Bob Ufer was the radio voice of Michigan football for 34 years and 362 consecutive games He was an unabashed Michigan homer who truly bled Maize ‘n Blue. Ufer’s popularity rose in the 1970’s as the program returned to prominence under Bo Schembechler. It was the decade of the Big Two and Little Eight as Michigan lost only seven games heading into the 1979 season. Radio was the main modality to follow your favorite team on Saturdays as league rules limited schools to two television appearances per year. Every Saturday, fans tuned in coast to coast (Lake Michigan to Lake Huron) to follow the Wolverines. Ufer’s enthusiasm was contagious as he broadcast many a “Meechigan” football victory.
There were many famous calls and catch phrases during that time. Most fans of the era can simply close their eyes as the images come to life:
Two tight ends and a balanced line, Huckelby deep, Davis close, Ricky the peach Leach under center….
Touchdown Billy Taylor! Touchdown Billy Taylor!
Touchdown Dennis Franklin!
Most of those famous plays and touchdown calls were on the ground during the wishbone option era of the decade. The option era would shift toward more of a pro-style passing attack in 1979 with the graduation of Rick Leach and arrival of Anthony Carter. Freshman only recently gained eligibility and rarely played in that era, but Carter was an obvious exception. During his first college game against Northwestern, he returned his first punt 78 yards for a touchdown. Carter was truly a transfomational player, who was a threat to score every time he touched the ball.
With a new quarterback, Michigan stumbled during the 1979 season with two early season losses heading into the 1979 homecoming match-up against Indiana. Homecoming games were traditionally easy victories, but Indiana had different ideas on that overcast Saturday afternoon tying the game with under one minute play. Overtime would not exist until the 1995-96 season.
With only six ticks left on the clock, Michigan quarterback John Wangler dropped back to pass from the Indiana 45 yard line for the final play. Ufer could not believe it as Carter caught Wangler’s pass over the middle and stumbled into the endzone for the game winning touchdown.
As 95 Wolverines celebrated, Ufer rambled for two minutes about Carter, the human torpedo, running like a penguin with a herring in his cumber bun and the improbable gift from “Football’s Valhalla.” As we celebrate 150 years of college football, Ufer’s enthusiasm and passion is what college football is all about. That’s why I watch every cotton pickin’ Saturday afternoon.