ROSE BOWL: MICHIGAN 22, USC 14 : Hoard, Omitted From the Book, Is Story’s Hero
You can bet that Leroy Hoard’s name will appear in the 1989 University of Michigan football media guide.
One item will certainly be that Hoard was named Rose Bowl player of the game after leading the Wolverines to a 22-14 victory Monday with a withering display of power running. Hoard gained 142 yards, 4 more than USC’s net rushing total. It was the first time any back had run for more than 100 yards in a game against USC this season.
Hoard’s name was missing in the 1988 press book, however. Not a mention--not even in the 117-player roster--of the 6-foot, 220-pound sophomore fullback from New Orleans.
The No. 33, Hoard’s number, was missing, too.
Hoard, it seems, had slipped academically, and even though he had been penciled in as the likely starting fullback this season, Coach Bo Schembechler ordered his name removed from the book.
“I guess you could say there was a little misunderstanding between the two of us,” Hoard said with a wide grin on his smiling face as he held the player-of-the-game trophy.
“Sometimes I go astray and I know Coach tries to help me, but when somebody gets after you and after you and after you, it gets kind of discouraging. Then, after times like this, you understand what he’s trying to do.”
Times like this, for Hoard, were 142 yards in 19 carries for a 7.47-yard average that included a 61-yard game-buster to set up the final Michigan touchdown.
The Wolverines held a precarious 15-14 lead with 5 minutes remaining after the Trojans’ Quin Rodriguez had missed a 47-yard field goal.
On the first play, from the Michigan 30, Hoard broke over right guard, sliced back to the left and headed for open territory. Only the swift Chris Hale prevented a 70-yard touchdown by hauling Hoard down from behind on the 9.
“It was a trap play up over guard,” Hoard explained. “When I got in the backfield, I looked left and I looked right and I didn’t see anyone. I felt like I was going backwards when I heard footsteps behind me.”
When the situation went to fourth and 1, Schembechler rejected an almost certain field goal to call Hoard’s number again. The Trojan defenders threw up a barricade but Hoard leaped far and high enough to penetrate the goal line.
“I had all the confidence in the world that Leroy (Hoard) would get in the end zone,” Schembechler said. “With the little amount of time remaining, I felt it was a good idea to give the ball to Leroy and forget the 3 points (for a field goal).”
It was Hoard’s second 1-yard touchdown run. The other also came after he had demoralized the Trojan defense with a spectacular scramble for 32 yards that got them moving after USC punter Chris Sperle had pinned them back to the 8-yard line.
“We should have had him behind the line of scrimmage,” USC Coach Larry Smith said of the play. “Two guys had him in their grasp, but he’s a big strong guy and they fell off. It was sloppy tackling but you’ve got to give him credit for making something happen.”
Schembechler, basking in the glory of only his second Rose Bowl win in nine tries, was asked about the difficulties that Hoard had with him, which included a one-game suspension in midseason for missing a class.
“Leroy is a great kid. He didn’t have any difficulty with me, I had difficulty with him. I suppose my demands may be a little greater than some people’s, but he has enormous potential and I want to see him realize it so I’m going to do everything I can to see that it’s done.”
Hoard, after getting a starting role in the fourth game, had a big day against Indiana when he ran for 128 yards and 2 touchdowns. Then he missed a class and Schembechler told him he was off the traveling squad for the Northwestern game.
“I don’t know why, sometimes I just do the wrong thing and Bo doesn’t let me get away with it. He called me in and talked to me, real quiet like, and explained that there were rules he had for Michigan football players and I’d broken one. It was as simple as that, but it made me feel terrible. I felt I’d let the team down.
“Coach is that way, though. He checks up on everything, he knows everything that goes on. That means for the whole team, not just me.”
Hoard, who usually plays second fiddle in carrying the ball behind tailback Tony Boles, said he was not surprised when his number was called 19 times to 14 for Boles.
“We know we’re going to get our number called in the first couple of series because we rotate around. Then it’s only a question of what Coach thinks will work. You know that every play is not going to work. Sometimes you’re going to get stopped and sometimes the line is going to open up a big hole for you. Then there are times when you have to make your own hole.
“The only pressure in carrying the ball a lot is that it’s that many more times that you know you can’t fumble.”
No fumbling has been a Michigan trademark this season. They dropped the ball only once in the Rose Bowl for their only turnover of the game--by Boles.
Being named player of the game gave Hoard a sense of personal achievement but he said it was secondary to Michigan winning the game.
“To perform well, that’s what we wanted most, and I think we lived up to our potential, especially in the second half,” he said.
“I know I couldn’t have done what I did without the other guys. When I started to get a little tired there late in the game, some of the guys would come up and slap me on the behind and give me encouragement. We heard all the hoopla about how the Pac-10 had the edge on the Big Ten, but we didn’t believe it. We believed in ourselves.”
The big thing in recent years for players of the game, or most valuable players, is to say, “I’m going to Disneyland” after accepting their awards.
“I’m going to Tijuana,” he said.