Help remembering 1971 unusual Bo Rather touchdown

Submitted by Bleedin9Blue on November 22nd, 2012 at 10:11 PM

Fellow MGoBloggers, I'm enjoying Thanksgiving with my family and, naturally, reminiscing about Michigan football.  My mother, a Michigan grad swears that she remembers Bo Rather scoring a very unique touchdown.  I'd like some help verifying her story.

In a September or October game in 1971, Michigan kicked off after scoring a touchdown whereupon all of the opposing players stood around the ball which stopped in the end zone, but did not touch it (treating it like a punt).  Bo Rather ran down and, according to my mother, touched the ball with one finger and thereby scored a touchdown with no time running off the clock.

I am trying to find documentation of this but my Google-fu has failed me.  Does anyone else remember this touchdown?  Even better, does someone know who this was against and if there's video of it?  It was in the student's endzone on a "warm sunny day" of 1971.

Any help would be appreciated.  Happy Thanksgiving and Go Blue!

Edit: Thanks to Yeoman and k.o.k.Law who both remembered something like this happening against Virginia in 1971.  It sounds like Elliot recovered the ball in the endzone after a kickoff for a TD... but her memory of Bo Rather touching the ball with one finger could've happened before or after the TD was called.

Thanks to MGoBlog for being an amazing resource for Michigan history.



November 22nd, 2012 at 10:47 PM ^


Thanks for the help, I'd never seen that article before.

My mother, however, still swears that this isn't right.  Northwestern was an away game and she specifically remembers seeing this happen at Michigan stadium.  She also swears that Bo Rather ran up to the ball and, with a greatly exaggerated motion, touched it with one finger to cause the touchdown.

Now, you and I may believe that she's actually thinking of the Northwestern game, but I must continue asking in order to fulfill my due diligence.  Therefore, does anyone remember any other unusual Bo Rather touchdown in the 1971 season?


November 22nd, 2012 at 10:54 PM ^

Quoting from the typed play-by-play at the Bentley, after Michigan's fourth TD.


Coin kicked off to the V endzone, where 2 V men let it roll and D. Elliott covered it for the M TD.


There were 12 seconds left in the 2nd quarter.

Is it possible she remembered the play but mis-remembered the player?


November 22nd, 2012 at 11:09 PM ^

Yeoman, thank you very much.  Could you please link me to that play-by-play so that I could show her?

After some discussion, she agrees that this is probably the play.  She continues to contend that Bo Rather went down to the ball and touched it with one finger.  But she now agrees (after I pointed out that touching the ball would not be enough to show possession and therefore could not be ruled a touchdown) that Elliot probably recovered the ball with Rather performing the exaggerated one-finger touch sometime before or after the TD call.  This moment is so etched into her mind (and she says that a professor discussed it at length the next Monday) that I can't believe it's completely fabricated.

Anyways, thank you very much to MGoBlog, this puts an interesting (and oft repeated) story in my family into its proper historical context.

Go Blue!  Beat Ohio!


November 22nd, 2012 at 11:18 PM ^

That might have been the best half hour I've ever spent on the internet and I want to thank your and your mother for creating the opportunity.

Reading the PBP now for the '77 game at Purdue, the first one I got to see in person (I'd recently gotten my license and it was my first-ever road trip). Amazing how it comes back, even from just a terse one-line description of each play.


November 22nd, 2012 at 11:19 PM ^

Honestly, what was the deal with opponents' kick returns that year?

In the Indiana game "Coin kicked off to Hoffman on the I 1, he walked back into the endzone and downed it for safety on I"

Anyway, I've finished reading the 1971 home season, Woody has been penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct and "removed from the field by his own players" and I'm ready for Saturday.

And there weren't any more weird M scores on kicks.


November 22nd, 2012 at 11:45 PM ^

Actually, there was one more weird score off a kick, and it happened in the Rose Bowl against Stanford:

"Facing fourth down on their own 33-yard line, Stanford used a fake punt to spring Brown for a 31-yard gain. Several plays later, Brown again broke free, this time for 24 yards and the score that tied the contest at ten apiece. Minutes later, when Coin's 42-yard field goal attempt fell short, Indian Jim Ferguson caught and intended to return the ball, but Ed Shuttlesworth dropped him in the end zone to give Michigan two points on the safety and a 12-10 advantage. Following a Michigan punt the Indians took over on their 22-yard line, and Bunce proceeded to complete five of his next six passes to move his squad down the field. With 16 seconds remaining in the game, Ralston sent in Garcia for one final play. The kick sailed 31 yards straight over the crossbar, and Stanford claimed a narrow victory, 13-12."

This Rose Bowl really kicked off my frustration at our anemic offensive performances in Pasadena.


November 22nd, 2012 at 10:48 PM ^

It's not quite what she described, it's even weirder.

In the 9/11/71 home game against Northwestern, according to the typed play-by-play in the Bentley's archives, Michigan attempted a 52-yard field goal early in the third quarter and the kick was short apparently because it was blocked by Northwestern's Durbin at the crossbar--he jumped up and knocked it back into the endzone, perhaps?--and it was then recovered in the endzone by Rather for a touchdown.

I can imagine the Northwestern players not picking up the ball in the endzone, thinking the play was dead because who really knows the rule that applies when someone leaps up and blocks a kick right at the goal post?

I'd never visited that particular webpage in the archive before. It's a goldmine, and I think I know how I'm going to spend a chunk of my holiday weekend.

Wow, before I hit save it's Goldmine #2, an SI report on the game.


Here is the playlet: Michigan holds 7-0 lead early in third quarter even though Northwestern looks more physical and hints it might take control at any moment. Michigan tries field goal from midfield. Kick is short but Northwestern jumps up and slaps ball down in end zone, "goaltending." Northwestern Back Jack Dustin trots off field, happy. Michigan End Bo Rather falls down on ball, happier. Schembechler runs on field and calls touchdown, Michigan. Officials scratch heads. Schembechler quotes rules. Officials scratch heads again. Schembechler quotes rules again, slowly and specifically. Officials learn rules and Michigan now leads 14-0.


"I thought the play was over," said Dustin. But it was a live ball, all right, just as if someone had fumbled a punt in the end zone. And later on it was a live 21-6 Michigan victory—a victory that goes a long way, even in fresh September, to setting up another Wolverine-Ohio State climax in the Big Ten.



But of course Section 1 gets there first, because I'm dawdling over the boxscores. Oh well.


November 23rd, 2012 at 9:45 AM ^

Your mother is right. It was a kickoff after M had scored a touchdown.

The ball was just laying in the North endzone with opposing players just looking at it. The M player (can't remember who) alertly jumped on it for the touchdown. I do not remember who the player was. Navy sticks in my mind for the opponent, but that could be wrong too. It was definitely after a touchdown and on the ensuing kickoff.

Basically it was a very long onside kick. Kickoffs were free balls back then. At some point they changed the rule so it is dead (in the endzone anyway). But it used to be an onside kick whether short or long, a free ball.

Edit: The game was at M Stadium too for sure.


November 22nd, 2012 at 10:48 PM ^

I couldn't figure out how I would have forgotten such an unusual TD, and then I realized the game was in Evanston. Back then, a tiny number of games were televised (compared to today), and a game against NW would most definitely not have been broadcast.

Great SI Vault article, esp. since it also highlighted Stanford, our eventual opponent in the Rose Bowl after that season.

Section 1

November 22nd, 2012 at 11:09 PM ^ say that I only had a vague recollection of talking about the play later.  It was not one that I remembered seeing in the Stadium.  But I was also in middle school at the time.

Maybe it's the imagining of a young fan, Don; but I remember Bo Rather as a guy who could have been All-Conference at about five different positions on either side of the ball.  Thing was, we had Gil Chapman, Thom Darden, Billy Taylor, Glenn Doughty and Dave Brown playing too in those years.  You had to be All-Conference to crack Michigan's two-deep.


November 22nd, 2012 at 11:33 PM ^

While it's easy to lament the end of the talent stockpiling that programs like UM were able to do before the era of scholarship limits, their imposition certainly meant that the talent was spread out more.

Speaking of spreading out, check out the team photo from 1971:;c=bhl&ei=1&quality=3&v…

Believe or not, Jim Brandstatter is in the second row. It's alarming how he's ballooned.

Speaking of Taylor, Doughty and Darden:


November 22nd, 2012 at 11:03 PM ^

I believe it was Virginia, 9-8-71, 56-0 UM win.

We kicked off, the ball rolled into the end zone, the Virginia players stood around, a UM player fell on it for a TD.

I think they changed the rule the next year to make that play a touchback.

Norman France

September 6th, 2015 at 8:01 PM ^

i was taking pictures at that game for the Northwestern yearbook. It was the first game of the season, before classes began. I took pictures of the play. I remember it as being a field goal attempt. NU DB jack Dustin was in the end zone underneath and a little in front of the goalpost. The kick was short and just above Dustin's head. He batted in down and a Michigan player recovered the ball. There was a great bit of confusion but it was a Michigan TD. It was the turning point in the game and I believe it was our only loss. Michigan went to the Rose Bowl.