Girish Mahajan (Editor)

1981 Michigan Wolverines football team

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Conference  Big Ten Conference
AP  No. 12
MVP  Butch Woolfolk
Coaches  No. 10
1981 record  9–3 (6–3 Big Ten)
1981 Michigan Wolverines football team
Head coach  Bo Schembechler (13th year)

The 1981 Michigan Wolverines football team represented the University of Michigan in the 1981 Big Ten Conference football season. The team's head coach was Bo Schembechler. The Wolverines played their home games at Michigan Stadium.


Several Michigan players ranked among the Big Ten leaders, including the following:

  • Running back Butch Woolfolk led the conference with 1,459 rushing yards, 5.8 rushing yards per attempt, and 1,514 yards from scrimmage.
  • Quarterback Steve Smith led the conference with 12 rushing touchdowns and 27 total touchdowns, ranked fourth with a 125.7 passing efficiency rating, fifth with 674 rushing yards, and 2,335 total yards.
  • Wide receiver Anthony Carter led the conference with 11.5 yards per punt return and ranked second with 27.1 yards per kickoff return and eight receiving touchdowns, and third with 50 receptions and 952 receiving yards.
  • Placekicker Ali Haji-Sheikh ranked second in the conference with 35 extra points made, third with a 61.5 field goal percentage, and eighth with 59 points scored.
  • at Wisconsin

    Michigan was ranked #1 in the pre-season poll. On September 12, 1981, Michigan opened its season losing to unranked Wisconsin by a 21–14 score in front of a crowd of 68,733 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. It was the first loss in a season opener under Bo Schembechler and Michigan's first loss to Wisconsin since 1962. Quarterback Steve Smith scored on a two-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to give Michigan the lead, but Wisconsin scored twice in the second quarter. Butch Woolfolk rushed for 119 yards on 14 carries, including an 89-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Woolfolk's touchdown tied the game at 14–14, but Wisconsin retook the lead on a 71-yard touchdown pass from Jess Cole to John Williams. Wisconsin's All-Big Ten safety Matt Vanden Boom intercepted three of Steve Smith's passes. After the game, Schembechler told reporters: "Our offense wasn't any good; our defense wasn't any good; our kicking game wasn't any good, and our coaching was poor. It's a miracle we only lost by 7 points."

    Notre Dame

    On September 19, 1981, Michigan defeated #1 Notre Dame by a 25–7 score in front of a crowd of 105,888 at Michigan Stadium. The only points scored in the first half came on a 71-yard pass and run from Steve Smith to Anthony Carter. Michigan scored three touchdowns in the second half and led 25–0 in the fourth quarter before Notre Dame scored. After the game, Michigan coach Schembechler said: "This was a great win for us, because we came back from our poorest performance I can ever remember. We're not there yet -- we've got a ways to go -- but that looked a whole lot better than a week ago." Michigan's 18-point margin of victory over top-ranked Notre Dame was one of the largest margins of victory over a #1 ranked team to that point in history.

    at Michigan State

  • Butch Woolfolk 39 Rush, 253 Yds
  • Iowa

    On October 17, 1981, Michigan lost to Iowa by a 9–7 score before a crowd of 105,915 at Michigan Stadium. Iowa's freshman place-kicker Tom Nichol accounted for all nine of Iowa's points, kicking two field goals in the first quarter and the game-winner in the third quarter. Nichol's first field goal was set up when Michigan's Evan Cooper fumbled a punt early in the first quarter, with Dave Stroebel recovering the ball for Iowa. Michigan scored in the second quarter on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Steve Smith to Anthony Carter.


    On October 24, 1981, Michigan defeated Northwestern by a 38–0 score before a crowd of 104,361 at Michigan Stadium. Quarterback Steve Smith threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third touchdown. Lawrence Ricks rushed for 126 yards on 13 carries and scored two touchdowns, including a 60-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Butch Woolfolk rushed for 106 yards on 18 carries to break Rob Lytle's Michigan career record of 3,317 rushing yards.


    On November 7, 1981, Michigan defeated Illinois by a 70–21 score before a crowd of 105,570 at Michigan Stadium. Illinois took a 21-7 lead in the first quarter, but Michigan scored nine unanswered touchdowns in the remainder of the game. Anthony Carter caught six passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Steve Smith rushed 15 times for 116 yards and also completed 9 of 15 passes for 224 yards.

    Ohio State

    On November 21, 1981, Michigan lost to Ohio State by a 14–9 in front of a crowd of 106,043 persons, the second largest crowd up to that point in the history of Michigan Stadium. Michigan was limited to three field goals by Ali Haji-Sheikh, while Ohio State scored on two touchdown runs by quarterback Art Schlichter.

    Bluebonnet Bowl

    On December 31, 1981, #16 Michigan defeated #19 UCLA by a 33–14 score in the 1981 Bluebonnet Bowl, played before a crowd of 40,309 at the Houston Astrodome. Michigan touchdowns were scored by Anthony Carter (50-yard reception in the first quarter), Butch Woolfolk (1-yard run in the fourth quarter), Steve Smith (9-yard run in fourth quarter), and B. J. Dickey (five-yard run in fourth quarter). Ali Haji-Sheikh also kicked two field goals for Michigan. Woolfolk rushed for 186 yards on 27 carries and was selected as the game's Most Valuable Player.


  • Art Balourdos, offensive line, freshman, Chicago, Illinois
  • Vincent Bean, wide receiver, sophomore, Southfield, Michigan - started all 12 games at split end
  • Kurt Becker, offensive guard, senior, Aurora, Illinois - started all 12 games at left offensive guard
  • Norm Betts, tight end, senior, Midland, Michigan - started all 12 games at tight end
  • Fred Brockington, wide receiver, senior, Detroit, Michigan
  • Anthony Carter, wide receiver, junior, Riviera Beach, Florida - started all 12 games at flanker
  • Milt Carthens, tight end, sophomore, Pontiac, Michigan
  • B. J. Dickey, quarterback, senior, Ottawa, Ohio
  • Jerry Diorio, offensive guard, sophomore, Youngstown, Ohio - started 4 games at right offensive guard
  • Tom Dixon, center, sophomore, Fort Wayne, Indiana - started all 12 games at center
  • Craig Dunaway, tight end, senior, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Stanley Edwards, tailback, senior, Detroit, Michigan - started 11 games at fullback
  • Jeff Felten, center, senior, Centreville, Michigan
  • Brad Fischer, quarterback, senior, Ortonville, Michigan
  • Tom Garrity, center, Grafton, Wisconsin
  • Thomas J. Hassel, fullback, sophomore, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Rich Hewlett, quarterback, junior, Plymouth, Michigan
  • Stefan Humphries, offensive guard, sophomore, Broward, Florida - started 8 games at right offensive guard *Rosby Jackson,quarterback/WR , Template:Detroit, MI
  • Jerald Ingram, fullback, junior, Beaver, Pennsylvania - started 1 game at fullback
  • Eric Kattus, tight end, freshman, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Ed Muransky, offensive tackle, senior, Youngstown, Ohio - started all 12 games at right offensive tackle
  • Tom Neal, offensive tackle, senior, Orlando, Florida
  • Bubba Paris, offensive tackle, senior, Louisville, Kentucky - started all 12 games at left offensive tackle
  • Lawrence Ricks, tailback, junior, Barberton, Ohio
  • Rick Rogers, running back, freshman, Inkster, Michigan
  • Steve Smith, quarterback, sophomore, Grand Blanc, Michigan - started all 12 games at quarterback
  • Rich Strenger, offensive tackle, senior, Grafton, Wisconsin
  • Larry Sweeney, center, sophomore, Alma, Michigan
  • Butch Woolfolk, tailback, senior, Westfield, New Jersey - started all 12 games at tailback
  • Defense

  • Marion Body, defensive back, senior, Detroit, Michigan - started 4 games at short cornerback, 2 games at wide cornerback
  • Mike Boren, linebacker, sophomore, Columbus, Ohio - started all 12 games at inside linebacker
  • Keith Bostic, defensive back, junior, Ann Arbor, Michigan - started 11 games at strong safety
  • Jerry Burgei, defensive back, junior, Ottawa, Ohio - started 6 games at short cornerback
  • Brian Carpenter, defensive back, senior, Flint, Michigan - started 8 games at wide cornerback
  • Winfred Carraway, middle guard, senior, Detroit, Michigan - started 5 games at defensive tackle, 1 game at middle guard
  • Brad Cochran, defensive back, freshman, Royal Oak, Michigan
  • Cedric Coles, defensive tackle, senior, Detroit, Michigan - started 6 games at defensive tackle
  • Evan Cooper, defensive back, sophomore, Miami, Florida - started 2 games at wide cornerback, 2 games at short cornerback
  • Mike Czarnota, inside linebacker, senior, Detroit, Michigan
  • Paul Girgash, linebacker, junior, Lakewood, Ohio - started all 12 games at inside linebacker
  • Stuart Harris, defensive back, senior, Chagrin Falls, Ohio
  • Mike Hammerstein, line, freshman, Wapakoneta, Ohio - started 1 game at middle guard
  • Jim Herrmann, inside linebacker, junior, Dearborn Heights, Michigan
  • Tony Jackson, defensive back, senior, Cleveland, Ohio - started all 12 games at free safety
  • Doug James, defensive tackle, sophomore, Louisville, Kentucky - started 5 games at middle guard
  • Louis Kovacs, defensive back, junior, Toledo, Ohio (father of 2012 team co-captain Jordan Kovacs)
  • Mike Lemirande, outside linebacker, senior, Grafton, Wisconsin - started 2 games at outside linebacker
  • John Lott, defensive back, junior, Masury, Ohio
  • Mike Mallory, linebacker, freshman, DeKalb, Illinois
  • Clay Miller, defensive tackle, freshman, Norman, Oklahoma - started 3 games at defensive tackle
  • Ben Needham, inside linebacker, senior, Groveport, Ohio - started 10 games at outside linebacker
  • Tony Osbun, defensive tackle, senior, Kenton, Ohio - started 10 games at defensive tackle
  • Jeff Reeves, defensive back, senior, Columbus, Ohio - started 1 game at strong safety
  • Carlton Rose, linebacker, sophomore, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida - started 4 games at outside linebacker
  • Alan Sincich, middle guard - linebacker, freshman, Cleveland, Ohio - started 5 games at middle guard
  • Kevin Smith, defensive back, senior, Dallas, Texas
  • Robert Thompson, outside linebacker, senior, Blue Island, Illinois - started 8 games at outside linebacker
  • Sanford Washington, inside linebacker, senior, Youngstown, Ohio
  • Kickers

  • Don Bracken, punter, sophomore, Thermopolis, Wyoming
  • Ali Haji-Sheikh, place-kicker, junior, Arlington, Texas
  • Karl Tech, place-kicker, punter, senior, Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan
  • Awards

  • All-Americans: Kurt Becker, Ed Muransky, William "Bubba" Paris, Butch Woolfolk, Anthony Carter
  • Academic All-American: Ed Muransky (first team)
  • All-Conference: Anthony Carter, Ed Muransky, Kurt Becker, Bubba Paris
  • Most Valuable Player: Butch Woolfolk
  • Meyer Morton Award: Stanley Edwards
  • Frederick Matthei Award: Lawrence Ricks
  • Arthur Robinson Scholarship Award: Norm Betts
  • John Maulbetsch Award: Tom Dixon
  • Professional football

    The following players were claimed in the 1982 NFL Draft.

    A total of twenty-three (23) members of the 1980 Michigan football team went on to play professional football. They are: Kurt Becker (Chicago Bears, 1982–88, 1990, Los Angeles Rams, 1989), Marion Body (Michigan Panthers, 1983), Keith Bostic (Houston Oilers, 1983–88), Cleveland Browns, 1990), Don Bracken (Green Bay Packers, 1985–90, Los Angeles Rams, 1992-93), Anthony Carter (Michigan Panthers, 1983–84, Oakland Invaders, 1985, Minnesota Vikings, 1985–93, Detroit Lions, 1994-95), Milt Carthens (Indianapolis Colts, 1987), Evan Cooper (Philadelphia Eagles, 1984–87, Atlanta Falcons, 1988-89), Jerry Diorio (Detroit Lions, 1987), Tom Dixon (Michigan Panthers, 1984), Craig Dunaway (Pittsburgh Steelers, 1983), Stanley Edwards (Houston Oilers, 1982–86, Detroit Lions, 1987), Paul Girgash (Michigan Panthers, 1984), Ali Haji-Sheikh (New York Giants, 1983–85, Atlanta Falcons, 1986, Washington Redskins, 1987), Mike Hammerstein (Cincinnati Bengals, 1986–90), Stefan Humphries (Chicago Bears, 1984–86, Denver Broncos, 1987-88), Eric Kattus (Cincinnati Bengals, 1986–91, New York Jets, 1992), Ed Muransky (Los Angeles Raiders, 1982–84, Orlando Renegades, 1985), Bubba Paris (San Francisco 49ers, 1983–90, Indianapolis Colts, 1991, Detroit Lions 1991), Lawrence Ricks (Kansas City Chiefs, 1983–84), Carlton Rose (Washington Redskins, 1987), Rich Strenger (Detroit Lions, 1983–87), Robert Thompson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1983–84, Detroit Lions, 1987), and Butch Woolfolk (New York Giants, 1982–84, Houston Oilers, 1985-86, Detroit Lions, 1987–88).

    Coaching staff

  • Head coach: Bo Schembechler
  • Assistant coaches: Tirrel Burton, Lloyd Carr, Jerry Hanlon, Bill McCartney, Jerry Meter, Les Miles, Gary Moeller, Paul Schudel, Bob Thornbladh, Milan Vooletich
  • Trainer: Russ Miller
  • Managers: John D. Carr, Charles Fromm, Thomas Luxton, Greg Pearlman, Fred Spademan, Randall Tharp
  • References

    1981 Michigan Wolverines football team Wikipedia

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