Bo and his Rose Bowl Record

Submitted by blueinwinston on April 21st, 2009 at 9:35 PM

I don't have a lot of memories of Bo coaching. I have to admit that I remember Mo and Lloyd a lot better. So, my question for those of you who watched a lot of UM football back in Bo's prime - why did his teams come up short in the Rose Bowl? This is really out of curiosity because until recently, I had no idea that he only won a few rose bowls. I always assumed he won a bunch. I just wanted to get some thoughts/theory from the group who saw those games (I can't recall seeing any) on why we didn't win many. Looking back at the scores, the games seem very close.



April 21st, 2009 at 9:48 PM ^

I don't really have many memories either, but I read in a book of his that it was hard to get the same amount of emotion as the ohio state game. he said they always prepared really hard for the osu game, and once it was over, that level of emotion couldn't be reached again for the rose bowl.


April 21st, 2009 at 9:52 PM ^

One explanation is that after the OSU game the Rose Bowl could seem like something of a let down. Especially when Woody was coaching both teams spent the entire year preparing for that one game. After they won or lost that game the Rose Bowl just didn't have as much sparkle.

Another that Bo stated and others have agreed with is the way he prepared for the Rose Bowl. There are numerous reports about him and Woody both not preparing for any bowl games with the best strategy. There were some years when Bo or Woody treated the practices before the bowl games as another fall camp with two a days and everything.

Yet another explanation is that the Pac 10 ran offenses that were extremely different than what Michigan saw in the Big 10. They used the passing game much more extensively and often Bo's defenses were not built or ready to defend as refined a passing game as the one they saw in the Rose Bowl.

And of course the 1970 Rose Bowl, following the big upset of OSU's team of the century, was played within hours of Bo suffering his first heart attack.

Bando Calrissian

April 21st, 2009 at 10:09 PM ^

He'd take the team out to California, they'd already be drained, and then he'd run them to death in practice. By the game, they'd be absolutely cashed.

Also, he got screwed out of a couple of those games. But that's neither here nor there.


April 21st, 2009 at 10:31 PM ^

B10 and Michigan apologists always like to blame the travel, the emphasis on the Ohio State game, California distractions for the losses, but they never explain why it was that until the early 1960s the B10 won the Rose Bowl much more often than not. The explanation isn't all that complicated: more often than not, Michigan's PAC10 opponent simply had more talent, more speed, and relatively (for the day) sophisticated offensive schemes that did far more with the forward pass than most of the teams in the B10 of that era. And with guys like John McKay, John Robinson, Don James, and Terry Donahue, the PAC 10 coaching was the equal of Schembechler's. At one point during the late 80s I read an article in the Ann Arbor News (might've been a national story carried in the paper) about the PAC10's success in the Rose Bowl, and it pointed out that at the time, USC had more players in the NFL than Michigan and Ohio State combined. Obviously, that situation has changed radically since then, but if you look at the rosters of the USC, UCLA, and Washington teams that Bo played, they're absolutely loaded with guys who went on to notable NFL success. Things haven't changed; USC is still loaded. Dirty as hell, but still loaded.

If Bo had had his Michigan teams in the SEC or the old SWC of the 70s and 80s, I'm convinced he would have won at least two national championships, because he wouldn't have played those PAC 10 teams and their pro-set offenses in the bowl games. He would have played Texas or Alabama or Arkansas or Oklahoma, and those offenses were all variants of the option offenses that Bo ran.


April 21st, 2009 at 10:30 PM ^

Another factor was the number of games playing against the home team, Southern Cal. The losses in the 1970, 1977 and 1979 Rose Bowls were all reasonably close games to Southern Cal teams. Home field advantage presumably played a role in all those. In particular, in the 1979 Rose Bowl the field was 2-3 yards shorter for the home team than it was for Michigan.

In the other two Rose Bowls against Stanford and Washington, what the other guys said. I'm too young to remember anything about the Stanford game, but as I recall they just made too many mistakes to beat Washington. They gave up a big lead and came back to make a game out of it.

By about 1980, though, I think Bo had figured out how to prepare for bowl games. After that point he went 5-5 in bowl games overall, although 2-3 in Rose Bowls.


April 21st, 2009 at 10:43 PM ^

We went into the game as an offensive machine, and scored a measly 12 points. That points to the real problem Bo had in bowl games: the offensive production generally was miserable. We weren't losing games in wild 38-35 slugfests. In his losses, Bo's teams scored 3, 12, 6, 6, 20, 10, 15, 14, 7, 17, 15, and 10 points, or an average of less than 12. Considering the caliber of the teams we were playing, that really stinks, especially because that for most of those years, we were pounding the crap out of our regular season opponents. Come bowl game time, our offense tended to go into hibernation. Believe me, it was frustrating as hell.


April 21st, 2009 at 10:31 PM ^

Well I'm old enough to remember watching Anthony Carter catching TD passes in the Rose Bowl when I was in Jr. High so I guess I qualify as one of the group of those who saw Bo coach in the Bowl games. I remember being frustrated by Bo's conservative playcalling even when the Pac 10 teams would stack the box with defenders. Bo just kept trying to ram the ball down their throats. His play calling worked in low scoring Big Ten games against similar running style offenses, not so much against high scoring passing offenses such as the Pac 10. I don't recall a lack of intensity in those games. In fact I remember some great hitting in those games; like their life depended on it. That's something I've missed in recent Mighigan defenses. Bo's teams were well conditioned and prepared for battle, but he was not a creative playcaller for the most part.


April 22nd, 2009 at 11:52 AM ^

His play calling worked in low scoring Big Ten games against similar running style offenses, not so much against high scoring passing offenses such as the Pac 10.

I'd say it was the other way around. We generally scored a ton when we played Big Ten teams other than OSU. They were usually the only team in the league that could slow us down. In the Rose Bowl, on the other hand, our Pac-10 opponents consistently held us in check. Our defense usually did fine, but we didn't score enough. In 1970 we gave up 10 points and lost; in 1972 we gave up 13 points and lost, and so on.


April 22nd, 2009 at 12:26 AM ^

In Big Ten games, Bo simply had bigger, stronger, tougher athletes than the other teams and ran "student body right" and "student body left" and nobody could stop him. When he got to bowl games, the players were equal to or better than his, and he wasn't flexible enough as a coach the first few years to win.

Bo did more for UM than any coach in the modern era, but his legendary stubbornness was his major weakness and probably cost him a few bowls.

I do think the field is always "tilted" in USC's or UCLA's favor in the Rose Bowl, though. I relaly wish the bowl system would be changed so that the Big Ten wouldn't have to play a road game against USC as a "reward" for making the Rose Bowl. The phantom touchdown and the phantom holding call on the fake punt were two of the worst calls I have ever seen against UM. They might not have cost them the games, but they certainly helped USC win.

That's why football needs a playoff system.

And, of course, USC needs to get probation.


April 22nd, 2009 at 8:14 AM ^

Thanks for the replies. I can only remember the last two rose bowls Bo coached in and even those are hazy (I was 11). I'm pretty sure USC had Rodney Peete in one of those games. The interesting thing about the "home field advantage" comment is that we've reversed that recently. The Capital One Bowl is in Florida's backyard and we've beaten them twice there.


April 22nd, 2009 at 9:34 AM ^

1. Bad Luck-Heart Attack, Phantom TD, Phantom hold 2-8 coulda been 5-5.

2. Prep Mentality- They played to beat A)Win the Big Ten, B) Beat OSU. Life was different back then, the Rose Bowl was a reward for a year's work, th epolls and fictional NC were not as much a big deal as it is now. For people who say they worked them to death in those practices I disagree. When they go to Cali they went to Disney, ate huge amounts of food and went to function after function.

3. USC was a fucking really good team in the 70's and early 80's, to play them in a virtual home game was tough.

Blue Durham

April 22nd, 2009 at 9:47 AM ^

awesomeness. The author is Don, during the haloscan days, and captures much of what is discussed above and contributed to Bo's poor bowl record.

By Don:

What we witnessed on Saturday is an indication that we're in the final, terminal stage of Schembechlerism, a religious approach to football which, stripped of its positive qualities now that Bo is gone, has become a stale creed kept in place by rote observance and ritualistic repetition. Lloyd Carr has been an extremely loyal adherent to this philosophy, having learned at the foot of the master himself. However, like most acolytes in such positions, he's lacking in the founder's personal dynamism or charisma that can make up for the practical deficiencies in the ideology.

Schembechlerism asserts:

• It is never necessary to make a hard, realistic assessment of your own strengths and weaknesses as compared to your opponent's. This relieves you of the burden of developing game plans tailored to your opponent. We are Michigan, after all, and all we need to do is execute properly what we want to do anyhow. Of course, this also relieves the opponent of the necessity of preparing for anything that they haven't seen on tape or film already, but the element of surprise is very overrated and probably gay anyhow. It doesn't matter that we've averaged under 12 points per game against USC in Rose Bowls since 1970; we know each and every time we play them that we don't need to do a damn thing different than what we've done all season long. Why? We're Michigan, dammit.

• Speaking of unmanly things, anything smacking of subterfuge, trickery, or sleight-of-hand is also unholy and probably gay. Although the observation of this unspoken rule has in truth been spotty at times, it is only resorted to in extremis, like when we're down by 17 points in the fourth quarter at Minnesota. This is why Michigan will not use play action as part of the base offense. Just because an initial fake to Mike Hart will induce the entire defense to converge on his tiny person is no reason to use it. (Besides, according to Father Andy Mignery, using play action creates pass blocking problems. No word on how teams as diverse as USC and Boise State, not to mention the entire NFL, manage to solve that religious conundrum, but remember: we're Michigan. We don't need to look at what other teams do. Why? Because we're Michigan).

• Never, never hire a Special Teams coach with a recognized talent for that arcane part of the game. It is far better to have already overworked position coaches, or better yet, grad students, take control. Just because ST is one-third of the game is no reason to go crazy. This means you can do fine with LBs—as opposed to players with actual blocking experience—for critical blocking assignments. It also means you can refuse to double up gunners aiming for Steve Breaston's femurs. Kicking to Rocket twice is fine, too. To refuse to kick to him again is ever-so-slightly poofy. Having punts blocked is also good.

• Whenever possible, make sure your defensive backs line up at least 10 yards off the receiver and backpedal furiously at the snap. It is far better to yield the entire middle of the field than to have even the slightest possibility you'll get beat on a long bomb, which is unmanly. This is especially critical when the opponent needs to go 70 yards with less than two minutes to play. Besides, the repeated stabbings of 8-yard passes to wide-open TEs and RBs in the middle of the field stimulate the appearance of stigmata on the foreheads of duly reverent UM fans. This served us well in the Rose Bowl back on January 1, 1972 against the Stanford Harbaughs, and has worked beautifully many times since then.

• Beware of recruiting speed on the defensive side of the ball: it is the seductive siren of the spiritually dirty. In a morally pure world their RBs wouldn't be faster than our hulking LBs, and we shouldn't abandon our principles merely for the sake of adequate coverage on 3rd and 7. Just as important, ensure that Saint Gittelson is unquestioned. Squats are for pansies.

• On first down, run, do not pass, regardless of the number of defenders crowding the LOS. On third-and-eight, throw a five-yard pass, regardless of the absence of blockers. If our RBs and wideouts are pure of heart, they will find a way.

• Always, always, always run a sweep to the short side of the field, regardless of circumstances. The Book of Schembechlerism says that the sideline functions as an additional blocker. Those who assert that the close presence of the sideline gives the advantage to the defense are impure and very probably unmanly.

• Lastly, it is critically important that all major staffing decisions be made with the goal of maintaining Schembechlerism at all costs. Therefore, whenever a coordinator position needs to be filled, it is imperative to not look far and wide for the most qualified coach; the on-staff assistant or trusted personal friend are the only permissible options. We must not let the filthiness of other football religions and philosophies enter the hallowed meeting rooms of Fort Schembechler. Remember: all those vermin outside are enemies of the Panicky Deep Safety Drop, the Short-Side Sweep, the First-Down Off-Tackle Run, the Lead-Footed Short-Armed Linebacker, and the Five-Yard Pass on Third-and-Eight. Vigilance is necessary and permanent.

Don | 09.04.07 - 4:58 pm.

From comments section of MGoBlog/Unconditional Surrender

Blue Durham

April 22nd, 2009 at 10:07 AM ^

It has been mentioned often, after bowl games particularly, that the other teams players knew exactly what Michigan wanted to do, and that there were no surprises. This goes back to Bo; there was an overriding emphasis on our execution only.

My younger brother, an OSU alum, has told me on several occasions that Tressel has 2 game plans every year. One for the first 11 games, and another for Michigan (their bowl game is mostly the Michigan game plan). He attributes much of OSU's success during Tressel's tenure to this approach.

Bo's teams seemed to use the same game plan for the bowl, even though they had plenty of time to develop new wrinkles. This was not so for Michigan's opponent.

Regarding the OSU game taking so much out of Michigan. Why didn't this ever seem to affect USC, when their last game is against UCLA (alright, not that big of a deal) or Notre Dame (which was a huge game back in the '70's)? I think back then, as now, when the USC/ND game is at USC, it is the last game of the season, and when at ND, it is sometime in October.

Regarding the difference in talent levels, I am not convinced that there was much difference, or that the talent may have even actually favored Michigan. A cursory check of the number of NFLers from each school would give a initial indication.

However, the difference would be apparent when looking at the position of the players in the NFL. USC - a bunch of RBs and WRs. Michigan - a bunch of linemen, a few LBs and DBs. USC had an advantage in "skill position" guys, and much more importantly, were not afraid to use them.

Blue Durham

April 22nd, 2009 at 5:59 PM ^

their end of the rivalry (in football; basketball, the reverse is obviously true). It is much more lopsided than M-OSU, Oklahoma-Nebraska, etc.

Being that they are both essentially in the same city (rather than contiguous states), the rivalry really could be much more heated.


April 23rd, 2009 at 12:08 PM ^

appreciate the attribution, though. I think USC-UCLA has been more heated in the past, but SC has been so dominant lately that much of the steam has gone out of it. You'd think it would be a particularly nasty rivalry, given the inner-city/private-school nature of USC vs. the suburban/garden oasis public institution UCLA. Maybe with Newweasel the UCLAns can make a better game of it. They've been recruiting well so far. In Newweasel's case that means they're breaking every NCAA reg in the book, and Petey runs one of the most corrupt programs around. A veritable den of thieves.


April 23rd, 2009 at 12:35 PM ^

"Newweasel" is certainly cocky enough. He ran the "the football monopoly in LA is officially dead" ad before the start of the 2008 season. That takes some stones.