Michigan entered the 1992 Rose Bowl ranked No. 4 in the country and playing against No. 1 Washington with national title dreams. A win and a Miami loss in the Orange Bowl would”ve catapulted Michigan to its first national title since 1948.
The season had already taken a magical turn Desmond Howard won only the second Heisman Trophy in school history a few weeks before the bowl game.
But it was not meant to be The Huskies won 34-14.
The lasting image of the game was Washington receiver Mario Bailey repeatedly striking the Heisman pose mocking Howard, who struck a similar pose after a touchdown against Ohio State and later saying, “he can have his award, I”ve got my (national championship) ring.”
With their tail between their legs, the Wolverines got their chance for redemption exactly one year later in the “93 Rose Bowl.
The day before the game, Michigan running back coach Fred Jackson pulled star tailback Tyrone Wheatley aside and noted that the last running back to win the Rose Bowl MVP award was Leroy Hoard, in 1989.
Then before the game, coach Gary Moeller told Wheatley that he would need to run for 200 yards if Michigan stood a chance.
Wheatley did that and more, setting a Michigan bowl record with 235 yards and three touchdowns. The third score, an 88-yard scamper right up the middle, set the Rose Bowl record for longest run from scrimmage.
What made the game more remarkable was that Wheatley suffered leg cramps from the second quarter on, after a Washington player hit him on the calf.
When asked about the game, Wheatley referred to a sign in the Michigan lockerroom which reads “Those who stay will be Champions,” a quote from former coach Bo Schembechler. “I just wanted to be a champion,” Wheatley said.
Saturday will be the first time these two rivals have met in nearly a decade, surprising considering how dominant the two teams were in the early 90s, when the Big Ten and Pac-10 champions were guaranteed to face each other in the Rose Bowl. Although times and coaches have changed, the current coaches know about the history of the game. They know about the Mario Baileys and the Tyrone Wheatleys.
“This should be a great test for us,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “I know our players are really looking forward to it.”