By Dwain Esper
There were the years of humiliation. A dozen losses in a row to the hated USC. Eight in a row to Washington.
There was embarrassment even in a championship year- remember that 40-7 shellacking from Illinois in the 1952 Rose Bowl?
But the Stanford people can hold their heads high right now. Way up there in the clouds.
The incredible Indians jammed up the computer once again Saturday by outgaming an undefeated, untied Big Ten powerhouse in the Rose Bowl.
They waited until the final 12 seconds before pint-sized Rod Garcia soccer-styled a 31 yard field goal to kayo mighty Michigan 13-12 before 103,154 delirious live spectators and a nationwide television audience (video).
In many respects this was a carbon-copy of Stanford's 27-17 triumph over an equally undefeated untied Ohio State team just one year ago on the same historic field.
Blond Don Bunce emulated his quarterbacking predecessor Jim Plunkett in carting away player-of-the-game honors. And like Plunked, he did it with his passing arm- 24 completions in 44 attempts for a whopping 290 yards against one of the great defenses in collegiate football.
Bunce was joined by running back Jackie Brown and a spectacular group of receivers who wove through the Michigan zone to make the key catches. Brown electrified the crowd with a 31-yard jaunt on a fourth down run from punt formation and another 24-yard dash to Stanford's lone touchdown.
And there was the defense that refused to be intimidated by a sledge-hammer Michigan attack. Time and again Jeff Siemon, Randy Poltl, Pete Lazetich and their mates hurled back Wolverine thrusts.
Furthermore, the Indians came back from adversity. They lost four fumbles, twice in Michigan territory and twice more in their own.
Worst of all they put themselves into a dreadful hole with less than four minutes to play when sophomore Jim Ferguson tried to run a missed field goal out of the end zone. He was nailed for a safety which gave Michigan a seemingly impregnable 12-10 lead and possession of the ball after the subsequent Stanford free kick.
But the gutty Indian defense held the Wolverines and got the ball back with just enough time for Bunce to put his sturdy right arm into action.
He responded to the challenge with a 10-play drive from his own 22, culminating in Garcia's three-pointer. He completed five passes in the march despite aggressive pressure from the savage Wolverine rush.
Michigan coach Bo Schembechler understandably was depressed with the defeat, only his second in the last 22 games
"All we needed was one first down to win, he declared. Our problem was that we did not sustain our blocks well on offense. The painful thing is we had the game won and lost it."
Conversely Stanford coach John Ralston was delighted.
Well he might be for the victory carried a great deal of significance:
1) it was the first time in history that Stanford won two consecutive Rose Bowl games.
2) it marked the first time since the Big Ten pact was initiated in 1947 that the Pacific Coast won three straight (USC defeated Michigan 10-3 two years ago).
3) it was the first, time in 30 years that the Pacific Coast had won three in a row against any kind of Rose Bowl opposition.
4) it promoted Stanford into national prominence which should pay dividends in the recruiting wars yet to come.
"What guts you showed out there." Dr. Richard Lyman, Stanford president, told Ralston after the game.
"The players have the guts, not the coaches," replied Ralston.
The game did not figure to be filled with offensive pyrotechnics. And it wasn't.
At first one had the impression the two teams would provide a comedy of errors.
After the initial Stanford series stalled, Steve Murray punted to Michigan's Tom Darden, who promptly fumbled. Larry Jones recovered for the Indians on the Wolverine 42.
Darden made amends by slamming into John Winesberry, forcing a Stanford fumble, with Bruce Elliott recovering for Michigan on the 30.
It wasn't long after that when Bunce got a drive going from his own 21. Twice he connected with tight end Bill Scott and then another with Winesberry.
Michigan was easily the best defensive team we faced," said Bunce. "They were in a three-deep zone most of the time. We tried to loosen them up early with those passes to Scott to keep their rover (wolfman Frank Gusich) from coming on the rush."
He got another chance after Benny Barnes picked off a Tom Slade pass at the Michigan 43. Four plays later Garcia missed on a 55-yarder.
"Yes, I know it looked as if those field goals were too far," admitted Ralston. "But heck, we thought Rod might get one through there. He's kicked them farther in practice."
As the first period was coming to a close, the thunderous Michigan ground assault became a reality.
First it was Bill Taylor, then Ed Shuttlesworth, occasionally Glenn Doughty and Slade.
The Wolverines came out of the Wishbone T and the Power I. And they kept coming. Slugging it out on the ground play after play.
"We told our defense to bend but not to break," said Ralston. “We tried to hold them to three-yard gains, but we didn't want them to break off a long one."
The Wolverines got all the way to the Indian seven, where linebacker Mike Simons broke through to nail Slade for a five-yard loss on a pass play.
Dana Coin came in to boot a 30-yard field goal and a 3-0 Michigan lead after five minutes of the second period.
The two defenses proceeded to control the game through the rest of the first half, which hardly will be remembered for its share of thrills.
But Michigan accepted the third quarter kickoff on its own 30 and embarked on another assault through the Stanford trenches.
The same names were heard over and over- Taylor, Shuttlesworth (once for 28 yards up the middle), Doughty, Slade, Taylor, Taylor, Taylor (Taylor carried 32 times in the game, but two short of Ernie Nevers’ Rose Bowl record). And there they were with third down on the Stanford one.
Firtz Seyferth was spilled for a yard loss by the alert Simons. Then Taylor was sandwiched by Barnes and Tim Merlo at the one ending the threat.
"We had so many opportunities.” said Sehembechler. "There we got down to the goal line and didn't score. We weren't stopped like that all season. We always made it in short yardage situations."
But Michigan failed in this instance.
The magnificent defensive stand gave the offensive unit the spur needed at the right time. They took the air route, starting right off with an eight-yarder to Jackie Brown.
Bunce kept that arm working right down the field to the Wolverinc 25, where he finally ran out of gas. But Garcia came in to boom a 42-yard field goal, knotting the count at 3-3 after nine minutes of action.
Michigan chewed up the rest of the third quarter and four plays of the fourth with a 17 play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a one-yard touchdown burst by Seyferth.
Trailing 10-3, Bunce retaliated with his air game. He pierced holes in the Michigan zone, moving right down the field lo the 13-yard line with a certain score just a short distance away.
Said Ralston: "The key to our passing game was to throw underneath their zone. We knew we couldn't go over the three-deep for a long one. So we concentrated on trying to get in there under 90, 37, 33 and 14 (Mike Keller, Tom Kee, Mike Taylor, and Gusich). We throw all the time. That's the way we go."
But disaster struck the Indians on the very next play. Bunce rolled right, hesitated an instant. In came tackle Fred Grambau from the blind side. The ball popped loose, and Gusich recovered for Michigan on the 30.
"We had both the flanker and split end on one side," recalled Bunce. "I was going to throw a quick screen there, but Gusich closed it off. I was about to throw the ball out of bounds when I got hit.
"We talk a great deal about positive thinking. But at a time like that, you begin to question your ability. Nevertheless, we couldn't dwell on it and hoped the defense would get the ball back."
The Stanford defense did not let Bunce down. They forced Michigan into a punt which was claimed at the Indian 33. Three plays gained nothing. So Stanford lined up in punt formation with Murray deep, fullback Jim Kehl and halfback Brown in the blocking positions.
Suddenly there was Brown racing around right end 31 yards to the Michigan 36.
"After they called the play, I was somewhat reluctant," said Brown. "I heard the Michigan players saying 'fake punt' to each other. So I paused just a bit to hide the ball. Reggie (Sanderson) and Tim (Schallich) teamed on their linebacker (Mike Taylor) and I broke to the outside."
Said Schembechler: "We worked on fake punts all week long. Obviously that was a big play for them."
A pass to Scott got a first down on the 24.
Then offensive coordinator Mike White sent in a play called '44 double wham'.
Brown shot through an opening off right guard. The Michigan defense was so pass-conscious that it couldn't recover. And he dashed all the way to a touchdown.
“We had run that play four or five times," said Brown who scored two touchdowns against Ohio State last year. "I hadn't gained much on it, but this time they stunted the wrong way and left the field open for me.”
So the score was tied 10-10 with 6 1/2 minutes remaining,
Although the Stanford defense put the clamps on Michigan, two more disastrous breaks appeared to betray the cause. First, Bunce passed to Scott. But, Mike Taylor jarred the ball loose with a shattering tackle. Keller recovered for the Wolverines on the Indian 35.
"That Taylor is a remarkable athlete," said Bunce. "He's so quick that he recovered on almost all our passes to the tight end."
Four plays later Coin lined up for a 46-yard field goal try.
Said Ralston: "We were in a field goal return. We decided lo set up a wall to the right for Jim Ferguson because we thought the kick may be short."
Everything went as planned. Coin's kick indeed was short, and Ferguson grabbed it on the fly in the end zone. Instead of running to the right where the wall was forming, he tried to come out to the left.
He got on the playing field, then veered to the right back into the end zone. Shuttlesworth nailed him for safety as the huge Stanford rooting section moaned in agony.
Said Shuttlesworth: "I was surprised when I saw him coming out. I didn't think he would try it from that deep."
Then came a free kick returned by Bo Rather to the Michigan 45.
Only three minutes remained as the Wolverines tried to protect their 12-10 lead.
But three running plays netted only eight yards.
"All we needed was a first down right there," said Schembechler. "But we couldn't get it."
Said Pete Lazetich, Stanford's mighty defensive tackle: "The goal line stand was behind us. I was confident we could do it. We were tired in the first half. But it just took us two or three series to get warmed up after that."
While Shembechler's defensive corps laid back to shut off the bomb, Bunce carefully passed for first downs to Scott, Winesberry, Miles Moore, Sanderson and Winesberry again.
At last they were within Garcia's range at the Michigan 14. Two running plays positioned the ball in the middle of the field.
Garcia trotted on the field as the clock showed just 16 seconds to go. The ball was snapped to Murray the holder, Garcia side-swiped the ball cleanly through the uprights.
A cascade of Indian fans washed on the field even though Michigan was to get one more futile chance to pull it out.
The roar was majestic, loud and strong.
The Stanford people had erased those years of humiliation with another grand effort at the expense of the once impregnable Big Ten, which had won 13 of the first 14 games in this series.
As the senior halfback Jackie Brown so aptly put it:
"It was my last game, a great game to quit on. Beating teams like Michigan and Ohio State, both undefeated, sort of obscures the fact that I scored touchdowns in both games."
Incredibly, Michigan has not seen the last of Brown. He has applied for entrance to the Michigan law school next fall. They'll be glad to have him on their side for once.
Rod Garcia kicks winning field goal.
Ed Shuttlesworth tackles Stanford's James Ferguson in the end zone for a safety.
Fritz Seyferth scores Michigan's only touchdown.
|Michigan quarterback Tom Slade hit by Stanford's Mike Simone as he laterals.|
UM- W.Taylor 32-82,
Shuttlesworth 13-62, Doughty 11-56, Slade 13-41, Rather 2-17