Close Call Still Hurts Years Later

Times Staff Writer

The memories of Washington State's last Rose Bowl are not all good.

There was the final play ... or the final play that wasn't.

With two seconds left and the Cougars trailing Michigan in the 1998 Rose Bowl by five points, quarterback Ryan Leaf attempted to spike the ball to stop the clock and set up a final play.

That would have given Leaf -- still a golden boy then -- one shot at the end zone from the Michigan 26-yard line with his Fab Five receivers all going deep.

It was a chance that never came, because officials ruled the clock ran out, leaving Michigan with a 21-16 victory.

It upset Coach Mike Price then. "With two seconds, I think you can down the ball," he said after that game. "I thought it was an official's mistake. We thought about [just] throwing the ball, but we thought we had two seconds."

And it still doesn't sit too well five years later.

"I don't know. I've got to butter up the officials. We had some bad luck," Price said, remembering the call.

The Cougars are still smarting from another controversial game-ending call, Nov. 23 in the Apple Cup.

Washington State lost in triple overtime after officials ruled a tipped pass was a lateral and not an incompletion, giving Washington the victory by recovering the loose ball.

"The Apple Cup, that was harder," offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller said. "To have it on your fingertips, to feel you had control and let it slip away late was difficult."

He let go of the lost opportunity against Michigan more easily.

"There were other chances within the game," Levenseller said. "I was hurting for the kids.... But around 4 o'clock, I had a scotch in one hand and a cigar in the other, and I celebrated for those guys for what they accomplished."


Cornerback Jason David missed three games this season after suffering a broken cheekbone when he was attacked by teammate Ira Davis in the Cougar locker room in October.

Nevertheless, David led Washington State with seven interceptions in nine games. (That's No. 1 in the nation if measured as interceptions per game, with David at 0.78.)

Though playing opposite first-team all-conference corner Marcus Trufant doesn't hurt, David has what new Coach Bill Doba called a cornerback's best qualities -- confidence and a short memory.

Against Stanford, it was the confidence that was showing when David pulled what he called the cornerback's equivalent of Babe Ruth's called shot.

"[The quarterback] came to the line and he made eye contact, and I looked at him and kind of waved at him, like, 'Throw my way,' " David said. "He did, and I got my second interception of the game."


Add one more ailment to quarterback Jason Gesser's list.

"I've got some stuff in my knee that's wrong," he said.

Gesser will make a decision about whether to undergo an arthroscopic procedure to clean up the knee after the East-West Shrine Game Jan. 11 in San Francisco, but he also is mindful of not interfering with upcoming workouts for NFL scouts.


In what Price expects to be an emotional farewell after the game, he will quickly shift gears to take up his duties as coach at Alabama.

"I'm going to clean my office out on the 3rd, leave a whistle for [Doba] and be in Tuscaloosa by the 4th," Price said.

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