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Rose Bowl Notebook

December 31, 1997

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) _ Washington State coach Mike Price believes the key to the eighth-ranked Cougars’ chances of upsetting top-ranked Michigan is whether the WSU blockers can give quarterback Ryan Leaf time to throw.

``They come from everywhere,″ Price said of the Wolverines’ pass rushers. ``So we will have to get a feel for what they are going to do, may have to audibilize some.″

In Washington State’s only loss of the season, 44-31 to Arizona State, the Sun Devils kept pressure on Leaf by blitzing up the middle, a tactic that’s certain to have caught the eye of Michigan coach Lloyd Carr and his staff.

Leaf, however, doesn’t seem to be worried about that prospect.

``If they do what Arizona State did, I’ll throw for 447 yards again, and that’s fine with me,″ the Cougars’ quarterback said, recalling his passing yardage against the Sun Devils.

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HUSKERS’ HOPES: The Nebraska Cornhuskers sent along some T-shirts to the Cougars to make their cheering interest clear. Printed on the shirts was: ``Temporary Washington State Fan.″ Woven into the ``N″ on fan was the word ``Huskers.″

The second-ranked Cornhuskers have a reason to cheer for the Cougars. A Washington State upset of top-ranked Michigan, and a win by Nebraska over No. 3 Tennessee in the Orange Bowl would give the Cornhuskers a solid claim to the national title.

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IN PERSPECTIVE: Michigan quarterback Brian Griese certainly doesn’t consider the 1998 Rose Bowl just another game.

``It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. Not many players get the chance to play in this game,″ he said. ``And for Michigan teams, it’s been 50 years since they won a national championship.

``We didn’t come out here to finish in second place. We came out here to win a national title.″

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QUICK STRIKE CAPABILITY: Washington State finished second in the nation in scoring this season, averaging 42.5 points. Carr said the Wolverines have to be able to move the ball so the Cougars’ Leaf and the rest of the WSU offense won’t have much time on the field.

``It doesn’t matter. We can score in 35 seconds,″ Cougars coach Price said.

Washington State scored 14 of its touchdowns this season on drives that took less than a minute.

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LONG, LONG AGO: It has been 67 years since Washington State was in the Rose Bowl, and three of the players from that squad plan to be at Thursday’s game to cheer the Cougars on.

Of the 36 players who made the train trip down from Pullman for the 1931 Rose Bowl, seven are still living.

Mike Davis, who was a halfback, will make the short trip to Pasadena from his home in Studio City. He already paid a visit to a Cougars’ practice at the Los Angeles Coliseum, a visit that coach Price said meant a lot to the young players.

The oldtime Cougars at the game will be hoping for a better outcome than when they played in Pasadena _ they lost 24-0 to Alabama.

Price, quick with a quip, said he had no doubt that this year’s Washington State Rose Bowl team could beat the ’31 squad: ``We definitely have them outnumbered. I think there are only seven of them.″