Saturday, January 2, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Wolverines Rush To Roses -- Wheatley Runs Over Washington

PASADENA, Calif. - Tyrone Wheatley ran through the Washington defense all afternoon, until he couldn't run anymore. Then his Michigan teammates took over and won the Rose Bowl without him.

Wheatley narrowly missed setting a Rose Bowl record yesterday with 235 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns, all in the first three quarters, before back spasms sidelined him. With their star tailback out, the Wolverines drove 80 yards for the touchdown that gave them a 38-31 victory over Washington and prevented the Huskies from becoming the first team to win the Rose Bowl three consecutive years.

The winning drive began after Travis Hanson missed a 22-yard field-goal attempt that would have put Washington ahead 34-31 with 10:38 to play. It took Michigan 10 plays and 5 minutes, 9 seconds to score, the touchdown coming on a 15-yard pass from Elvis Grbac to tight end Tony McGee with 5:29 to play.

Without Wheatley, who averaged 15.7 yards on 15 carries, fullback Burnie Legette and freshman tailback Ed Davis picked up the slack by combining 28 yards on the winning drive.

And Grbac capped his day of atonement for a poor performance against Washington in the 1992 Rose Bowl by completing a 32-yard pass to McGee before hitting the tight end for the 15-yard game- winner.

Washington had two more scor ing chances, but drives died on the Michigan 26 with 3:05 to play and on the Michigan 44 with 48 seconds left as quarterback Mark Brunell ran out of answers. Brunell, who passed for 308 yards and two touchdowns, failed to complete any of his final six passes.

Before that, the crowd of 94,236 - smallest for a Rose Bowl game since 1955 - was treated to an offensive smorgasbord of big plays, including:

-- Touchdown runs of 88, 56 and 24 yards by Wheatley;

-- A 49-yard touchdown pass from Grbac to McGee;

-- A 64-yard touchdown pass from Brunell to freshman Jason Shelley;

-- Passes by Brunell of 55 yards to Damon Barry and 35 yards to Mark Bruener to set up touchdowns.

Wheatley was named player of the game after just missing the Rose Bowl record of 247 rushing yards set by USC's Charles White in 1980. Wheatley's 88-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second half bettered the Rose Bowl record of 84 by Oregon State's Mel Anthony in 1965.

"He's not just a fast back, he's big and strong, too," Huskies linebacker James Clifford said of Wheatley. "He has incredible speed. I haven't seen any back with that much power and speed."

Of Wheatley, Huskies defensive coordinator Jim Lambright said: "When we were in position, we had a hard time making the tackle. When we were out of position, there was no prayer."

In completing 18 of 30 passes for 308 yards and netting 32 yards rushing on scrambles in his third Rose Bowl game, Brunell became the Rose Bowl career leader in passes completed (39), passing yards (560), total offense yards(618) and total touchdowns (seven), and tied the mark for touchdown passes (five).

"I think this was Mark's best game ever," center Jim Nevelle said. "Not only with his passing and running but in the huddles, too. We never once thought we were going to lose."

"I think there were two pretty good individual efforts by our quarterback and their tailback," said Huskies Coach Don James. "Both made a lot of big plays."

Making them resulted in momentum shifts and six lead changes before the Wolverines put to rest Washington's hopes for that third straight Rose Bowl win. Victories over Iowa in 1991 and Michigan in 1992 preceded yesterday's loss, the Huskies' third in their final four games this season.

Michigan generated 483 yards, comparable to the 476 yielded by the Huskies in their regular-season finale against Washington State, and the Wolverines limited Washington to 105 yards rushing. Tailback Napoleon Kaufman had no run longer than 5 yards in gaining a total of 39. Kaufman also lost a key fumble, setting up Wheatley's 24-yard touchdown run that tied the score at 31 late in the third quarter.

"The matchup I was most concerned about was their offensive front and Wheatley against our defensive front," James said. "They did a good job."

And on the game-winning drive, they did it without Wheatley.

"On that drive, I think the key thing was first-down plays," James said.

The Wolverines had first-down gains of 4, 6, 32 and 5 yards on the march. The big play was the 32-yard pass over the middle from Grbac to McGee to the Husky 22.

After Davis gained 7 yards on two carries to the 15, Grbac passed to McGee, who made a leaping catch at the 1 while in the grasp of linebacker Jaime Fields and fell into the end zone.

Propelled by a 28-yard pass from Brunell to Damon Mack, the Huskies answered by driving from their 32 to a first down on the Wolverines 25. But Brunell lost a yard, then missed completing passes to Joe Kralik (the ball fell short in the end zone) and Shelley. On fourth down, a scramble by Brunell ended 2 yards shy of a first down on the Michigan 17.

The Wolverines' ensuing series ended in a punt that was partly blocked by David Killpatrick and downed on the Wolverine 44 with 1:03 to play. But two passes to Shelley, one to Bruener and one to Mack, fell incomplete.

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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