Video courtesy of jcbakkar on YouTube.
Mike Price and the Cougars returned to the postseason following the 1997 season. With ultra-talented quarterback Ryan Leaf at the helm of WSU's offense, the Cougars were 10-1 and ranked No. 8 in the country. Their opponent in Pasadena was Michigan, the consensus No. 1 team in the country with an 11-0 record.
It was a matchup of heavyweights, to be sure, as nine players from the game would go on to be selected in the 1998 NFL Draft including Leaf with the No. 2 overall pick and Michigan's Heisman Trophy winning cornerback, Charles Woodson, with the No. 4 overall pick. The Cougars also had a pair of defensive tackles, Leon Bender and Dorian Boose, selected in the draft's second round, while Michigan fullback Chris Floyd and quarterback Brian Griese were pick in the third round of the draft.
Griese's father, NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Griese, announced the game for ABC along with Keith Jackson.
The Cougars also received invaluable contributions from their receiving corps, affectionately known as the “Fab Five” and consisting of: Shawn McWashington, Kevin McKenzie, Shawn Tims, Chris Jackson and Nian Taylor.
More on the game, after the jump.
The Cougars were faster out of the gate, forcing a three-and-out by Michigan after downing a punt at the Wolverine's one-yard line. After regaining possession, Leaf found McKenzie from 15-yards out to give the Cougars a 7-0 lead. WSU had a chance to make it a two-score lead, but Leaf was intercepted in the end zone by Woodson from 14-yards out.
Michigan struck back in the second quarter when Griese found Tai Streets from 53-yards out to tie the game.
Leaf opened the second half with a 99-yard touchdown drive to retake the lead, scoring on Tims' 14-yard reverse, although the Wolverines blocked the extra point. Michigan responded with a play-action touchdown pass from Griese to Streets, this time for 58-yards out to take the lead.
Griese threw his third touchdown pass of the afternoon to Jerame Tuman, again off of a play-action fake, to give Michigan a 21-13 lead over the Cougars. WSU made it 21-16 on Rian Lindell's 48-yard field goal.
The Wolverines chewed up much of the remaining clock on the ensuing drive by converting four consecutive third-down attempts. WSU eventually forced Michigan to punt, but received the ball on its own 7-yard line with just 16 seconds left. The Cougars weren't done yet, however.
Leaf completed a 46-yard pass to Taylor to get on Michigan's side of the field. After an illegal formation penalty, WSU successfully ran a hook-and-lateral play that got the Cougars to the Michigan 26-yard line with two seconds left. The clock was stopped while the first-down chains were moved. The game ended in controversy, however, as officials ruled that Leaf spiked the ball too late, costing the Cougars one final shot at the end zone.