Aug. 19, 2013
BY MIKE LUCAS
MADISON, Wis. -- Standing on the Camp Randall Stadium sidelines following Saturday’s practice, Ron McBride didn’t have any trouble hitting rewind and coming up with his fondest memory from the two seasons that he spent in Madison as Wisconsin’s offensive line coach under Dave McClain.
In 1984, the Badgers upset No. 6-ranked Ohio State, 16-14, in front of a rain-drenched but rowdy crowd of 78,606 at Camp Randall. Watching from the press box was former Buckeyes coach Woody Hayes, who did more pacing than sitting. McClain had been a former Hayes assistant in Columbus.
Twenty-nine years later, McBride said with delight, “We just kicked the bleep out of them.’’
The week before Ohio State, the Badgers had lost their starting tailback, Larry Emery, to an injury. Marck Harrison, who began the year playing fullback, took over for Emery. Harrison had special motivation in that he grew up in Columbus dreaming about playing for the Buckeyes.
Never hearing from Ohio State, the 5-foot-8, 190-pound Harrison headed to Wisconsin with a chip on his shoulder. He made the Buckeyes pay for the snub by rushing for 203 yards in the upset. In doing so, Harrison outplayed Heisman Trophy candidate Keith Byars, who finished with 142 yards.
“Our offensive line,’’ McBride said, “played out of their minds.’’
The Badgers controlled the line of scrimmage with Jeff Dellenbach and Kevin Belcher at the tackles, Bob Landsee and Dave Mielke at the guards and Dan Turk at center. Tight ends Bret Pearson and Dave Arneson and fullback Joe Armentrout also created running seams for Harrison.
“I can still remember our offensive line was supposed to be in the huddle,’’ McBride recalled vividly. “I mean I can still see it today; our linemen were standing on the ball and yelling at the Ohio State defense. Dave (McClain) is yelling me, ‘Tell those guys to get in the huddle.’
“But they wouldn’t go. They were just standing there and yelling and pointing at Ohio State. They were just pointing, pointing, pointing. Dave comes over again and says, ‘What the hell is wrong with your guys?’ I said, ‘I don’t know but I’ll find out.’’’
When the O-linemen came off the field, McBride confronted them and got his answer.
“They said, ‘Coach, we’re telling them, ‘We’re going to kick your bleep all day.’’’
With a little Dennis the Menace grin, McBride, now 73, said, “It was a good film to watch.’’
This past week, McBride got a chance to reminisce with some of his former Wisconsin players at practice. “It brought back great memories of the good times that I had here when I coached,’’ he said. “They’re all great kids. It was awesome. In this life you can’t ask for anything better. It’s unreal.’’
The reunion included an old friend Larry Mialik, a UW tight end from the early ’70s, along with Landsee, Armentrout, Todd Nelson, Chris Osswald, Matt Joki, Todd Gregoire (who kicked three field goals in the Ohio State win) and Arneson (whose son, Sam, is now a tight end with the Badgers).
There was another former McBride player at practice all week. UW head coach Gary Andersen.
|After spending two years on Dave McClain's staff at Wisconsin in the early '80s, Ron McBride went on to spend 13 seasons as the head coach at Utah, where he mentored a young Gary Andersen.
“I couldn’t ask for a better scenario for Gary than to be at Wisconsin,’’ he said of Andersen, who was McBride’s starting center for two years at Utah. “And I couldn’t ask for a better scenario for me to come back and see so many of these guys. It’s a privilege to be here.’’
Andersen has always viewed McBride as a mentor and so it made perfect sense to tap into McBride’s 48-years of coaching experience spanning nearly every level of competition. Recently, McBride completed his second season as the O-line coach for the Utah Blaze, an Arena Football League team.
McBride came out of retirement to coach the Blaze. (His retirement lasted less than 100 days.) The raspy-voiced McBride, then and now, has been known for unbridled passion and unconventional motivational techniques. He used to wear a Chicago Cubs baseball cap on the UW sidelines.
Why? “It was a good luck cap,’’ he said. What did McClain think about an assistant wearing a Cubs cap during games? “As long as the guys were blocking well, he left me alone,’’ he said. McClain, for the record, had McBride give the pregame speech before the Badgers went out and beat Ohio State.
At the end of the ’84 season, McBride left for Utah, where he was an assistant under Jim Fassel. Five years later, after a stint at Arizona, McBride was named the head coach of the Utes and it didn’t take him long to breathe life into a moribund program that had five winning seasons in the previous 16 years.
During his 13 seasons, he took the Utes to six bowl games. Note that, prior to his arrival, Utah had gone bowling just three times in 97 years. Overall, he finished with 88 wins, the second most in school history. As it was, one of his losses came to Wisconsin in the 1996 Copper Bowl in Tucson, Ariz.
Ron Dayne, then No. 33 and a freshman, rushed for 246 yards.
Dayne, now 35 and retired, just happened to be at Saturday’s practice.
“I did see him (Dayne) today,’’ McBride said.
Shaking his head, he added, “He ran over us in Tucson.’’
• • • •
During his introductory news conference, Andersen spelled out what McBride has meant to him.
“For me, coaching-wise, it all started with Coach McBride,’’ he said, “He’s an unbelievable mentor for me and will continue to be. He taught me a lot of what Coach (Barry) Alvarez is all about -- the toughness of the game and the care factor for the kids … you have to put the kids first.’’
|“He's got natural leadership qualities,’’ McBride said of Andersen. “He understands how to talk to the players, and they will respond to him because they know he cares.’’
Andersen, McBride suggested, has never lacked toughness. “He was really tough, very determined and a scrapper (as a player),’’ he said. “I remember he ran the (Utah) flag out before the Arizona State game and stuck it on the 50. Gary is one of those guys who like to make a statement.
“He was an ‘every-day’ guy. He was going to give you his best shot every day, so there was never a day where you’d have to chew him out for something. If you did, he’d always respond to it. When I took the job at Utah, he was the first guy I wanted to hire.’’
McBride always sensed that Andersen would make a good head coach once he got his chance.
“He’s got natural leadership qualities,’’ he said. “In this profession, you don’t know what’s going to happen, so there are no guarantees. But he’s smart. He understands team chemistry and he understands how to talk to the players, and they will respond to him because they know he cares.’’
On stepping into the Big Ten, McBride told Andersen, “It’s a physical conference and people won’t respect you if you’re not physical -- if you’re playing soft -- if you’re not playing tough. That’s just the way it is in the Big Ten. It’s a black-and-blue league. Line up, play and earn your stripes.’’
Prior to coming to Madison, McBride visited another one of his former players, Pat Hill, the former Fresno State head coach, who’s now an offensive line assistant with the Atlanta Falcons. While in Atlanta, McBride renewed his friendship with Paul Dunn, also a Falcons’ O-line coach.
McBride and Dunn coached together at the University of Kentucky. McBride likes to tell the story about how he used get to Dunn’s son out of junior high school and take him to the race track because he thought he was good luck. “I think I kept his kid from going to college,’’ he laughed.
Ron and Vickie McBride have seven grandchildren, including two in Southern California. Their son-in-law is John Baxter, the associate head coach, special teams and tight end coach for Lane Kiffin at USC. McBride doesn’t mind travel. He isn’t one to just hang around the house. He gets bored too easily.
During the season, he does same radio in Salt Lake City. He’s on the pregame and postgame show on the Utah football network. In late September, he’s planning on seeing Wisconsin play at Ohio State.
Who knows? Maybe he might bring the Badgers some good luck against the Buckeyes.