This week’s game hits an anniversary of “The Reunion Game” – a resumption of the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry after a three decade+ hiatus. Billed as 2 legendary college football schools of course, but also a battle of Joe Montana vs. Rick Leach. Montana was coming off the classic Cotton Bowl win the season before, and Leach was hyped up as one of the nation’s most talented quarterbacks.
This week’s segment starts off with the history of the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry, then hits on the game itself. Wolverine Historian’s highlights from the game:
One thing that sticks out is Leach’s performance. Obviously he had a huge game, but just watch the guy control the line of scrimmage. He has the Irish on their heels with his hard snap count. God bless his cotton pickin’ heart!
Speaking of Leach, check out this clip via Dr. Sap of The Guts and Glue making critical third down play, and of course Bob Ufer’s call and reaction:
Once again, a huge shout out my man John Kryk ofNatural Enemies — if you have any interest in the history of our beloved sport, you need to read every page of this book.
TWIMFbH is sponsored by Hillside Terrace of Ann Arbor. This segment can be heard on the Keybank Countdown to Kickoff and you can listen live on 1050AM in Ann Arbor & on wtka.com around the world. This segment plays approximately 2 hours before kickoff each week.
The 130 year relationship with our friends from South Bend has been rocky at best. It started on good terms – when we taught them how to play football in 1887 but it quickly turned sour. By 1910 it got straight up NASTY when the scheduled battle that year was cancelled HOURS before the scheduled kickoff due to a dispute over player eligibility.
As time went on – the stakes got higher. In the 20s tauntings and accusations of cheating were lobbed back and forth between icons Knute Rockne and Fielding Yost.
After over 3 decades of not meeting on the gridiron, the teams played and split games in 1942 and 1943, but for there the relationship cooled once again. Both schools still claim they are rightful owner of the 1947 national championship, and then-Michigan coach and later AD Fritz Crisler just didn’t like the Irish – and the Irish in turn accused Fritz of using role on the Rules Committee against them.
Fast forward to 1968 after Crisler retired. New AD Don Canham was trying to figure out how to turn around projected a six figure net LOSS in the athletic department budget. The financially savvy Canham knew he had to fill the Big House to get the maize and blue back into the BLACK.
As chronciled by the great John Kryk in his classic book Natural Enemies, Canham met with Irish AD Moose Krause at a convention in Detroit. Canham knew getting Notre Dame on the schedule would put butts in those seats so they agreed to resume the series each year. And they set the date – exactly 39 years ago today – September 23, 1978, in what they called “The Reunion Game”.
It was a showdown of 2 of college football’s legendary schools and 2 of its biggest stars, Joe Montana and Ricky “the Peach” Leach. Irish coach Dan Devine added to the hype by allowing his players to don those “lucky” <ahem> green jerseys.
But it was almost over before it started for Michigan. Leach had a bad ankle injury that kept him out of practice all week. Bo was already making plans to go without #7…But the Flint native was boosted by a pep talk from legendary radio voice Bob Ufer – and Ricky promised old Ufe he would give it a go…
The game was held in South Bend, and Michigan trotted into the half down 14-7 …but Leach and the Meechigan defense would not be denied. Leach found Doug Marsh in the corner of the end zone to tie it at 14.
Captain Jerry Meter intercepted a Montana pass that led to Leach finding Marsh again with another TD toss to take the lead.
From there McCartney’s Monsters picked Montana off again, setting up a 40 yard TD toss from Leach to Ralph Clayton.
Curtis Greer closed the day by crushing Montana and his lucky green jersey in the Irish End zone for a safety – making the final 28-14.
The rivalry was back on – and back to square one – with the Meechigan men teaching the Irishmen how to play the game RIGHT IN THEIR OWN BACKYARD!