lantry – Super Toe
* Gil Chapman – The Jersey Jet
* Gordon Bell – The Whirling Dervish
* Rob Lytle – The Blonde Bullet, The Fremont Flash
* Rick Leach – Ricky “The Peach” Leach, The Flint Phenom, The Guts and Glue of the Maize and Blue
* Russell Davis – Russell “Hustle” Davis
* Harlan Huckleby – Harlan “Huckleberry Finn” Huckleby
* U-M’s 1978 Backfield – Huckleberry Finn deep and Tom Sawyer close
* Thomas Seabron – Old Sea Dog
* Mike Jolly – Butterknife, Bones
* Chris Godfrey – “Manster”  (half Man, half Monster)
* Ron Simpkins – Boo Bear
* Curtis Greer – Curtis “Harvey Martin” Greer
* Roosevelt Smith – Roosevelt “Rosey” Smith
* Bryan Virgil – Bryan “Ozzie” Virgil
* Lawrence Reid – Lawrence “LP” Reid
* John Wangler – Johnny “Winging” Wangler
* Mel Owens – The Hulk
* Mike Trgovac – Tiger Vac
* Anthony Carter – Spider, Darter, Sparkplug, the Human Torpedo and of course just, “AC.”
* Robert Thompson – Robert “Bubba Baker” Thompson
* Butch Woolfolk – “My name is Butch, don’t call me Harold, Woolfolk!”
* Steve Smith – Smitty

Ufer-isms
And because you can’t have one without the other, here are a few common but classic phrases frequently uttered by ol’ Ufe:

* Referees – $100 an hour men
* Michigan Stadium – The Hole that Yost dug, Crisler paid for and Canham carpeted
* Michigan’s Tartan Turf – Canham’s Carpet
* Ohio Stadium – The Snakepit
* Ohio Stadium Crowd – 10,000 Michigan fans and 75,000 Truck Drivers
* The Little Brown Jug – The Finest Piece of Football Crockery in America
* Offensive Co-Ordinator Chuck Stobart’s Offense – Stobart’s Stallions
* Jerry Hanlon’s O-Line – Hanlon’s Hustlers
* Gary Moeller’s Offense – Moeller’s Marauders
* Bill McCartney’s Defense – McCartney’s Monsters
* Michigan Football – “Football is a religion and Saturday is the Holy Day of Obligation”
* The CBs of Michigan Football – “Crisler, Benny, Bump and Bo”
* Ali Haji-Shiekh – “the only Iranian I know who wears cowboy boots”
* Out of the endzone kickoffs – “Aluminum Beer Cans – Non-Returnable”
* “Closer than fuzz on a gnat’s eye “
* “Like a bat out of … you know where bats come from”
* “Pickin’ ‘em up and layin’ ‘em down”
* Two things you can always count on Ufer saying: football is a game of emotions, and games are always won or lost up front in the trenches.

 

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Guest post by Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis

AC2 
AC . . . with the NFL Wilson football FWIW

A while back legendary Michigan Football Equipment Manager Jon Falk told me the story of how Anthony Carter was given the #1 jersey to wear by Coach Bo Schembechler.  He also told me that Bo went to unbelievable lengths to get AC to come to A-squared.

Recently I tracked down former U-M Coaches Bill McCartney and Don Nehlen to get the real details of how Carter became a Wolverine.   Nehlen told me that U-M was not regularly into recruiting Florida back then, but at the same time, Michigan was still a considered a program with a national reach.   “I can still remember the first time I saw him at practice,” Nehlen told me.  “I said, ‘Oh, brother—this is a pretty fragile looking guy!’  He was a dynamite football player, though.”  One concern they had about recruiting in Florida was the reality of having to bring the players to Michigan—and more specifically—the Michigan weather.    While he was involved in the courtship, Nehlen also told me that the point man for the recruitment of AC was coach McCartney.

Sure enough, coach Mac had the full skinny and here’s our Q&A:

Steve Sapardanis (SS): Was Carter the most electrifying athlete you had seen in High School?
Coach Bill McCartney (BM): Yes. He really was electric.  He had balance, acceleration.  His quickness was uncommon.  He was a cut above.  One thing you have to remember, the kids in Florida were able to play football year round and as a result, they had a noticeable edge when they got to college.  By the time I went to visit him, he was already leaning toward Miami (Florida).

SS: Did you as coaches feel AC would get you over the hump and help you win a bowl game at Michigan?
BM: You gotta remember, he was the rage!   He was the cat’s meow!  He was shot out of a cannon!  He was faster than a speeding bullet!  It didn’t surprise me one bit that he returned a punt for a touchdown in his first game (at Michigan).

SS: Did you have to recruit his parents to get Anthony to come to Michigan?
BM: In some cases, you are right – you have to recruit the parents, because sometimes if you convinced the kid to come without selling the parents on it, you could lose the kid. That wasn’t the case with Anthony. Michigan was an easy sell.

SS: Why do you think AC wanted to come to Michigan?
BM: Michigan was the maximum experience.  It was a college town. It was a safe town; close to a big city. It had the largest stadium in the country. The most wins in college football history. It was wholesome.

SS: Wasn’t Carter worried about Bo running the ball and not throwing it a lot?
BM: You’re right about Bo wanting to run the ball, but I don’t think Anthony really knew a lot about Michigan, to tell you the truth.

SS: It sounded like AC was the prized recruit in his class – was that the case?
BM: Absolutely.  I’ve never told anyone this before but we saw that the temperature for his visit to Ann Arbor was going to be 10 degrees.  So we had this plan (laughs).  We covered every detail with the coaches and his host.*  It was all rehearsed. I flew down to Florida to pick up Anthony and brought him up to Ann Arbor. Because it was so cold, we were worried that the weather might affect his decision, so when the plane landed in Detroit, we had a car waiting to pick us up. So as soon as we got off the plane, I rushed Anthony into the car (laughs).  And when we got to Ann Arbor, we had the car pull up right in front of the football building and whisked him inside.  I had it coordinated with the other coaches so that Anthony was never outside for more than 10 seconds.   [The host] did a great job with Anthony, showing him around and saying all the right things.   

When his visit was over, I flew back with him to Florida. It was the only time I would ever fly to meet a recruit and fly back home with him – he was that important and that special.  When we landed in Florida, Anthony said to me, “You know coach, it really wasn’t that cold!”  That’s when I knew we got him.

SS: Did the promise of an indoor practice facility factor in his recruitment?

BM: It never did, because we didn’t want to make a big deal about the weather. See, if we talked about that, or how cold it would get, it would have put all the focus on the weather and we didn’t want to talk about that.

Photo Feb 13, 9 07 53 AM

 The ‘79 staff from the game program that season

SS: I heard that while you got AC’s mother to sign his Letter of Intent, getting his father to sign it was a little more involved. Did you and Bo actually go into the Florida Everglades to get Carter’s father to sign his LOI?
BM: Yes, it’s true.

SS: Bo literally rolled up his pant-legs, took off his shoes and socks and walked into the Florida Everglades to get Anthony’s dad to sign his Letter of Intent?
BM: Yes. (laughs!) The old man was foaming at the mouth to get AC!

SS: Why did both of Carter’s parents have to sign his Letter of Intent? Couldn’t it have been faxed?
BM: We weren’t taking any chances.  We didn’t want to run the risk of a fax. Lots of things can happen at the last minute.  Lots of kids will change their mind and vacillate – especially with out-of-state kids.  And with Anthony being from Florida, there were a lot of schools down there wanting to get him to sign.  Anthony was insecure, but was an extra-ordinary kid who came from a not so stable situation.  So Bo and I went down there and timed it (with all the other recruits) so that we were there (on Signing Day). In my mind it was a done deal. That’s why Bo came with me. If Anthony hadn’t signed, I would have been fired! I would have had to find my own way home! In my mind, he was the single greatest recruit Michigan has ever had – ever!  I mean, he was a three-time All-American! When has that ever happened?

 

*Coach Mac couldn’t remember the host player’s name, but John Wangler later told me he thought it was Zeke Wallace from Pompano Beach, FL.

 

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Bo era savant Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis recently caught up with Jon Falk to get down and dirty on the decals.  And if you are wondering when this site is going to stop talking about helmet decals, the answer is NEVER.

___________________________________

Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis (SS): Bob Ufer mentioned that there were team goals as well as individual achievements that were used to award the decals. Do you know what criteria was used to get a decal? Was that list published?
Jon Falk (JF)
: There was a notebook that Bo had that listed the goals.  It had offensive scores, defensive stops, interceptions, tackles for loss – I can’t remember all of them.  When the offense would score, every player on offense would get one. If we scored more than 30 points, the whole offense would get one.  If the defense made a goal line stand, the entire defense would get a decal.  Things like that.

SS: Who made the decision to award decals to each player?
JF: The position coaches would give me the list.  Later on, it would be the Victors Club List.  That’s where guys would wear Victors Club jerseys at practice.

Victors Club Jersey(Victors Club jerseys)  U-M Bentley Historical Library

SS: When were those decisions made? After evaluation of game film?
JF: Correct.  On Sunday each position coach would break down the game film and make a list of who would get (how many) decals.

SS: When were the decals applied to the helmets?
JF: Monday.  After I got the list from the coaches on Sunday, I would put the decals on Monday before practice.

SS: Who put the actual decals on the helmets?
JF: I did.  I would also check the helmets on Saturday to see if any were torn.

SS: Who kept track of the decals and were they locked up?
JF: I had them in my office, locked in a drawer.  I had a book that I kept a record of for the entire year of who had how many decals.

SS: Do you still have that book?
JF: Oh, gosh no!

SS: The design of the decals changed over the years. Who decided to change the design in 1975 & 1985?
JF: I did.  The original ones were crudely shaped – they were just punched-out and literally stuck to adhesive tape.

SS: Who/what company made the decals?
JF: There was a local guy in Milan, MI – gosh, I can’t remember his name – but he was the guy who made them.  They were made on cards that had 10 decals on each card.

SS: Were the decals actually a yellow football with just a clear-colored (not blue) wolverine head?
JF: Well, like I said, the first ones were cut out and applied to adhesive.  The next ones (1975-82), the yellow was adhesive with a clear wolverine head. But those were very thin and would tear and get torn, so the next ones (1985-94) were made a little thicker.  They were yellow with a blue wolverine head (with laces) and were a little more durable.

SS: The decals were not on the helmets in 1983 & 1984 but were still kept track of. Who made the decision to take them off the helmets?
JF: I don’t recall that. I thought they were always on.

SS: They came off in ’83 & ’84 and I had heard that they were still kept track of, but they were just not placed on the helmets. Evidently, Bo wanted to reinforce the TEAM element and thought removing them might help.
JF: No, I don’t remember that. Are you sure?
SS: Absolutely.

SS: Were the players excited about getting new decals each week?
JF: Oh, yeah!  Each Monday they’d say things like, “How come I only got this many decals?” And I would tell them, “Go talk to your (position) coach.”  But some of the players would move the decals each Monday and then I would move them back on Saturday before the game.

SS: You mean some of the guys would reposition them?
JF: Yes. And I would have to move them back to where I put them.

SS: I know there were left and right decals. Were they placed on the helmets in a certain way?
JF: Yes. I tried to place the decals so that the wolverine head was facing away from the (side) stripe.  So the left-facing ones were on the left side of the helmet and the right-facing ones were on the right side of the helmet. That didn’t happen every year, but that’s what I tried to do.

SS: When Lloyd Carr made the decision to remove the decals in 1995, were they still kept track of?
JF: By then we had the Victors Club T-Shirts – not the jerseys. A few years later, if we were playing a home game, they would wear a blue Victors Club jersey with no numbers on it at practice. If we were playing a road game, it would be a yellow Victors Club jersey. The Demo Squad would wear different colored jerseys for each team that we were playing on the road. The Demo Team would wear white jerseys for the road (visiting) teams.

SS: How did the players react when they were told there would be no more decals?
JF: You know what? They just took it in stride. We didn’t want anything to distract from that winged-design.

SS: I have been a big proponent in trying to bring back the decals. What’s your take, Jon? Would you like to see them again on the Michigan Football helmets?
JF: I like that Michigan helmet without the decals.
SS: :(

OTHER TIDBITS FROM JON FALK:

  • “I used to tell all the players who would go to the Senior Bowl, ‘Don’t put any (other team) stickers on that helmet of yours!’”
  • “Bo used to ask me, ‘How come these helmets are scratchy?’ Guys like (Mark) Donahue and (Rob) Lytle would have their helmets all scuffed up and Bo didn’t like that.  He liked those old (MacGregor) helmets where the design was actually inside the helmet and there was a plastic coating on the outside. So we got some touch up paint and Bob Bland would touch up the helmets every Thursday night.”
  • “Dave Brandon wanted the helmets to look shiny for each game on Saturday. So a few years ago, Bob Bland would paint the game helmets on Monday so they would look perfect for Saturday’s game.   More recently, all the game helmets have been shipped to Elyria, Ohio to have them touched up and have a heavy gloss coating applied to them so they could be nice and shiny. On Monday the helmets would get shipped to Ohio to get the gloss finish re-done. The guys would wear practice helmets all week and get their game helmets back on Thursday. This way the helmets would look nice all the time.”
  • “The first night game against Notre Dame was when we first used the speckled (yellow) paint and used it all season.”

 

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image

By Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis

In the 1970s player introductions for college football games were very different compared to the productions that they are now.  There were no fancy graphics, no computer generated backgrounds and no animations some forty years ago.  While the intros back then lacked the glitz and glamour of today’s game, they made up for it in uniqueness and creativity.

In 1973, the player introductions for the Michigan-Ohio State game were announced over the Michigan Stadium public address system. ABC-TV’s Bill Fleming was live on the field and had the players run up to the on-field camera as he announced their names to the sell-out crowd and national TV audience, literally minutes before kickoff.  Those introductions were epic and captured the emotion of the moment.  None were better than Michigan’s Curtis Tucker, Dave Gallagher and Paul Seal’s introductions.

A few years later, ABC decided to use video mug shots at the Friday walkthroughs for both teams instead of delaying the start of the game with on-field player introductions.  This was relatively boring as the players were usually just standing there in their team-issued sweat-suits as the camera moved down the line, one by one.

Then, in 1978, Michigan tailback Harlan Huckleby added a subtle coolness to his intro for the game against Notre Dame.  When the camera moved in front of #25 and paused for about 3 seconds, Huckleby winked:

When I recently asked Huck about it he didn’t recall doing the wink or what his motivation was at the time.  Whatever the reason, it was a cool move by one of Michigan’s coolest cats, for sure!

The next time Michigan was on National TV, Michigan’s Russell Davis, Ralph Clayton and Doug Marsh all decided to continue the tradition of the Huckleby Wink. During the 1978 Michigan-Ohio State game, all three players winked when the ABC camera got in front of them.  The next year, during the 1979 Notre Dame mug shot player intros, Stan Edwards, Lawrence Reid, Clayton and Ed Muransky all winked to the ABC camera.  Who knew that what Huck started on a whim a year earlier would continue with the next group of Wolverines?!

For the 1979 Rose Bowl, NBC took the player introductions to a new level.  The peacock network already had the players introducing themselves, as well as their hometown and degree of study for the previous few Rose Bowl telecasts. In 1979 NBC decided to have the starters for each team hang out in a picturesque garden while they shot their player intros.  It was a little more dynamic and flashy than ABC’s Friday walk-through mug shots, but not by much.

For Michigan quarterback Rick Leach, NBC decided to add a little pizzazz to his intro. After announcing all the offensive starters, NBC had Leach crouch down behind his offensive linemen. As legendary broadcaster Curt Gowdy announced that “you can’t hide an All-American,” the Wolverine offensive linemen all knelt down on one knee and up stood the Guts and Glue behind them. It was classic!

I’ve made a video collage of some of the more memorable Michigan player introductions of the 1970’s for all to see and remember:

Ed. You can check out the whole Dr. Sap Archives video collection here, including the intro clips from several games in the 1970s.

 

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[Ed. In a repost from January 2014, Dr. Sap is back and offers up some Bo-era flavor that comes from the treasure trove that is the Sap archives. –G]

Guest Post by Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis

When Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh scored on a quarterback draw against Notre Dame in 1985, little did he know that a photo of the classic TD would spark an interesting discussion in the national media.   As Harbaugh crossed the goal line that afternoon, Ara Parseghian exclaimed on the CBS broadcast, “A quarterback draw – great call!”

The next week, Sports Illustrated captured Harbaugh’s scoring play under the title, “A Cure For Bo’s Blues”:

A Cure for Bo's Blues - HarbaughA couple of SI readers took notice of the NFL football Harbaugh was cradling in the photo.  They were inspired to write the editor and ask why a collegiate athlete was using a professional pigskin:SI Letter - Jim Harbaugh's NFL Wilson footballAs noted by SI’s ED/Sir, this question was addressed by the NCAA and the next year they decided to modify their college footballs that were used by Division I schools. So when Michigan played at Notre Dame in 1986 Harbaugh was throwing around the new AFCRT Wilson 1001:

Jim Harbaugh - Notre Dame 1986It was the same model, size and shape as the NFL Wilson – it now just had a different, less professional-looking, stamp on it.  Of course everyone then was asking, “What the heck does AFCRT mean?”  It stands for the American Football Coaches Retirement Trust and is essentially a retirement plan setup for qualified college football coaches.

The ball stayed in circulation for a few years. In fact, when Demetrius Brown outdueled Rodney Peete in the 1989 Rose Bowl, this was the ball that was used in that glorious victory over the Trojans:

AFCRT pigskin Michigan

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Thanks Sap!  If you want to see the best looking ball from a Notre Dame game, that’s easy.  My pal and artist Jil Gordon does the handiwork on many of the game balls awarded to players and coaches.  Here’s what she did for UTL 1.0 – just amazing:

ND ball

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28. December 2014 · Comments Off on Jim Harbaugh’s Top 5 Games at Michigan · Categories: 2014 · Tags: , , , , , , ,

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[Ed. What the heck – a primer on Jim Harbaugh’s greatest moments as a Wolverine as we await the official decision. Once again a nicely done Bo-era gem from Dr. Sap!]

A guest post by Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis

#5: 1984 Miami (FL) – Jim Harbaugh’s first start as a Michigan Wolverine would come against the #1-ranked, defending National Champion Miami Hurricanes and he didn’t disappoint. Wolverine fans, myself included, had long felt that the maize and blue lacked one thing on offense for a few years – a tall, pocket-passing QB, ideally from California. That finally happened with the Palo Alto, CA 6-3, 202 pound Harbaugh.

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Having heard that he had attended a high school passing camp with John Elway as his instructor, sealed the deal for me – Harbs was going to be the next starting QB in my opinion and his first start was highly anticipated by many. His first two passes against Miami – an out pattern to Vince Bean for 11 yards and another to Steve Johnson for 16 yards – showed off his strong arm, much to the delight of the Michigan Stadium crowd, as Michigan went on to win, 22-14. It was an impressive victory for the Wolverines and a great start for the new QB from California.

#4: 1985 Notre Dame – Remembering how Michigan finished the 1984 season at 6-6, not many gave U-M a chance in the season opener against Notre Dame in 1985. It was a statement game for both Michigan and its quarterback. Would the Wolverines bounce back with another 10-win season?

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Would their quarterback return to form after breaking his arm a year earlier? A strong defense and solid ground game would power the maize and blue to the victory, and while Harbaugh didn’t light up the scoreboard with his passing, he was effective enough through the air to get the win, 20-12. His 3rd quarter touchdown on a quarterback draw and his ensuing endzone celebration put an exclamation point on the victory – Michigan and Harbaugh were back. 

#3 1985 Ohio State – With Iowa having all but wrapped up the Rose Bowl bid a few weeks earlier with a one point win over Michigan, the Wolverines and Buckeyes were playing for Fiesta & Cotton Bowl bids respectively.

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Not quite the same, but the chips were still high and Harbaugh was clutch throughout the game – particularly on 3rd down. Michigan’s QB would finish the game 16 of 19 for 230 yards and 3 TD’s with 8 of 9 passing on 3rd down for 8 first downs. He topped his clutch performance with a 77-yard touchdown bomb to John Kolesar that put a dagger in the Buckeye hearts once and for all as Michigan won, 27-17.

#2 1986 Notre Dame – Going into the game against the Irish in 1986, Michigan was ranked #1 in some polls but Notre Dame was strutting out their new coach and no one knew what to expect from Lou Holtz and ND.

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Two moments stood out for me in this game: (1) After Harbaugh floated a perfect 27-yard touch pass to Jamie Morris for a touchdown, the Michigan quarterback flashed the #1 finger as he raced to the endzone to celebrate the score with his teammates. When did Michigan’s QB ever proclaim so visibly that they truly were #1? Never. (2) Late in the 4th quarter with the contest still in doubt and facing a critical 3rd & 6 at their own 22 yard-line, Harbaugh lofted a perfect 38-yard pass to Kolesar down the Michigan sideline that got the Wolverines out of trouble. When did Bo EVER throw deep on a critical 3rd & short with the game on the line? Never. Not until #4 arrived. A last-second John Carney field goal miss preserved the 24-23 Michigan victory.

#1 1986 Ohio State – After beating Notre Dame (twice), after beating Ohio State at home, and after winning the Fiesta Bowl, there was still something missing on the Harbaugh resume: a Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl berth. Both were on the line in 1986. If that wasn’t enough pressure, Harbaugh put the bull’s-eye squarely on himself after he predicted victory over the Bucks on the Monday before the tilt with OSU.

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This game was what he dreamed about as a kid emulating his boyhood idol, Rick Leach – beating the Bucks & going to Pasadena – and nothing was going to prevent him from reaching his ultimate goal. Much like he said before his first start in 1984, he was going to do whatever it took to win. In this game it meant overcoming a 11 point deficit in the second half and the raucous crowd in Columbus he so incited with his guarantee. It meant cupping his hands around his facemask to make it appear that his teammates could not hear his audibles that he really wasn’t screaming to them. It meant not throwing a touchdown pass the entire game. It meant executing the game plan to perfection. When it was all said and done, Harbaugh & the Wolverines would emerge victorious In Columbus, 26-24. They were Big Ten Champs and would head west to play in the Rose Bowl, just like he dreamed about as a kid.

Other Notables on Harbaugh:

  • Harbaugh would be the first UM QB to throw for 300 yards in one game (1986 Wisconsin, 1986 Indiana).
  • #4 was the nation’s most efficient passer in 1985 & finished second in 1986.
  • He would also become the QB to successfully break the Bo threshold of attempting more than 25 passes per game AND WIN – another indication that Michigan had finally devised an effective passing game that could win games.
  • Harbaugh started his career being late for his first team meeting and held a clipboard that entire 1982 season. He ended his career by hoisting the Big Ten Championship Trophy and singing The Victors in Columbus.

 

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