Relive the Roses

Dec. 29, 2007

By Jason Krump

During the 1997 season, a weekly tradition was for Mike Price to have a senior member of his team address the squad.

Some presentations were more creative than others.

For instance, the week of the California game, Ryan McShane's talk began with a videotape presentation of himself shouting at a bear at Washington State University's Bear Research, Education and Conservation Program facility.

'I will never forget it,' Steve Gleason said. 'He videotaped himself taunting the bear. This bear is sitting in a bucket of water not moving.'

'I wanted to do something different and `out of the box.' ' McShane said. 'I had Cory Withrow film me talking trash to a big brown bear. It had the guys rolling and I followed it with a 20-minute talk that Coach Price had to cut off because it was more of an impromptu stand up routine versus a pep talk.'

'When you first walked out on that field and you saw one whole side was crimson and gray and the other whole side was blue that's when you knew, `Wow this is it, this is the game that we have been waiting for.' It gave me chills. Just thinking about it now still gives me chills.'
- Duane Stewart

Than there was linebacker Todd Nelson's 'talk.'

Nicknamed 'mute' by the team for his lack of propensity to speak, Nelson received an assist from McShane for his 'speech.'

'The whole week everyone was anticipating Todd's speech because he never talks,' Gleason said.

'I was good buds with Nelly or mute,' McShane said, 'and he gave me a note which read, `Todd, would you like to thank the coaches and players for giving you this opportunity to do something great?' Todd nodded his head yes and sat down. Our team, coaches included, came unglued.'

Prior to the Rose Bowl, Price didn't designate one senior to speak, but rather left the floor open for anyone who wanted to talk.

Instead of giving a talk, Ryan Leaf chose to make a video with footage of all the seniors set to music.

'It was touching and it showed how much the team meant to him,' Price said of Leaf's video.

Another tradition during the season was when Price's wife, Joyce, would give Leaf a homemade pumpkin pie the night before each game. In the days leading up to the game, Leaf had asked Price about the possibility of a pie before the Rose Bowl.

On Rose Bowl eve, after bed check had taken place, Mike and Joyce delivered the pumpkin pie to Leaf's hotel room.

'He was so moved he was in tears,' Price recalled.

The next day, during pregame warm-ups, Price was the one who was moved when he stood on the crimson and gray painted end zone with the words 'Washington State' inscribed on it.

Standing on the crimson and gray turf brought back memories of a picture Price had in his office. It was an aerial picture taken of the Rose Bowl with one adjustment - the words 'Washington State' were superimposed at one of the end zones.

The season before, that picture provided incentive to Leaf and the team.

'I remember when we lost our third game of 1996 and Coach Price took the picture down,' Leaf said. 'I got on him and said, `How can you do this?'

'It got put back up as soon as the season was over,' Leaf continued. 'Every week in 1997 I kept looking up and noticing it was still there, it was still there, it was still there; we still have that opportunity to go to that game; I think it was a motivating factor for us.'

'I remember before the game looking up and saying, `We made it ... we are coaching in a game with a blimp.' '
-Mike Levenseller

The picture represented a goal for the program, and now that goal had become a reality for Price and the team. And if to prove it wasn't a dream, Price knelt down and ran his hand through the crimson and gray painted grass.

'I remember feeling the grass in the WSU end zone,' Price recalled, 'to make sure this was really happening.'

The end zone also made an impression on the players.

'When you first walked out on that field and you saw one whole side was crimson and gray and the other whole side was blue that's when you knew, `Wow this is it, this is the game that we have been waiting for,' ' Duane Stewart said. 'It gave me chills. Just thinking about it now still gives me chills.'

For Mike Levenseller, evidence of the magnitude of the event was provided to him not on the ground, but in the air.

Standing on the field with assistant coach Larry Lewis, Levenseller was looking up into the California sky and the historical significance resonated.

'I remember before the game looking up and saying, `We made it,' Levenseller remembered. 'Larry said, `What do you mean?' and I said, `We are coaching in a game with a blimp.' '

The blimp was set against a clear, blue backdrop and in addition to the pristine sky, temperature was a perfect 75 degrees heading into kickoff.

The 84th edition of the Rose Bowl would mark the last of the 'true' traditional Pac-10-Big Ten match-ups. The following year, the bowl would enter with the Fiesta, Sugar and Orange Bowls into the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). The game, which was televised nationally on ABC was also noteworthy for the fact that WSU alumnus Keith Jackson, who had called the Cougars' first game of the season against UCLA would call their last as well. His partner in the broadcast was Bob Griese, whose son Brian was quarterback of the Michigan squad.

The WSU band played the national anthem and Michigan was the first team to run out on the field. Then, for the first time in 67 years, the Cougars set foot on the Rose Bowl stadium turf.

For the coin toss, WSU captains Leaf, Withrow, and Dorian Boose met at the center of the field with Michigan representatives Eric Mayes and Jon Jansen. The Cougars, as the designated visiting team, called heads.

Grand Marshal Carol Burnett tossed the coin and prior to it cautioned the players to 'Stand back.' It was good advice as the coin was tossed more horizontally than vertically but it landed as heads and WSU chose to open the game on offense.

The capacity crowd and the national television audience would immediately have a chance to witness the nation's second-ranked offense against the nation's No. 1 ranked defense.

Relive the Roses



Now on Pac-12 Network
12:00 PM PT

Airing on:

  • Pac-12 Network
Get Pac-12 Networks
Pac-12 Networks Channel Finder