Friday, December 13, 2002
1993 - Michigan 38, Washington 31
By Dan O'Sullivan
The Washington Huskies took home the Rose Bowl trophy in 1991 and 1992. On New Year's Day 1993, running back Tyrone Wheatley and the Michigan Wolverines thwarted the Huskies' attempt to become the first team to win three Roses in a row.
The previous year, Washington had thrashed Michigan, 34-14. The Wolverines were determined to avenge the bitter defeat, said Wheatley. "The year before, we hadn't played a team with that kind of team speed," he said. "They came at us with stuff we hadn't seen before, but we weren't going to use that as an excuse anymore."
Wheatley led the way for seventh-ranked Michigan (8-0-3), using his quickness to explode for 235 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries. For the sophomore from Inkster, Mich., the regular season had been one long coming-out party. Filling in for the injured Ricky Powers, Wheatley racked up 1,122 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Ninth-ranked Washington (9-2) also had a powerful offensive weapon in quarterback Mark Brunell. The Huskies outscored their opponents 306-148 during a regular season marred only by November losses to nationally ranked Arizona and Washington State.
As anticipated, the 1993 showdown in Pasadena turned out to be an offensive shoot-out highlighted by several spectacular scoring plays. Trailing 7-3 in the first quarter, Elvis Grbac set off the fireworks when he hit tight end Tony McGee for a 49-yard touchdown pass.
As the second quarter progressed, Wheatley took over the game.
The former Wolverine star recalls how a conversation with offensive line coach Les Miles had provided him with extra motivation: "He walked past me the night before and said, 'You had some big runs this year, and the offensive linemen appreciate that. I guarantee tomorrow these guys want to work their butts off for you, and we need a big run out of you to get them going.'"
Wheatley inspired his linemen with a 56-yard touchdown run to put Michigan up 17-7. Brunell answered with touchdown passes of 64 and 18 yards to give Washington a 21-17 lead at halftime.
The big plays continued right after kickoff. Michigan started its first drive of the second half at its own 12-yard line. On first down, Grbac handed off to Wheatley, who took advantage of a key block by center Steve Everitt to race 88 yards for a touchdown. Wheatley credits his offensive line with creating big holes throughout the game.
"All the runs just fell into place," he said. "On the 88-yarder, I didn't get touched once."
Washington put 10 more points on the board before Wheatley answered with a 24-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 31 going into the fourth quarter.
The score was still knotted as Michigan took over at its 20 early in the fourth quarter. Grbac marched his team downfield, then found McGee for a 15-yard touchdown pass to give the Wolverines a 38-31 lead with 5:29 remaining. The Husky offense could not respond, and Michigan became the Rose Bowl champion for the seventh time.
For Player of the Game Wheatley, the experience was unforgettable.
"To score a touchdown in the Rose Bowl before millions of people on TV and my family at home watching; to me it's kind of unexplainable," he said. "It's the mystique and the prestige that goes along with playing in The Granddaddy of Them All."
Wheatley starred two more seasons at Michigan and was the New York Giants' first-round pick in the 1995 draft. Although he has had an uneven career in the pros, he said he is healthy and hopes to meet one personal goal for the 1998 season: "To get back to the Tyrone Wheatley of old."
The Tyrone Wheatley who was the best player on the gridiron at the 1993 Rose Bowl.