So, it’s Michigan State week here in Tree Town, and all over the state, really. In fact, this matchup of two undefeated top ten teams may be the biggest game in all of college football this weekend. As Ed Pevow writing on MLive.com puts it “Last time a U-M vs. MSU football game was this big, The Beatles landed in America”(1). That was 1964, for you young’uns. Duffy Daugherty’s Spartans were a powerhouse, although his best team ever was yet to come. They featured fleet receiver Gene Washington and All-American back Dick Gordon, with future hall-of-famers George Webster and Bubba Smith still seasoning. Two years later they peaked, and would have ended up national champs had Notre Dame’s Ara Parsegian not decided to play for a tie in their match rather than gamble and maybe give the Spartans a last chance. We beat ‘em in East Lansing 17-10, 3 weeks before Halloween. The ’64 Wolverines were no slouch. Bump Elliott’s best team, led by multi-threat QB Bob Timberlake and the smooth Mel Anthony, whose Michigan single game rushing record (347 yards) held up even when Tshimanga “Tim” Biakabatuka went crazy that one game against Ohio State in ’95 (313 yards). The best player on the team was a lineman, Tom Mack, who impressed in the Rose Bowl win over Oregon State by staying right in step with Anthony as he ran 84 yards for a touchdown, setting a Rose Bowl record. Maybe that’s what got Mack the number two pick in the NFL draft later, on which he delivered by going on to a hall-of-fame career. The ’64 team will always be special to me as they were mostly the same players I saw up close the year before when my dad took me to my first ever game in Michigan Stadium. There they easily handled Southern Methodist 27-16, although they ended up with a losing record. Regardless, I’ve been a die-hard Wolverine fan ever since.
It’ll take a medical miracle for me to be alive after a similar interval from this year’s game and reminisce about it. Too bad, because we’ve really got the players: Hixson, Blake, Awl, Hutch, Dax, future doctor and my wife’s former student center and captain Vastardis (in his first year of med school!), decent QB (Cade) with a young superstar in the wings (JJ), plus ice-in-his veins kicker Moody. I don’t know any of the Spartoons, but have 3 days to study up. They seem to be a different team than the ones Dantonio fielded: speed and the pass rather than grind-‘em-out and defense. Should be a fun game, even for those who don’t bleed green or blue. Saturday at noon on Fox. College Gameday will be there.
My missus started a new pre-MSU ritual a few years ago, which I chose to write about last year (2). Unfortunately that led up to a game which I remember as a horrid empty-stands affair that we lost bad. But we lost only by a field goal (27-24) after coming into the game 22 point favorites and leaving en route to Harbaugh’s first losing season since his second year at Stanford (’08) and Michigan’s first since Brady Hoke got fired (’14). She was a little reluctant to repeat her performance, given those results. But with only a little coaxing, she’ll be at it again tomorrow. She’s adding something this year, as we’re up against Halloween. Rather than do the obvious maize-and-blue outfit, she’ll be wearing black slacks topped with an orange sweater. Very Halloween, plus orange negates green in the color wheel. It’s the anti-green! So her writing students will learn a little additional physics tomorrow.
So here’s what I posted last year, but not till after the Game! (Maybe that’s why we lost). Go Blue!
My beautiful wife loves Michigan
It started pretty early. Kathy’s mother was born in Ann Arbor, graduated Ann Arbor High in ‘36, and went to dental hygenist’s school at U of M, where she met Clutch, Kathy’s dad, who chose to pursue orthopedics at the wider open spaces of Akron City Hospital. Kathy was the second of their kids to be born there, so Kathy’s a buckeye by birth. Her time at Ohio institutions Western Reserve Academy and College of Wooster did not translate into a stronger bond. When Kathy went looking for grad school programs in Kinesiology, she saw that the program at Columbus had some attractions. Asking her dad about the possibility of going there, he responded “sure, but don’t ever plan on coming home again”. So she headed north up 23 to Ann Arbor, coached swimming for a while, and met me. Together we’ve been immersed in all things Michigan ever since, helped along by those great 50 yard line season tickets her dad got in the late 50s. We added basketball season tickets maybe 5 years ago and surely enjoy those outings, too. For the past 11 years, she’s taught Scientific Writing in the school of Kinesiology to sophomores (“just shoot me”). Kines is still home for many athletes, although many have drifted over to L.S.&A. as Kines has tightened its requirements. But she still gets a lot of athletes in her class, a few of them high profile basketball and football types. Drew Dilio, slot receiver, might have been the first she noticed, who kept a low profile as he didn’t want to be taken as a dumb football player. Some of her latest charges have no problem with that. “Big country” Austin Davis, Michigan’s returning center, is headed to P.T. school after he completes his 5th year in a Kines masters.
Andrew Vastardis walked on to the football team 5 years ago and has taken his 6’4” 300# frame to the middle of the line as Michigan’s starting center. He has his eye on medical school. Kathy wants him to be a pediatrician.
So it’s understandable Kathy might take some special measures as we enter what in pre-COVID time was a huge week., facing her class this week as the football season finally opens with the battle for the Little Brown Jug Saturday night in Minneapolis. If that’s not enough, Michigan Stage week is next! She’s found a way to be decked out to show her Michigan spirit. Those kids who already love this cool old lady will surely get a boost of Michigan Pride. Go Blue! Beat State!
P.S. That’s our stuffed wolverine, Fritz, in the background, named after Fritz Crisler