The purpose of today’s blog is simple: to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and “Happy Birthday” to a Michigan Man named Gordon Bell.
Gordon Granville Bell was born on this day in Troy, Ohio. He grew up to be a big Buckeye fan, but didn’t grow to be very big. However, what Gordon Bell lacked in size (5’ 9” and 175 pounds), he compensated for it with speed, agility and grit. He wasn’t the biggest man on the field in high school, but pound-for-pound he was always one of the toughest. Bell was an outstanding high school football player at Troy High School.
(Note-Gordon Bell (#5) is shown above with the 1975 Michigan Football team. He is seated in the center of the first row. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
Bell was one of Bo’s top recruits in 1971 and the determined Bell enrolled at Michigan in 1972. He did not play or letter as a freshman, but the coaches knew who he was after his freshman season.
Gordon Bell didn’t earn any starts in 1973, but he played in ten games. He rushed for 464 yards on 88 carries. Gordon scored four touchdowns and averaged just over five yards (5.3) per carry in his first year on the varsity. He earned his first letter and played on Team #94 that went 10-0-1 and tied for first place in the Big Ten Conference. Of course, that was the year that the conference athletic directors voted Ohio State to the Rose Bowl, not Michigan!
Bo Schembechler had a problem in 1974, but it was a good problem to have. He had two outstanding Buckeye tailbacks. One was named Rob Lytle and the other was Gordon Bell. Both men could carry the rock and Bo decided that they both deserved to play – a lot!
Rob Lytle started eight games in 1974 and Gordon Bell started three. Yes, both men played a lot of football and gained a lot of yards for Michigan that season. Interestingly, Bell, the part-time starter played in all eleven games and led Michigan in rushing with 1,048 yards on 174 carries. He averaged six yards per carry and scored a team-leading eleven touchdowns. His outstanding play helped Michigan finish the season with a record of 10 wins and 1 defeat. They won a share of the Big Ten title for the third consecutive season.
Gordon Bell was the featured tailback for the 1975 season. He started all twelve games that year and did some very special things for Michigan. He became the second man in Michigan History to rush for over 1,000 yards the second straight year by amassing 1,390 yards on 273 carries. Once again, Bell averaged over five yards per carry (5.1) and scored fourteen touchdowns.
Gordon’s achievements did not go unnoticed in 1975. He finished the season as the Big Ten’s leading rusher which meant that Heisman winner Archie Griffin finished second to Bell. Gordon G. Bell earned first team All-Big Ten honors from the Associated Press and finished eighth in the Heisman voting. His teammates voted him the Most Valuable Player for the 1975 season.
The talented Bell ended his career in style. He left Michigan with his head held high because he played on two Big Ten champion teams, earned three varsity letters and earned some conference honors. In addition to all of that, Gordon Bell also set some important records at Michigan.
Yes, I could go on and on about the achievements of Gordon Bell. His name is literally all over the Michigan Football Record Book. Bottom line − he was a very talented running back who gave Bo Schembechler everything he had!
Of course, the best description of Bell’s running skills came from Bob Ufer. The inimitable Ufer simply said that Bell “could run for fifteen minutes in a phone booth and never touch the sides.” Gordon Bell was a special player at Michigan – that’s for sure! I hope that Gordon G. Bell is celebrating his birthday with family and friends today. Thanks for the memories Gordon Bell. Go Blue!
Who was the first Michigan Football coach to lose two bowl games in one calendar year?
Bo Schembechler did not have a great bowl record – that’s a fact. Yes, he lost his first seven bowl games before he finally won a couple in 1981. Then, he became the first Wolverine coach to lose two games in the same calendar year in 1984.
On January 2, 1984, Bo’s team lost a close one (7-9) to Bo Jackson and Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. Just over eleven months later they limped into the Holiday Bowl (6 wins and 5 losses) to play top-ranked Brigham Young. The Wolverines put up a good fight before losing 17-24 to the eventual national Champions.
So, that’s how Bo became the first Michigan coach to lose two bowl games in the same calendar year. The good news is that Coach Schembechler won three of his last five bowl games before he hung up his whistle!
Name the coach who led his team to the biggest bowl win over a Michigan team – ever!
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