Ann Arbor sounds like a nice place to bring a girl named Ann but is a terrible place to bring a football team. A hitting and running group there known as Bo and the Wolverines (featuring the Mellow Men, the Wolfman, Big Ed and others) just destroys football teams.
No one has beaten a Bo Schembechler outfit in Michigan Stadium since early October 1969, and during the past two years the Michigan student cheering section has been able to relax in the first quarter and devote the rest of the afternoon to passing around captured cheerleaders and bottles of apple wine. In the last six games held in Ann Arbor the composite Michigan-opponents score is 272-6.
Last Saturday the unbeaten Wolverines were hospitable enough to offer the winless University of Illinois two touchdowns (one of which the Illini accepted) within the first two minutes, but still won handily. As Schembechler said afterward, "It is nice to have a game where you don't play as well as you can and still win 35-6."
It was an unusual Michigan game in two respects: Michigan passed and Michigan made mistakes. Schembechler's position on passing is the same as a rooster's on flying: He will do it only if forced. Schembechler's position on mistakes is that only the other team is allowed to make them. In the five games preceding Illinois the Wolverine defense had caused 23 turnovers while the Wolverine offense had suffered only five. Imagine the general consternation, then, when on the first play from scrimmage, sophomore Quarterback Tom Slade threw a pass and Illinois caught it, giving the Illini the ball on the Michigan 12. They scored in three plays. Quarterback Mike Wells—a placekicker who last year made eight of 10 field goals, some from far out, yet curiously only nine of 16 extra points—missed the extra point, but then Michigan came roaring back with a fumble, surrendering the ball on its 14. This time the defense held, and from then on Illinois netted 67 yards to Michigan's 355. Slade threw only six passes after his opening gaffe, but he completed five of them, and the second Michigan touchdown came on three straight pass plays, all completions, the third one a Slade-to-Glenn Doughty 19-yarder. As usual the big ground during the day was gained by senior Tailback Billy Taylor, whose 103 yards brought him within 85 of the Michigan career rushing record held by Ron Johnson, who presented Taylor with the blue suede shoes he runs in. Taylor was ably abetted by sophomore Fullback Big Ed Shuttlesworth, a 6'2", 237-pounder who reliably produces four yards and a cloud of linemen, and Doughty, a wingback who had been confined to blocking assignments all year. This time he ran and caught passes for three touchdowns.
As one-sided as it was, it was by far Michigan's sloppiest game, and the feat of advancing one's record to 6-0 by depressing another team's to 0-6 is not calculated to improve one's national standing. Illinois, trying to build, and Michigan, shooting for No. 1 ranking, ought to have each other's schedules this year. The Illini, having played five teams that are or have been ranked in the top 20, are better than their records indicate. The Wolverines, having played only one opponent of real repute so far—Northwestern, a 21-6 victim in the first week of the season—and with only two more coming up—Purdue and Ohio State-are probably better than they will have a chance to prove.
That would disappoint the Mellow Men: Taylor, Guard Reggie McKenzie, Doughty, Linebacker Mike Taylor (the best in the country, claims Schembechler), Safety Tom Darden, Defensive End Butch Carpenter and Split End Mike Oldham. They all live together off campus in a white house known as the den of the Mellow Men.
"We started hanging tight our freshman year," says McKenzie. "We all lived in the west quad, and everybody there was running around in a big controversy over pledging fraternities. So we decided to form our own group. To be a member, you had to have three jazz albums."
"We also set ourselves some goals," says Billy Taylor. "We were going to win a Big Ten championship, win the Rose Bowl, have an undefeated season and rank No. 1 in the nation."
As sophomores the Mellow Men and their teammates won the Big Ten title, but Schembechler suffered a heart attack the day before the Rose Bowl, and Michigan lost to Southern Cal 10-3.
As juniors they lost the title, the undefeated season and a shot at the national title to Ohio State at Columbus in the last game of the season. This year the Mellow Men don't plan to fall short in any particulars.