Friday, December 13, 2002
An intense year in the Michigan-UCLA rivalry
By David Norrie
Special to BCSfootball.com
ABC college football analyst David Norrie played quarterback at UCLA from 1982-85. He recalls the rivalry between the Bruins and the University of Michigan.
This Saturday's UCLA-Michigan matchup is one of the most highly anticipated games of the young 2000 college football season. But a look back almost 20 years ago reveals a year-long span of competition between these two teams that may never be equaled.
In fact, the Wolverines and the Bruins played three games in 366 days, starting with a New Year's Eve game in the Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston, Texas, in 1981. Michigan dominated UCLA on this night, holding the Bruins to just 33 yards on the ground, and unleashing a lethal combination of pass and run with quarterback Steve Smith at the helm.
Michigan opened the scoring early on a 50-yard strike from Smith to All-American Anthony Carter, and the Wolverines never wavered. The Bruins did close to within 19-14 with 7:37 remaining in the game, when a pair of UCLA All-Americans, quarterback Tom Ramsey and tight end Tim Wrightman, connected on a nine-yard scoring pass. But Michigan answered with the final two touchdowns of the game, winning by a 33-14 score. Butch Woolfolk was the offensive star of the game, rushing for 186 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown.
These two teams would meet again only months later, this time before a crowd of more than 105,000 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. On Sept. 25, 1982, in what many UCLA fans consider the greatest comeback in Bruin history, the team from Westwood came back from a 21-0 deficit to win, 31-27. Ramsey was the hero for UCLA, throwing for 311 yards and two TDs.
His 22-for-36 passing performance gave the Bruins a late four-point lead, but a botched pitch between Ramsey and tailback Frank Cephous set up the Wolverines for a shot to win with 1:05 left. Michigan
took over on its own 48-yard line and quickly moved inside UCLA's red zone. But the game ended on downs at the Bruins' 8-yard line, as Smith could not hook up with Carter.
Little did either team know in the third week of the season that they would meet once again, in the Granddaddy of them all, on New Year's Day, 1983. Nineteenth-ranked Michigan and No. 5 UCLA locked up in Pasadena to decide the Battle for the Roses in a game that took a decisive turn late in the first quarter. Michigan's Smith turned an option play keeper up field and was met by a violent collision with the late All-American free safety Don Rogers. Smith would never return and the Michigan offense was unable to survive the blow, as well.
|Terry Donahue won two of the three meetings with Michigan in the 366-day stretch.|
UCLA played it close to the vest, as Ramsey was named Player of the Game, with the Bruins winning 24-14 and the three-game series two to one. The one-year, three-game series featured head coaches Bo Schembechler and Terry Donahue, the winningest coaches at their respective schools.
Michigan has since won all three meetings leading up to this week's game at the Rose Bowl. Wolverine victories in 1989, 1990 and 1996 give the Bruins plenty to think about come Saturday. The 1990 and 1996 games at the Big House were blowouts (Michigan won 38-15 and 38-9), but Donahue calls Michigan's 24-23 comeback victory in '89 one of the toughest of his career. The loss sent the two teams in different directions. UCLA finished the season 3-7-1, the worst in Donahue's 20-year career, while Michigan rattled off 10 straight wins until losing to USC in the Rose Bowl, the final game Schembechler coached.
Regardless of the outcome, the game will almost certainly add to an intersectional rivalry that, over the years, has continued to build upon a colored history.
David Norrie is a college football analyst for ABC Sports and a regular contributor to BCSfootball.com.
|Bo Schembechler never had a losing season as Michigan's head coach.|