Rivalry's Fire Still Burns in Bo

After Bo Schembechler stood at the podium to discuss he greatest memories of the Michigan Ohio State game, he stepped into the hallway and continued to break down the rivalry. He shed more light on his greatest disappointment, what he thinks of the new defensive staff, the offensive key to the game, and more.

Here's a repeat of GoBlueWolverine's Tuesday piece on Bo. For those that missed his Monday presser comments earlier this week, click here.

Say the words Ohio State around former Michigan head coach Glenn E. Bo Schembechler, and his blood still boils.  Not from hatred, but from the heat emanating from 20 years of fierce, but respectful competition.  The rivalry between these two storied programs existed long before Bo matched wits with his former mentor Woody Hayes, but teacher and pupil took the annual grudge match into the stratosphere.  Until this very day, a passion becoming a man 50 years his junior still emits from Schembechler's person when discussing his forays with the Buckeyes.

"It was our strategy here at Michigan to do something to beat Ohio State EVERY DAY," Schembechler exclaimed!  "Even if it's in the first meeting, we talk about it. We're going to do something every day.  Not necessarily on trick plays, but on blocking their defense.  That's more important than putting in new plays and stuff.  If you're going to use some new adjustments or something…to be practicing them during the week even though you aren't going to use them that Saturday…you're going to hold them for Ohio Sate…we did do that.  I never held our players back from talking about Ohio State.  I wanted it well-embedded in their minds that what we wanted to do was win that game.  And luckily I came out of there with a positive record.  I could've done better too!  There were games in there that I could've won! A field goal here or something there…I could've won more."

One contest that still draws an intense reaction is the 10-10 tie in 1973.  The outcome of the game was disappointing enough, but the decision the Big Ten athletic directors made to send the Buckeyes to the Rose Bowl instead of Michigan was the part he found particularly infuriating.

"It was the greatest disappointment of my career," Schembechler said.  "We were both undefeated. We came in undefeated and we were playing here.  We missed a field goal at the end and we end up tied. It was a 10-10 tie. Everybody including Woody Hayes congratulated me after the game and said, 'Oh, you'll do a great job in the Rose Bowl,' and all that. Everybody expected Michigan to go to the Rose Bowl because if you look at the game, we outplayed them. If you look at tradition, Ohio State had played in the Rose Bowl the year before, and we used to have a no repeat rule where you couldn't repeat. So everything indicated that we were going to go to the Rose Bowl. And it was strictly a political thing. And I assume the fact that our great quarterback, Dennis Franklin, broke his collarbone in the fourth quarter of that game on a blitz…they might have used that as an excuse. And so that whole thing upset me to no end. After that, I think that 1973 team is the reason that we're playing in other bowls today."

Just weeks after a reparative heart surgery in which a revolutionary device that combines a pacemaker with a defibrillator was installed in his chest, the old coach both looked and sounded spry enough to ring the necks of the aforementioned athletic directors if he happened to run across them on the street.  Then with an infectious chuckle, he reminded everyone of the positive impact that decision eventually had on the conference.

"Those things finally fade away," Schembechler said regarding the bad feelings he had from that outcome.  If anything there were some good things that came out of that.  Every fair-minded sports fans would say that was an unfair decision.  The number one thing that it did…it took the damn athletic directors out of there and all of their political bull (crap)…it took them out of there because they no longer had a vote.  The second thing was that they recognized that we had to get rid of the antiquated position that we would not send teams to other bowls.  You've got to really be BAD not to go to a bowl in the Big Ten conference now.  I think you can go with 6-6, can't you?  We'll have a lot of teams in bowls.  They can all thank '73 for that."

Now almost a twenty years after he patrolled the sidelines during this game, Schembechler has his gaze set upon the one that may be the biggest ever.  That's a far cry what many thought it would be at the start of the season.  Observers from around the country had written the Wolverines off as has-beens after last year's 7-5 record.  While the old coach admits he didn't see a game of this magnitude coming, he certainly saw the program he rebuilt bouncing back in 2006.

"No doubt whatsoever," replied Schembechler when asked if he thought Michigan would rebound this year.  "Too many good players.  The question was how far could they rebound.  I did not anticipate being second in the nation heading into Ohio State.  I felt all along…all of these people saying we were dead…if we were dead at all, we had some real talent."

Unleashing that talent has been the difference in this year's team, and Schembechler credits the new defensive staff for getting the most out of what they have at their disposal.

"I wasn't close to (the decision to change coordinators) when it happened," he said.  "Both of those guys that left were good coaches.  But something happened on defense because we've got a lot of the same players.  I think (English) has done a good job, but I would not overlook the fact that our defensive line coach, our new linebacker coach, those two guys have added tremendously to our defense.  Our defense is pretty well schooled and pretty well coached.  Now whether it's good enough to handle Smith and those receivers, we'll have to see."

When it comes to Michigan's offensive strategy, Schembechler indicated it will take a plan far different from the ones he employed in his day if the Wolverines are to come out victorious.

"They'll run it some, but I don't think either team is going to win the game just rushing the football," he said.  "I don't think that either team is that good of a running team, or either team blocks that well for the run.  They've got some backs that may slip through there and get a big one because there are some good backs.  But I really think the passing game is going to be big."

"I think this could be a low scoring game or a high scoring game," a laughing Schembechler continued.  "Or it could be in the middle somewhere.  You can't predict that in a game like this with so many big play guys around.  They're too many of them."

Stay tuned to GoBlueWolverine for video of Schembechler later in the week.

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