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Bo Schembechler’s First Quarterback: Don Moorhead

Everybody knows who the Quarterback was for the Ohio State Buckeyes when they were upset in 1969 by the Michigan Wolverines. But, do you know who the Quarterback was for the Michigan Wolverines?

Rex Kern was the king of college football during this time period and his picture was on a lot of magazine covers.

But, not a lot of people knew about Michigan’s Don Moorhead.

When the Michigan Wolverines fired Bump Elliott and hired Bo Schembechler from Miami of Ohio after the 1968 season all of the players were in place for the 1969 season.

There was really a lot of talent on that team. Reggie McKenzie, Dan Dierdorf, Jim Mandich, Tom Curtis, Billy Taylor. Glen Doughty, Thom Darden, Cecil Pryor, Mike Taylor and Don Moorhead were all recruited by Bump Elliott.

Freshmen were not eligible back then so Bo’s players could not have played and he depended on all of Bump Elliott’s recruits. But, he would get more out of them than Elliott did.

Eighteen of the players on that 1969 Michigan team went on to play professional football, including the NFL and the CFL.

Moorhead, recruited by Bump Elliott, was an All State Quarterback out of beautiful South Haven, Michigan. South Haven is a resort community right on the shores of Lake Michigan and well worth a visit if you are ever in the area.

In 1968, the sophomore Don Moorhead backed up senior Dennis Brown. With Brown gone in 1969,

the job was all Moorhead’s.

Quarterbacks in general did not put up the kind of numbers that they do in more modern times. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t play.

Bo Schembechler loved to ground and pound the ball with the running game. Moorhead threw for only 1,200 yards, but he ran for over 600 yards. The great Archie Manning of Ole Miss only threw for 1,700 yards in 1969 and he was the leading rusher for the Rebels with 500 yards.

The Michigan Wolverines were highly motivated when it came time to play their hated rival, Ohio State. The Buckeyes scored 50 on Michigan in 1968 with Woody Hayes going for 2 after they just scored 50. I wrote about that here: 10 Year War beginning

The talented but underrated Michigan Wolverines came to play in 1969 and they pulled off what many thought was the biggest upset of all time.

The 1969 Michigan Wolverines had some good players, but they weren’t there yet as a team under Bo Schembechler. They lost their third game of the season to eventual Big 8 champion, Missouri, by a large margin. Then, they lost to their other big rival, Michigan State.

They won 5 in a row before losing to USC in the Rose Bowl.

The following season, 1970, they were a much better team. They won their first 9 games before Ohio State got their revenge against the Wolverines by beating Michigan 20-9. The Ohio State class of 1967 were finally seniors and they were unbeaten until a shocking loss against Stanford in the Rose Bowl cost them the national championship.

Don Moorhead was a brilliant leader that season while throwing for 1,167 yards and 8 Touchdowns. Billy Taylor stepped up at Tailback and ran 911 yards while Moorhead ran for 368 yards.

Don’t let the numbers fool you, Moorhead was a good Quarterback in spite of the fact that he wore number 27. He was a very fluid athlete and he had a surprising arm.

He was drafted in the 6th round of the NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints, but they had taken Archie Manning in the 1st round and they wanted to try Moorhead at Running Back.

Obviously, a Quarterback never wants to switch to Running Back. Moorhead signed with the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League and had a good career there before knee injuries and a torn bicep forced him to retire early.

Don Moorhead went into teaching after football.  But, he will always be remembered as the Quarterback on the underdog Michigan team that upset the team many considered the best of all time, the 1969 Ohio State Buckeyes.

He was Bo Schembechler’s first Quarterback and he helped get the Schembechler machine rolling at Michigan.