The 1974 Michigan Wolverines football team represented the University of Michigan in the 1974 NCAA Division I football season. In their sixth year under head coach Bo Schembechler, the Wolverines compiled a 10–1 record, outscored opponents 324 to 75, and were ranked #3 in final AP Poll. Michigan won the first ten games of the 1974 season in convincing fashion, including blowout victories over Colorado (31-0), Navy (52-0), Minnesota (49-0), and Purdue (51-0). In the final game of the season, #2 Michigan faced #3 Ohio State. The Wolverines lost by a score of 12-10, as place-kicker Mike Lantry missed a last-minute field goal that would have given Michigan a victory.
On offense, the team was led by quarterback Dennis Franklin who completed 58 of 104 passes for 933 yards and rushed 108 times for 209 yards. Three Michigan running backs combined for 2,510 rushing yards. Gordon Bell led the way with 1,048 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. Rob Lytle added 802 rushing yards, and Chuck Heater 660 yards. Center Dennis Franks and end Dan Jilek were selected as All-Big Ten Conference players.
On defense, the Wolverines held opponents to 75 points, an average of 6.8 points per game. Cornerback Dave Brown was selected as first-team All-American for the second straight year. Five Wolverine defenders were selected for the All-Big Ten Conference team, including Brown, middle linebacker Steve Strinko, wolfman Don Dufek, left tackle Jeff Perlinger, and middle guard Tim Davis. Strinko led the team in total tackles for the second consecutive year and was selected as the team's most valuable player.
Perhaps the biggest story surrounding the Michigan football program in the interim between the 1973 and 1974 seasons was the appointment of former Michigan football player Gerald Ford as Vice President of the United States in December 1973 and his ascension to the Presidency in August 1974. Ford drew attention to the program as he often had the Naval band play the University of Michigan fight song, The Victors, before state events instead of Hail to the Chief. During Ford's first foreign trip as President in November 1974, Emperor Hirohito of Japan greeted Ford with a military band playing The Victors.
On September 14, 1974, Michigan opened its season with a 24 to 7 victory over Iowa. Michigan rushed for 315 yards in the game, led by Rob Lytle (86 yards on 14 carries), Chuck Heater (62 yards on 17 carries and a two-yard touchdown run in the first quarter), and Gil Chapman (55 yards on 6 carries). Michigan quarterback Dennis Franklin did not appear in the game due to illness and was replaced by Mark Elzinga who completed 2 of 11 passes for 34 yards. One of Elzinga's two completions was caught by Gil Chapman for a touchdown in the third quarter. Elzinga also ran one yard for Michigan's second touchdown in the first quarter. Kicker Mike Lantry kicked a 30-yard field goal in the fourth quarter and converted all three extra points. Iowa's only touchdown was scored in the final minute of the fourth quarter.
Michigan defensive back Dave Brown opened the scoring two minutes into the game by returning a punt 88 yards from the 12-yard line for a touchdown. After being discharged from the hospital four days before the game, quarterback Dennis Franklin returned against Colorado. Franklin completed 11 of 16 passes for 115 yards with one touchdown (a five-yard pass caught by Greg DenBoer in the fourth quarter) and no interceptions. Franklin also rushed for 69 yards on 13 carries and scored a touchdown in the second quarter after recovering Rob Lytle's fumble in the end zone. After the game, head coach Bo Schembechler said, "I told you guys he was a decent quarterback didn't I? And this was after only three days of practice after lying on his back for 10 days. I thought his performance was remarkable. Why, it was almost an aerial circus!"
Michigan also gained 273 rushing yards. Chuck Heater led the Wolverines in rushing with 74 yards on 16 carries, including a five-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Lytle added 66 yards on 13 carries and Gordon Bell 49 yards on six carries. Kicker Mike Lantry recovered a fumble on a kickoff, kicked a 19-yard field goal in the fourth quarter and converted all three extra points. Michigan's defense held Colorado to 44 rushing yards on 30 carries.
On September 28, 1974, Michigan defeated George Welsh's Navy Midshipmen by a 52-0 score. The game was played at Michigan Stadium before a crowd of 104,232, which included thousands of high school band students participating in the annual band day celebration. Michigan's backs dominated, rushing for 340 yards and six touchdowns on 67 carries. Gordon Bell rushed for 57 yards and three touchdowns on nine carries, Chuck Heater gained 61 yards and two on 13 carries, and Rob Lytle rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Dennis Franklin completed five of six passes for 85 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown pass to Jim Smith in the third quarter. Mike Lantry kicked a 31-yard field goal and converted all seven extra points.
Laidlaw 7-yard pass from Wardvogel (Langford kick)
Corbin 2-yard run (Lantry kick)
On October 5, 1974, Michigan defeated Stanford by a 27-16 score at Stanford Stadium. Stanford took a 9-6 lead at halftime as Mike Langford kicked three field goals, and the Stanford defense did not allow a first down during the first quarter. In the second quarter, Gordon Bell scored on a one-yard run, but the kick for extra point failed. Also in the second quarter, Stanford intercepted a pass by Dennis Franklin, marking Michigan's first turnover in 255 plays during the 1974 season. In the third quarter, Franklin rushed for two touchdowns to give Michigan a 20-9 lead. The teams traded touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including a two-yard run by Michigan backup Scott Corbin. Stanford quarterback Jerry Waldvogel completed 21 of 40 passes and 229 yards. The Wolverines rushed for 317 yards on 66 carries, including 96 yard for Rob Lytle and 72 yards each for Franklin and Gordon Bell.
Jilek recovered MSU fumble in end zone (Lantry kick)
Smith 45-yard pass from Franklin (Lantry kick)
Cobb 15-yard pass from Baggett (Nielsen kick)
On October 12, 1974, Michigan defeated Denny Stolz's Michigan State Spartans by a 21-7 score. The game, played at Michigan Stadium, attracted a crowd of 104,682, reported to be "the second largest crowd in modern N.C.A.A. history" behind the 1973 Michigan-Ohio State game. Gordon Bell led Michigan's rushing attack with 73 yards on 16 carries, including a 13-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Dennis Franklin completed five of nine passes for 84 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown pass to Jim Smith in the second quarter, but left the game in the third quarter with bruised ribs. Linebacker Dan Jilek also scored in the second quarter when he forced a fumble on a punt attempt and then recovered it in the end zone.
On October 19, 1974, Michigan defeated John Jardine's Wisconsin Badgers by a 24–20 score. The game was played to a record crowd of 78,911 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. Michigan gained 265 rushing yards led by Chuck Heater who had 101 yards on 20 carries and a 22-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Dennis Franklin completed five of seven passes for 71 yards, including an eight-yard touchdown pass to Greg DenBoer in the third quarter. Gordon Bell scored Michigan's third touchdown on a one-yard run in the fourth quarter. Mike Lantry kicked a 31-yard field goal in the fourth quarter and converted all three extra points. Michigan gave up 206 rushing yards to Wisconsin, prompting coach Schembechler to say, "That's the most anyone has run on us in years. I was surprised they could do that well against us, but their offense is very, very good."
On October 26, 1974, Michigan defeated Minnesota by a 49-0 score. The game was played at Michigan Stadium before a crowd of 96,284. Michigan rolled to over 600 yards in the game. On the ground, the Wolverines totaled 521 rushing yards, led by Rob Lytle (158 yards on 20 carries) and Gordon Bell (134 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries). Gil Chapman gained 41 yards and scored two touchdowns on six carries. Chuck Heater, Mark Elzinga and Scott Corbin also scored rushing touchdowns. Franklin completed six of seven passes for 99 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown pass to Jim Smith in the third quarter.
On November 2, 1974, Michigan defeated Lee Corso's Indiana Hoosiers by a 21–7 score at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Indiana. After Gordon Bell returned the opening kickoff to the 45-yard line, Michigan drove to Indiana's 13-yard line, but Rob Lytle's fumble ended the drive. In all the Wolverines turned the ball over three times, twice on fumbles by Lytle and once on an interception of a Dennis Franklin pass. Neither team scored in the first quarter, but Gordon Bell ran for two touchdowns in the second quarter to give Michigan a 14-0 lead at halftime. Michigan totaled 344 rushing yards in the game with gaining 159 yards on 23 carries, Chuck Heater contributing 97 yards on 16 carries, and Lytle rushing for 63 yards on 11 carries. Indiana scored in the fourth quarter to cut Michigan's lead to seven points, but Gil Chapman scored with 36 seconds remaining in the game to extend the score to 21-7.
On November 9, 1974, Michigan defeated Illinois by a 14–6 score at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois. The Illini played the game in mourning as 20-year-old defensive end Greg Williams was fatally shot at 2:30 a.m. during an altercation at a fraternity party and died eight hours later on the morning of the game. Michigan dominated the first half, scoring twice on runs by Gordon Bell and Dennis Franklin, and out-gaining the Illini, 259 yards to 25. Illinois' defense tightened in the second half. Illini co-captain Revie Sorey noted, "We didn't feel like playing football at first. Then - quietly, without much talk - we tried at halftime to find our hearts for Greg." Michigan did not score in the second half, and Illinois cornerback Mike Gow returned a punt 45 yards for a touchdown with 2 minutes and 10 second remaining in the fourth quarter. After Gow's touchdown, Illinois succeeded in recovering an onside kick and drove to Michigan's 16-yard line before Michigan's defense held. Ohio State lost to Michigan State, leaving Michigan in sole possession of first place in the Big Ten Conference.
On November 16, 1974, Michigan defeated Purdue by a 51-0 score at Michigan Stadium. The game was Purdue's most lopsided defeat in over 50 years. Michigan gained 581 yards of total offense on 396 rushing yards and 185 passing yards. Gordon Bell led the running game with 166 rushing yards and one touchdown on 23 carries. Rob Lytle added 66 yards and a touchdown, and Chuck Heater contributed 48 yards and a touchdown. Dennis Franklin completed 7 of 12 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns, as Michigan played with three wide receivers. Backup quarterback Mark Elzinga also threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Lytle. After the game, Purdue coach Alex Agase said, "Michigan was a great team today. They killed us with skill."
Michigan jumped to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter on a 42-yard touchdown pass from Dennis Franklin to Gil Chapman and a 37-yard field goal by Mike Lantry. Ohio State did not score a touchdown against Michigan, but Tom Klaban kicked three field goals in the second quarter and another in the third quarter to give Ohio State a 12-10 lead. Michigan drove inside Ohio State's 20-yard line in the closing minutes of the game. With 18 second remaining, Lantry attempted a 33-yard field goal which was called wide left by the officials. Ohio State won 12 to 10, and the two teams finished in a tie for the Big Ten championship.
Center Jim Czirr was selected by the Denver Broncos in the ninth round of the 1976 NFL Draft. In July 1976, Czirr announced that he would not report to the Broncos as he was opting not to continue playing football due to an arthritic vertebrae in his neck.
Tight end Greg DenBoer was selected by the Baltimore Colts in the eighth round of the 1975 NFL Draft.
Fullback Jerry Vogele was selected by the New England Patriots in the ninth round of the 1977 NFL Draft. Vogele sustained a knee injury in a pre-season game in September 1977 and was required to undergo surgery.