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December 21, 1984 – First Ever Game Against BYU

Posted on December 21, 2017 by Barry Gallagher

Today’s post recalls the thirty-third anniversary of Michigan’s first ever game against BYU on this date in 1984.  The historic Wolverine-Cougar matchup was the twelfth game of the season for Michigan. The Wolverines started fast in 1984 with an upset win over top-ranked Miami of Florida (22-14). They had a 3-1-0 record until rookie quarterback Jim Harbaugh broke his arm against Michigan State. The Wolverines struggled for the rest of the season. However, unranked Michigan entered the game with a record of 6 wins and 5 losses. Brigham Young, the top ranked team in the country, had a perfect record of 11 wins and 0 losses.

Michigan was very fortunate to be in this bowl game. So, it was a chance for an “unlucky” team to end the season on a positive note. Of course, BYU was playing for a lot more than just “respect.” The first ever game against BYU was also a matchup between two good friends – Bo Schembechler and Lavelle Edwards. It promised to be a very interesting game and it was!

1984 Holiday Bowl Program Cover | bigbluefootballhistory.com

Michigan and Brigham Young University played their first game against each other in the 1984 Holiday Bowl. Picture courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The Univeristy of Michigan.

The unranked Wolverines really made a game of it. Even though BYU doubled them in yardage, the Wolverines led 17-10 late in the game. Unfortunately, the Cougars, led by injured quarterback Robbie Bosco, scored two late touchdowns to defeat Michigan by a score of 24-17. Michigan’s  season, that started with so much promise, ended with a disappointing thud! Meanwhile, the Cougars claimed the National Championship.

So, December 21, 1984 was a historic date in Michigan Football History, but not one that Wolverine fans choose to remember fondly. Here are the “firsts” that took place on this historic day:

  • The 1984 season was the first, and only, season that Michigan started and ended the season against a #1 ranked team.
  • This was the first ever game against BYU.
  • This game was Michigan’s first ever Holiday Bowl game and Holiday Bowl loss.
  • The first ever game against BYU was also the first, and only, time that Bo ever coached against Lavelle Edwards.
  • The first ever game against BYU also resulted in the first, and only, non-winning season in Bo Schembechler’s twenty-one-year tenure at Michigan. Although he had a 5-4-0 record in the Big Ten, Coach Schembechler’s team finished the 1984 campaign at 6 wins and 6 losses.

I know this may have been a painful post if you were around for another one of Bo’s gut-wrenching bowl game losses. Yes, 1984 was not a season to remember. Instead, it was one to forget. Fortunately, a healthy Jim Harbaugh returned to lead his teammates to a very successful season in 1985.

About the only good thing that came out of the 1984 season was a classic “Bo story.” It was told by Michigan’s iconic equipment manager, Jon Falk, in his book, If These Walls Could Talk.  Falk recalled a was a frigid, snowy, night in January 1985. Jon Falk was driving, very slowly, down I-94 headed for Detroit. He was on the outskirts of Ann Arbor when he saw a man trying to hitch a ride.  He thought the man looked familiar, but wasn’t sure.  As the man got closer, he was wearing a blue “M” hat, just like the one Bo always wore.  As Falk got closer to the man, he could see a car behind him that looked just like Bo’s car. Falk pulled over and walked towards the shivering man – it was Bo!

Bo was freezing on the outside, but he was hot on the inside! He was trying to get to the airport for a recruiting trip. The shivering Schembechler told Falk to take him to the airport – now! As Falk started his trip with the frozen coach, Bo started to rant about the fact that he had been standing on the side of the road for about forty-five minutes and not one person had bothered to stop and help. What really ticked him off was the fact that three State Trooper vehicles had cruised right on by the stranded coach. Falk’s reply was classic.  He said, “Well Bo, you gotta remember now, you were only six and six last year.” Bo forced a smile – he knew that Falk had him. So, all Bo could say was, “get me to the airport Falk!”


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