Wolverines, Longhorns finally meet

Friday, December 31st 2004, 6:44 am
By: News On 6

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) _ Michigan first played football in 1879. Texas fielded a team 14 years later.

It's taken a while for the storied schools to get around to playing each other.

``You have two of the greatest programs in the game, with a lot of great coaches and players,'' Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. ``It's kind of incredible that we're here with the year 2005 coming up and this is the first meeting.

``And to have it in the Rose Bowl certainly adds to the meaning of the game.''

Not only is Saturday's matchup the first between the schools, it is Texas' Rose Bowl debut.

Longhorns coach Mack Brown likes both ``firsts.''

``You'll never have a group that's more excited to come to Pasadena than the Texas Longhorns,'' he said.

Michigan has been a frequent visitor, first playing in the Rose Bowl in 1902 _ a 49-0 victory over Stanford. The 91st Rose Bowl will be the Wolverines' 19th, including a 28-14 loss to Southern California last New Year's Day.

Michigan is the winningest team in college football history with 842 victories, and Texas ranks third with 786.

Former Wolverines coach Bo Schembechler, who will attend the game along with longtime friend and former Texas coach Darrell Royal, is pleased the traditional powers finally will meet.

``This is wonderful. We have an opportunity to play Texas and they have an opportunity to play us,'' the 75-year-old Schembechler said. ``And where else are you going to play such a game but in Pasadena.''

Why did it take so long?

Schembechler said that since Michigan's non-conference schedule usually included Notre Dame, and Texas' included Oklahoma, that was plenty challenging enough for both schools without having to face each other.

Royal, 80, grinned and nodded in agreement, saying, ``We had a loaded boat. We weren't looking to put any more weight on it.''

It took the BCS for Texas to finally make it to the Rose Bowl.

California finished the regular season fourth in both the writers' and coaches' polls, and Texas was sixth in The Associated Press balloting and fifth in the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll. The final BCS rankings, however, vaulted Texas over California and into the Rose Bowl. The Golden Bears, who equaled Texas' 10-1 record, were relegated to the Holiday Bowl where they lost 45-31 to Texas Tech on Thursday night.

Brown drew criticism because of his public plea to the poll voters after Texas' final regular-season game.

No. 13 Michigan (9-2) was guaranteed a Rose Bowl spot by virtue of its shared Big Ten title with Iowa.

Although Schembechler prefers the traditional Big Ten-Pac-10 matchup in Pasadena, he didn't mind the way the BCS rankings led to this Rose Bowl pairing.

``The thing that makes this more palatable is the fact that how else could we match up Texas and Michigan?'' he said. ``That makes for a great Rose Bowl game.''

The game does shape up as a good one, featuring Michigan's two outstanding freshmen _ quarterback Chad Henne and tailback Mike Hart _ and wide receiver Braylon Edwards against a Texas offense led by tailback Cedric Benson and quarterback Vince Young.

Henne, the first freshman to open a season at quarterback for Michigan since 1975, passed for 2,516 yards and 21 touchdowns. Hart rushed for 1,396 yards to become the first Wolverines' freshman to top 1,000 yards. Edwards had 87 receptions for 1,221 yards.

Benson ran for 1,764 yards and 19 touchdowns. Young threw for 1,669 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for 887 yards and 10 more scores.

``We know we have a lot of history at stake in this game,'' Texas defensive tackle Rod Wright said. ``The Rose Bowl is a special thing, but we still have a football game that needs to be won.''