December 2011 Archives

More Than Bo vs. Bo in '84 Sugar Bowl

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During his career at Michigan, Bo Schembechler was not only instrumental in playing a part in some great football games, his name was also one that media and headline writers had quite a bit of fun with.

From the 1969 Detroit newspaper headlines of "Bo Who?" when he was hired to coach U-M to the stories of how Glenn Edward was given the nickname by his sister plus the combination of the ease of his using first name and the difficulty to spell and pronounce his last name made it a fun story.

Rarely was the name Bo used by anyone else of such an iconic nature.

There was the singer Bo Diddley and then the actress Bo Derek in the movie "10."

It wasn't until Auburn had an outstanding, tough running back that another individual named Bo would come to the forefront. And the two football Bo's met for the first time in the 1984 Sugar Bowl.

Many might remember the two Bo's from that game, but what few might know is it was a battle of the two of the great teams in nation -- Michigan was ranked eighth and Auburn was No. 3.

Bo Jackson was a great athlete and is still considered by many to be one of greatest of all -time. He played both professional football and baseball after leaving Auburn. Some believe he could even had been a world class track and field competitor.

It wasn't just Bo Jackson that made this team. He had already missed much of his 1983 sophomore season with a shoulder injury. It was the caliber of all the players on Auburn that made this team so good.

This SEC team had a great defense and an awesome offense. Tommie Agee and Lionel "Little Train" James were the running backs with Jackson. All three went on to pro careers in the NFL. Even Brent Fullwood, a backup back, went on to play four seasons in the NFL!

And then there was Steve Wallace. He might have been one of the greatest offensive linemen in the nation. He played 12 seasons in the NFL and was part of three Super Bowl championships with San Francisco. According to many, he was instrumental in changing the way an offensive tackle played the game.

"The caliber of football player they had at Auburn at the time was amazing," said former offensive lineman Doug James. "I played across from Doug Smith and Donnie Humphrey, two of the best I have ever seen. They were big, strong and extremely quick."

Smith played eight years in the NFL and also played professionally in the now defunct United States Football League. Humphrey played three years in the NFL.

Offensively, it was the option vs. the wishbone, and defensively it just as well could have been two heavyweight fighters slugging it out.

Michigan moved the ball well in the first quarter and scored the lone touchdown of the game on its second possession. U-M quarterback Steve Smith went right and scored on a four-yard run.

Auburn made the early mistakes, and a fumbled punt 47 seconds into the second quarter gave Michigan the opening it needed. But Smith was hit going back to pass and fumbled the ball, and U-M was turned away in the red zone.

The change of momentum was noticeable. After gaining 116 yards in the first quarter, U-M mustered only 31 yards in the second. And after that fumble, U-M registered only two first downs the remainder of the half and five more for the entire game. In the second half, U-M had just 96 yards in total offense.

Even with the change in momentum, the Wolverines had their chances. An incomplete pass with just over eight minutes remaining literally went in and out of the hands of a U-M receiver, forcing Michigan to punt.

Then Auburn nickel-and-dimed its way down the field. AU held the ball for an amazing 7:21 before letting Al Del Greco kick an 18-yard field goal with only 23 seconds left.

And even with that, Smith hit Triando Markray with a 38 yard pass on the last play of the game. And as Markray went out of bounds at the Auburn 25, the clock clicked down to zero and U-M lost the Sugar Bowl, 9-7.

The Wolverine defense was amazing. Nine players finished the game with six tackles or more, led by Mike Mallory with 12 and Tim Anderson with 11.

Bo Jackson, who was named the Sugar Bowl MVP, said it was one of the toughest teams he ever faced, calling the U-M players "like little bees always coming at you."

Yes, Auburn was the better team, but Michigan had its chances.

"We really could have won that game," said James. "I know it was the best team I played against in my five years at Michigan, and I know if we played them 10 times, they would have probably won seven of those games.

"We still should have won that game."

Auburn won the game, yet the season ended on a bittersweet note for the Tigers.

Even though AU was ranked No. 3 in the country and had won the Sugar Bowl, Miami jumped from No. 4 to national champions by virtue of its 31-30 win over the top-ranked Nebraska team in the Orange Bowl plus Georgia's 10-9 win over No. 2 Texas in the Cotton Bowl.

Not all was lost for Bo Schembechler though.

The friendships that were made by all the Bo's lasted a lifetime. Bo Jackson became friends with Bo Diddley while our Bo Schembechler became good friends with Bo Derek.

Not a bad deal.

Happy New Year to all, and Go Blue!