Bo Schembechler of Michigan wasn’t much for the forward pass. He wasn’t as bad about it as Woody Hayes, but he was of the same cloth. They just wanted to run the ball as much as possible.
One of my favorite players and quarterbacks from the 1970s.Leach grew up in Flint, Michigan and he attended Flint Southwestern Academy the same school as Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, former football player and current actor Terry Crews, and former NFL players Booker Moore, Ricky
Patton, Brian Carpenter, Daryl Turner and Reggie Williams.
Must be something in the water there.
Leach was an All State Quarterback, but he was also All Conference in basketball and baseball.
Flint is right up the road from Ann Arbor and Michigan is where the highly recruited Leach decided to go for his college football and his education.
Four year starters at Quarterback are fairly rare unless they redshirt, but that’s exactly what Rick Leach accomplished at Michigan.
As a freshman starting at Quarterback, Leach and the Wolverines had something of a strange season in 1975. Leach threw 12 Interceptions and only 3 Touchdowns. He completed only 32 passes out of 100 attempts.
Michigan and Bo Schembechler were all about pounding the ball down their opponents throats which is what they did. Leach was more of an option attack kind of a Quarterback.
Tailback Gordon Bell ran for 1,390 yards and 13 Touchdowns, while Fullback Rob Lytle ran for 1,040 yards and 10 Touchdowns.
Leach added 552 yards rushing and 5 more Touchdowns. The Wolverines started their season by beating Wisconsin. But, then, they tied Stanford and Baylor in consecutive weeks to start out with a strange record of 1-0-2.
They won 7 straight games and improved their record to 8-0-2.
The season came crumbling down with consecutive losses to Ohio State and then Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. An 8-2-2 record and the 8th position in the final Poll was Michigan’s fate in 1975.
With the 1976 season, the nation saw considerably improvement out of Michigan Quarterback Rick Leach.
He completed 50 out of 105 passes for 973 yards with 13 Touchdowns with 8 Interceptions. He also had 638 yards rushing and 10 Touchdowns.
Gordon Bell was gone, but former Fullback Rob Lytle moved to Tailback and ran for 1,469 yards and 14 Touchdowns. Harlan Huckleby split time with Lytle and he ran for 912 yards and 11 more Touchdowns.
Russell Davis was their new Fullback and he had an additional 596 yards rushing and 5 more Touchdowns.
The Wolverines raced out to an 8-0 start and they were ranked number one when Purdue pulled off a major upset and beat Michigan 16-14.
They bounced back and beat Illinois and Ohio State to win the Big 10.
Bo Schembechler had more than his share of his problems in the Rose Bowl. This season was no different and the USC Trojans beat Michigan 14-6.
The Wolverines finished 10-2 and ranked #3.
In 1977, star Running Back Rob Lytle was off to the NFL, but Leach was a junior and still improving. Harlan Huckleby was back and Russell Davis was a beast at Fullback.
Michigan stormed out to a 6-0 start with a couple of impressive victories over 5th ranked Texas A%M and 14th ranked Wisconsin. They beat the Aggies 41-3 and Wisconsin 56-0.
But, they were stunned again, and this time by the Minnesota Gophers.
The Wolverines still recovered to win the Big 10 again with a 14-6 win over 4th ranked Ohio State. In the Rose Bowl, the Wolverines lost yet again, but to Washington this time. This game was a classic and I wrote about it some in my post about the best Rose Bowls. http://collegefootballcrazy.com/best-rose-bowl-games/
It was a heartbreaking loss for Michigan.
Leach once again improved in the passing game throwing 147 passes and completing 76 of them for 1,109 yards and 13 Touchdowns. He decreased his Interceptions to 7.
Russell Davis ran for 1,013 yards on 207 carries and Harlan Huckleby ran for 743 yards off of 160
In the 1978 season, Michigan was good again.
They rushed out to another undefeated season and suffered yet another huge upset. This time they lost to in state rival Michigan State which left them with a 4-1 record.
They won 6 straight games to finish up their regular season closed out with a win over 15th ranked Purdue and 16th ranked Ohio State.
Once again, the Wolverines lost in the Rose Bowl and this time to 3rd ranked USC.
Leach completed 78 passes out of 158 attempts for 1,283 yards and 17 Touchdowns with 6 Interceptions.
He ran for 611 yards on 145 carries for 12 more Touchdowns. 10-2 record yet again.
Rick Leach was All Big 10 in 1976, 1977 and 1978. He also placed in the Heisman race for 3 straight seasons.
Leach was All American in baseball and football and he was one of the few to ever accomplish that.
Leach was a 5th round draft pick by the Denver Broncos, but he was a 1st round pick by the Detroit Tigers and it was an obvious choice for him.
Leach was never a big star in the major leagues. He played for Detroit, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Texas Rangers and the San Francisco Giants.
Rick Leach never led the Michigan Wolverines to a national title. He also didn’t lead them to a bowl game win.
But, the Wolverines were 38-8-2 while he was their Quarterback and in the days of the option offenses he was one of their best players.