Jan. 2, 2008
By Jason Krump
Playing in front of a sold out crowd of 101,219 and a national television audience, both Washington State and Michigan used their opening possession to shake off the butterflies.
After WSU punted to end its first series, Michigan's first opportunity on offense concluded when Brian Griese, under pressure from Steve Gleason, was intercepted by Lamont Thompson at the Cougars' 37-yard line.
WSU drove the ball to Michigan's 40 before being forced to punt once again. The Cougars earned the field position advantage when Jeff Banks' punt was downed at the Wolverines' one-yard line by Chris Jackson.
Banks' punt paid dividends when Michigan went three and out, and the Cougars took the ball over at the Wolverines' 47 at the 6:26 mark of the first quarter.
On the drive's sixth play, a second-and-two from the 15, Ryan Leaf connected with Kevin McKenzie at the left side of the blue and maze Michigan end zone. Coupled with Rian Lindell's extra point, WSU jumped out to a 7-0 lead at the 3:17 mark of the first quarter.
"We had to go predominately pass. It turned us into a one-dimensional football team and definitely changed the football game."
- Ryan Leaf on the effects of losing the services of Michael Black.
But on the play that gave the Cougars the early advantage on the scoreboard, it also gave them a huge disadvantage for the remainder of the game, as the play proved to be the last for starting running back Michael Black.
While Leaf was connecting with McKenzie for the score, near the left sideline Black pulled up lame with a right calf strain that would force him out of action the rest of the day.
Suddenly, the WSU offense was without the services of a player who rushed for 1,235 yards during the regular season. Looking back, the loss of Black proved to be devastating to the Cougars.
"We wanted to get the run going and we figured that would loosen them up a little bit," Ryan McShane said. "Our run game and pass game went hand in hand that year. You needed Black to open up the pass and vice versa. It was tough not having that one-two punch. When those Michigan guys get to pin their ears back and start running at you, it's a tough gig."
"We had to go predominately pass," Leaf said of the effects of losing the services of Black. "It turned us into a one-dimensional football team and definitely changed the football game."
Black's loss crippled a rushing attack that averaged 157.7 yards a game during the regular season. In the Rose Bowl, WSU managed 67 yards rushing, a season low.
But the Cougars' were in front 7-0 and took that lead to the end of the quarter, which ended with Michigan in the midst of its first substantial drive of the day, but that was stymied at the second quarter's beginning, and the Wolverines were forced to punt.
Inheriting the ball on their own 23, Leaf and the Cougar offense were on the move once again.
On a third-and-four from the Michigan 49, Leaf completed a pass to Jackson, who sprinted up the right sideline for a 35-yard gain.
Only 14 yards separated the Cougars from a 14-0 lead over the nation's No. 1 ranked team; and the double-digit advantage almost became reality when, on the ensuing play, Leaf floated a pass that just went over the outstretched arms of Shawn McWashington between the "Washington" and "State" in the back of the crimson and gray end zone.
On second down, Black's replacement, DeJuan Gilmore, ran for two yards setting the Cougars up with a third-and-eight situation at the Michigan 12.
In what would be a pivotal play in the game, Leaf rolled left, and under pressure, floated a wobblier that was intended for McKenzie, the recipient of Leaf's first quarter touchdown pass.
This pass, however, never reached McKenzie. It was intercepted by Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, and an opportunity for WSU to take a double-digit lead had evaporated.
"We missed Shawn on the back end zone, Ryan had him; it just went off his extended hands," Levenseller said. "Two plays later, Woodson had the pick and that was probably the swing. It would have been 14-0 and we would have had the momentum."
"I thought we for the most part played with them. I think they were more concerned than we were with the five receivers; coming from the Pac-10. With the Big Ten, they had never seen four or five receivers. They're used to dominant running, downhill running between the tackles and that wasn't what we were."
- Chris Jackson
"The play took too long to execute," Mike Price said of the interception. "It was a little thing that we didn't do. If we scored we would have had control."
Michigan could not take advantage of the turnover going three-and-out; however, the WSU offense was forced into a three-and-out as well, and the Wolverines took the ball over on their own 34-yard line with 8:04 left.
On first down, Griese took a shot deep to Tai Streets. The pass was overthrown, but cornerback Ray Jackson was called for pass interference. The penalty was 15 yards and the play served as a precursor for what was to come two plays later.
After a Woodson run resulted in a two-yard loss, Griese once again took a chance deep to Streets, this time down the right sidelines. On this instance, the pair connected, and the 53-yard touchdown pass with the resulting extra point tied the game at seven with 7:08 left in the quarter.
That would be the score at the break as the first half ended as it began, with each team trading possessions.
"I thought we for the most part played with them," Jackson said. "I think they were more concerned than we were with the five receivers; coming from the Pac-10. With the Big Ten, they had never seen four or five receivers. They're used to dominant running, downhill running between the tackles and that wasn't what we were.
"We turned them from a big, physical team to more of a finesse team," Jackson added, "but that benefited them in the long run right after Michael Black went out and we were passing more and not able to run the ball and keep them honest. For the first half we kept them under wraps. We had the one interception that I think really killed us. It took the wind out of our sail."
At the half way mark of the game, WSU tied with the No. 1 ranked team in the nation, but the loss of their starting running back, and the missed scoring opportunity would weigh on the Cougars in the second half.
Relive the Roses
- Chapter 1: Motivation
- Chapter 2: Fourth and Roses to Go
- Chapter 3: The Catch. The Block. Vanquishing History.
- Chapter 4: The Nation Begins to Take Notice
- Chapter 5: Fabulous!
- Chapter 6: Getting Defensive
- Chapter 7: 63 and 6-0
- Chapter 8: In Elite Company
- Chapter 9: Fumble, Then a Recovery
- Chapter 10: Stepping Up to the Challenge
- Chapter 11: Memories of a Memorable Man
- Chapter 12: Confidence
- Chapter 13: A Storybook Championship
- Chapter 14: Leading up to New Year's Day
- Chapter 15: A Block that Lent a Great Assist
- Chapter 16: A Game 67 Years in the Making
- Chapter 17: Playing No. 1 to a Deadlock
- Chapter 18: To the Final Snap