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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!

Bo Leads Off Big Ten Coaching Icons

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There are many iconic coaching figures in Michigan athletics lore. There's Fielding H. Yost, Fritz Crisler, Matt Mann, Cliff Keen, Carol Hutchins, Lloyd Carr and we could go on. But in this day and age, one name still stands out above the rest: Bo Schembechler.

So when the BTN chose to unveil its first-run feature "Big Ten Icons" series on 12 top conference coaches -- one from each league school -- who better to lead it off tomorrow (Saturday, Oct. 1) than our legendary football coach?

Few in their life are admired and known by one name let alone two letters, and those who knew Bo easily understand why he is truly a Michigan legend. He stood for the guiding principles of the University of Michigan. He used football as a tool to teach young boys to become men.

I was fortunate to know Bo as a journalist, co-worker, then as friend after he retired. Knowing Bo for 30-plus years would make one think I know all of the stories, yet every time I meet someone who played, coached, worked with or was a friend of Bo, I learn something new. Sometimes it is serious, sometimes it is funny, but each time the story is intriguing.

Having Keith Jackson as the "Big Ten Icons" narrator adds more than just a touch of nostalgia to this show, as those who remember Jackson's play-by-play and commentary know he covered Bo's Wolverines on many occasions and is a college football icon in his own right.

Of course, there will be those U-M fans who crave even more after the 30-minute show ends, and I'm sure producer Ashton Campbell has a vault of great stories he would have loved to air. But this half hour moves quickly and can be enjoyed by more than just Michigan fans.

Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon says in the show, "What you see is what you get with Bo Schembechler." And what we got was truly a legend -- a Big Ten icon.

The "Big Ten Icons" series on coaches debuts with the Schembechler episode on the BTN tomorrow (Saturday, Oct. 1) at approximately 3:30 p.m. EDT following Michigan's football game against Minnesota. All episodes will air in their regular time slot at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesdays. More information on the show is available at the BTN site.

Mandich Memories More Than Just Football

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It was a Twitter feed that informed me Tuesday night (April 26) of the passing of Jim Mandich. And while Twitter is a relatively new social media platform, the old fashioned ideals of personal relationships are what set my mind in motion.

Of all things, I didn't think about Jim Mandich the Michigan Wolverine and Miami Dolphins football great. I thought of the last time I had a conversation with Jim and what he didn't talk about.

I was fortunate to have been able to travel to Green Bay's Lambeau Field last season to watch the Dolphins plays the Packers. I had never been Lambeau Field and this was on my so-called bucket list.

As I stood on the sideline, exchanging pleasantries with Chad Henne, waving at Jake Long and low-fiving Charles Woodson as he ran onto the field, Mandich came over to talk. He was still working radio, covering the Dolphins games despite his battle with cancer.

He was nattily attired in a Dolphin colored long-sleeve shirt, tie and sweater vest. He really looked and sounded great. Along with former U-M assistant coach Bill Sheridan (now with Miami), we discussed Michigan football until Mandich had to get back to the press box for his radio gig.

Even though he was thin, he did not look frail. He had great color in his face, he had excitement in his voice, and was he talking about the future -- the future of Michigan football.

He did not talk about his battle with cancer. He did not talk about doctors' visits or hospital treatments. He just wanted to talk about Michigan.

Last night a tweet told many of us Mandich of Michigan is no longer with us. Like many other M Men and Women, he has left a lasting legacy made by a personal touch.

That is what we will remember.

Brandon Can Finally Relax After Whirlwind Week

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The whirlwind search process was over, and as athletics director Dave Brandon finally sat down in the Jack Roth Stadium Club above Michigan Stadium, he finally had a few minutes to relax and laugh about the one week he will never forget. The day wasn't quite over, but the search and the announcement of Brady Hoke as U-M's new football coach were done.

Brandon talked about "Flight Tracker" and how the private jets were followed on the Internet by media and fans alike. He laughed when he told the stories of how he was sitting, interviewing a coach from his undisclosed confines.

"I am interviewing this coach and I am being called by all these people who either want to warn me that the media will be waiting for me or media trying to confirm my whereabouts," said Brandon. "And I am sitting there doing this interview and really no one knows where I am. It was amazing."

A maize and blue jet had been chartered for someone else, and, ironically, the destination was Baton Rouge. Brandon laughed about what that plane's passengers must have been thinking when they exited the aircraft and saw the media.

He talked about the days when he was being recruited to play football at Michigan in the 1960s. He remembered the newspaper headlines "Bo Who?" and chuckled at "how they tried to say and spell Schembechler."

Finally, Brandon could laugh. He had introduced the new coach, answered the questions he knew he would face, and studied the reaction U-M's new head coach was getting from the number of supporters and the football players that spanned decades.

And the reaction was just what the doctor ordered: positive.

Brandon knows today was just the first episode of the story. He knows Hoke has his work cut out for him. But today was special.

I don't know if Brandon relaxed a little when Brady told the media he would be here "forever" or if it was when Hoke became emotional talking about his former players and saying they were his family's sons. Maybe it was just Hoke's demeanor or when he talked about the "school down in Ohio."

I do know that Brandon feels comfortable because he has the coach he wanted in the first place. A good coach, but even more than that, a good man.

• Slideshow: Final Practice

There was a mix of former, soon to be former and current football letterwinners at Jacksonville University Thursday afternoon (Dec. 30) when Michigan conducted its last practice of 2010 for Saturday's Gator Bowl (Jan. 1).

The last practice is somewhat bittersweet. You have watched these student-athletes grow to adults in a four or five year time frame, and you wonder what the future will hold for the players leaving college life.

Today, they are being hoisted on the shoulders of their teammates as they are carried off the field for the final time at Michigan. Tomorrow, these same players will be headed into their 'real' lives. A career as a lawyer, dentist, sales rep, teacher, etc.

So it seemed apropos that today was also the day the U-M football M Club Letterwinners were invited to practice. This is the same group that sponsors the M Go Blue banner that the team touches as it runs out of the Michigan Stadium tunnel.

Max Richardson, a running back from the mid 70s, took advantage of the invitation. He is a close friend of former U-M running back Butch Woolfolk. He asked about Butch's son Troy, who suffered a broken leg in pre-season practice. Max asked "How he was doing."

Moments later, Troy Woolfolk and JT Floyd (who suffered a season-ending ankle injury in practice in early November) walked by Max. When Max found out it was Troy, the stories came out. Max laughed and told him "I used to change your diapers!"

The two talked. Max could not wait to call Butch, and he did immediately, enjoying the moment.

Michigan's great wide receiver from the late 1940's Gene Derricotte, a member of the University of Michigan Hall of Honor, also stopped by. Derricotte not only set many U-M football records from 1944 to 1948 and was a member of both the 1947 and 1948 Wolverine national championship football team; he was a Tuskegee Airman during World War II.  A retired dentist from San Antonio, he traveled to Atlanta to meet his son before coming down for the game and the practice

His background on the gridiron and how he served our country in World War II made him a star once again on the football field, even though he was standing on the sidelines.

U-M's play-by-play announcer Frank Beckmann, an honorary M Club letterman, and others could not wait to talk to Gene after hearing of his exploits.

Equipment manager Jon Falk, also an honorary M Club letterman, made sure he shook the hand of every former player that came out, bringing a smile and a big laugh to all of them as he told a story from their era. And head medical trainer Paul Schmidt, an honorary M Club letterman, talked with many on the sidelines.

As practice came to a close, the letterwinners that stayed for the entire practice gathered to talk to Rich Rodriguez.

But before that happened, the former letterwinners watched the soon-to-be-former letterwinners get hoisted in the air and then carried off the field by their teammates.

As I watched the proceedings taking place, I -- yes, an honorary M Club letterman -- looked at our M Club lettermen and thought to myself if these players being carried off the field today have a life like those former players I have been with during this practice, Michigan and its coaching staff did their 'real' job -- building the young men to be leaders and the best.

Michigan Bowl Central

So Who Really Wants More Cowbell?

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On April 8, 2000, the actor Christopher Walken hosted Saturday Night Live. Joined by Will Ferrell and Jimmy Fallon, among others, Walken starred in one of the great skits in SNL history. "More cowbell" became a phrase that caught the fancy of American pop culture.

The skit took place in a recording studio, where the rock band Blue Oyster Cult was working on the late '70s song "Don't Fear the Reaper." Walken's need "for more cowbell" and the distractions Ferrell was causing by banging the cowbell made for great theater.

On Saturday, when Mississippi State and Michigan meet, the stage for cowbells will be at EverBank Field for the Gator Bowl.

The Bulldog faithful will bring in their cowbells as they have been doing since the early 1950s, and they are definitely an issue for the opposing team. In 1974, the Southeastern Conference tried to ban cowbells from Scott Stadium in Starkville, Miss., but tradition won out as State fans snuck the bells into the stadium, making it almost impossible for anyone to stop the clanging.

Michigan, of course, is preparing for "more cowbell." Cowbells have been clanging in the ears of the center and the quarterback for much of the practices leading up to the game. Watching it and listening to it, does create a few snickers on the sidelines, but this time a cowbell is serious stuff.

Cowbells at practice photo

The distinctive noise is something I have never been privy to hear at football games. I am pretty sure it won't be as bad as soccer's vuvuzela. A big day for Michigan would go a long way to get that ringing out of everyone's ear.

Interesting Note: The Michigan football team busses were locked out of the Jacksonville University this morning. The gates were locked and no one had a key. The team busses were on the street with curious onlookers wondering what was going on. After about 10 minutes, a Jacksonville police officer took a bolt cutter to the lock to get the busses and the team into the practice area.

Michigan Bowl Central

Getting Ready to Play in Jacksonville

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When the media portrayal of bowl games gets back to the schools' hometowns, pictures of beaches, games and some practice grace their platforms.

After all, there is no better way to spend a week in late December than playing in a bowl game. But the pictures are truly just snapshots. You don't see the true grit, the need to get your game back in shape and prepare to win a game on the national stage.

The bowl teams haven't played a competitive game in nearly a month. Final exams, holidays and family create an array of personal decisions that in the everyday lives of the individuals cause consternation.

Now add weather problems into the mix and the teams and coaching staffs have to be shaking their heads as they try to get teams back into game mode.

For Michigan, two travel stories involving four players typify the travel problems the Wolverines have faced on this trip. But it also tells you how these Wolverines are thinking about the team first and foremost.

Starting offensive lineman Patrick Omameh finally arrived in Jacksonville on an evening flight Monday, Dec. 27. He and running back Fitzgerald Toussaint were both in Columbus, Ohio, and when their flight though Washington, D.C., was canceled, they had to fly to Philadelphia.

There was only one seat on the direct flight from Philly to Jacksonville. The players had to decide who would take that one seat and get to Jacksonville on time for the first practice. Tousaaint knew Omameh, a starter on the offense, needed to be on that flight. Toussaint made the decision to put Omameh on the direct flight. He would take the long road to Jacksonville through Charlotte, thinking he was getting his teammate to Jacksonville first.

Ah, but the best laid plans sometimes go awry. The flight from Philly was cancelled and Omameh was stuck, and the Wolverines were without their starting right guard for two practices in Jacksonville. Toussaint, on the other hand, made to Jacksonville late on the 26th.

Junior safety Mike Williams and freshman linebacker Quinton Washington also tried to make necessary moves to help the team when they reached their connecting flights in Atlanta. Williams' flight on Delta was leaving as scheduled, getting him into Jacksonville on time for the Sunday practice. Washington's flight was delayed. Williams, who played in two games this past year, knew it was important to get the Washington, a nose tackle who has played in all 12 games, to Jacksonville first.

The players pleaded with Delta to switch the tickets, but in this day and age of travel, the airline's hands were tied. Williams made it to the Sunday practice, while Washington came in later that evening and was ready to go on Monday.

Decisions on the fly are something football players need to make on the field. These four players had to make decisions about how they would fly and the value to the team of their fellow teammates.

There is a different feel to each bowl game, but in many ways they are quite similar when it comes to what the cities want to portray. The committees try to get the PR photos that will showcase their cities: the beaches, the top video game rooms, the great food and everything the Chamber of Commerce can showcase. The media will eat it up, sending back snapshots of what the team is doing on the side.

And despite the efforts of the Chamber of Commerce to show their cities as a place for play and enjoyment, the real scene for a bowl team is getting ready to play and, in some cases, getting everyone to the bowl site.

Michigan Bowl Central

Winning Is Denard's Real Recognition

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When Denard Robinson was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Monday evening, I chuckled to myself that just hours before at the U-M Club of Ann Arbor luncheon at Weber's Inn, a U-M fan had asked Rich Rodriguez why Denard was not getting the type of hype he deserved.

He came out of the box with shoelaces untied with one dazzling performance after another. Anything short of stupendous was greeted as commonplace.

What will make Robinson a name to remember in U-M lore is not one game or one season. It will be the culmination of his achievements as a member of the U-M Athletic Department.

He is the first quarterback in NCAA history to rush and pass for more than 1,500 yards in a season, and the sophomore signal caller is definitely one of the most exciting players to watch. Not only did he receive the Big Ten recognition from media and coaches, he is semifinalist for the Maxwell and Davey O'Brien national awards while still being mentioned as a possible Heisman finalist.

He is fast, scary fast. Earlier this year, he went out and ran a 6.81 in the 60-meter dash, winning the event during the Ohio State-Michigan dual meet with little if any form out of the starting blocks.

He said it was "a new experience" to run indoors and win a meet against a Big Ten school, and this year's performance on the football field was a new experience for defensive players who lined up against the Wolverines.

And while many believe Robinson might deserve more recognition, Denard himself doesn't talk about stats and records, he will wait for the recognition he really wants -- a Big Ten title.

Lytle: A Final Farewell

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University of Michigan associate athletic director Bruce Madej will regularly offer his view on different topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. This is the first of those blogs.

If this were only a sports story, one would start, "A packed house jammed into Grace Lutheran Church this morning in Fremont, Ohio ..."

Unfortunately, this isn't a sports story; it is a farewell to one who we can easily define as a true Michigan Man.

The Grace Lutheran Church was "standing room only" as families, teammates and a plethora of friends paid their respects to Rob Lytle at his memorial service in Fremont today (Wednesday, Nov. 24).

His days as a football player at Fremont Ross High School, the U-M and with the Denver Broncos are legendary. But what can't be looked up by going through the stats and game stories are what made Lytle a tough, team-oriented player that created a humble, giving character after he hung up his cleats.

Even in death Rob Lytle was a team player, donating his organs to the University of Michigan.

He played halfback for Bo Schembechler in 1976 and placed third in the Heisman Trophy voting, only to be moved to fullback in his senior season. Bobby Thompson from the Denver Broncos said at the service, "All he did was talk about team goals while he was in the pros."

Tony Gant said, "Rob never told me what to do; he just helped me do it."

Gant gave an eloquent speech at the service. After all, he was another Fremont Ross great who came to Michigan in the 1980s to star as a defensive back.

"When I was a 'star' quarterback in high school, I was one of those players who thought I could do it all. I didn't need to throw the ball, just give it to me," said Gant. "Throw the ball? In fact, I though third and 36 was a running down.

"Rob heard how I was playing and when he got back to town, he called me and all he wanted to do was just played catch, throwing the football around as he tried to improve me."

Gant told a story about how Lytle was getting some grief for not pushing Tony to attend Michigan.

"Rob never told me to go to Michigan when I was being recruited," said Gant. "He told me when I would make the decision, I would make the decision I knew was right for me."

When Gant was ready to leave Michigan after his freshman year, he called Lytle.

"Rob took me to the track and we worked out over the summer and I watched how he prepared and worked," said Gant. "I wasn't mentally prepared to play football at Michigan, and all he did was work with me to get better."

When Gant broke his leg in 1984, Schembechler reminded him about Lytle's toughness, going into the training room and chiding him that Lytle wouldn't be in here. "Bo measured your toughness by Lytle," added Gant.

Lytle was tough, yet empathy and sympathy (and sarcasm) made him the man his friends will remember.

Rob Lytle, Rest in Peace, November 12, 1954-November 20, 2010