Friday, December 13, 2002
1989 - Michigan 22, USC 14
By Alex Laracy
Coming into the 1989 Rose Bowl, many questioned whether or not Michigan could withstand a USC team that led the Pac-10 in rushing defense and total defense and was spearheaded by All-American linebacker Junior Seau. In addition, the Trojans were led offensively by Rodney Peete, the 1988 Heisman Trophy runner-up.
"We came in as huge underdogs," recalls former Wolverine running back and current Minnesota Viking Leroy Hoard. "Everything was working for (USC) that year. They were just unfortunate that they weren't playing for the national championship, which they just missed out on."
After Michigan jumped out to a 3-0 lead to end the first quarter, the Trojan offense came to life.
The Trojans scored the game's first touchdown on a one-yard run by Peete. USC began its second TD drive with 7:06 remaining in the half, ending with Peete's 4-yard scoring run. By the time the halftime whistle blew, the Trojans were out to a 14-3 lead, and confident they would put Michigan away in the third quarter.
But never once did the Wolverines feel they'd have to start looking for the long ball to get back into the game.
"At halftime, we knew that we'd have to eat up more of the clock, keep their offense off the field and just wear their defense down," says Hoard.
The Wolverines opened the second half with quarterback Demetrius Brown's 22-yard scramble to the six, followed by a touchdown pass to Chris Calloway two plays later. The Wolverines were unsuccessful on the two-point conversion, leaving the score at 14-9.
In the final minutes of the third quarter, Michigan's backfield Tony Boles and Hoard put together the longest drive of the game. The duo amassed 64 of the 92 yards gained by U-M in the drive. A 23-yard pass from Brown to Derrick Walker put the Wolverines on the 1-yard line, and Hoard took it in for the score. Michigan again failed on the two-point try, leaving the Trojans just one point behind.
"We said, 'Hey, Junior Seau can run around, but what's he going to do if he's got a 300-pound lineman in his face all day long?'" remembers Hoard. "So we started running the ball, and we got some really big gains. We just used our size advantage, and that's how we hung in with them."
With 5:28 left to play in the game, the Wolverines looked to put away the Trojans for their third bowl victory in four years. On the very first play, Hoard exploded for a memorable 61-yard run before getting caught from behind on the Trojan 9-yard line.
"I remember just running, running, and running, and running ... and making a whole lot of guys miss," recalls Hoard, chuckling. "I was tripping, and falling, and then I got caught from behind. My teammates all made fun of me for that. I had to keep reminding them that the guy that caught me was a Pac-10 champion in the 100 meters."
Three plays later, on fourth-and-goal, Hoard ran it in from the one to give Michigan an eight-point lead with 1:57 remaining.
Peete valiantly led the Trojans down the field in a attempt to tie the game, but linebacker John Milligan picked off an errant pass with 50 seconds remaining to secure the Wolverine win.
Hoard finished with 142 yards rushing on 19 carries, and was named MVP of the game. The performance perfectly capped off what had been a coming-out season for Hoard.
"We had lost the first two games that season, and I wasn't really playing much," says Hoard. "Then Tony (Boles) got hurt toward the end of the year, and I started playing. You always tell people you can get the job done if given the opportunity. I'm just happy I got it and showed everybody that I could play. It was definitely one of the high points of my career."
Alex Laracy is an assistant editor for ABC Sports Online.
|Leroy Hoard was the MVP of the '89 Rose Bowl.|