The 1998 Rose Bowl was a college footballbowl game played on January 1, 1998 at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California. It was the 84th Rose Bowl Game. The game featured Michigan beating Washington State by a score of 21–16. The ending of the game is controversial. On Washington State's final drive, the Cougars got a first down at midfield even though Washington State WR Nian Taylor possibly interfered with Michigan CB Charles Woodson on a 3rd down pass play. On the next play, Washington State completed a hook-and-ladder first down inbounds, temporarily stopping the clock with two seconds remaining. When the first down markers were reset the clock was started back up. WSU immediately hiked and then spiked the football. The officials ruled that time had expired. Brian Griese was named the Rose Bowl Player of the Game. This was the last year that the Rose Bowl was not part of the Bowl Championship Series. This was also the last year that the game was not branded with corporate sponsorship.
Michigan earned the right to play in the 84th Rose Bowl game by going through the entire conference season undefeated. With a dominating defense led by Heisman Trophy-winning cornerback Charles Woodson and All-American defensive end Glen Steele and a resourceful offense led by quarterback Brian Griese, the Wolverines went 11-0, yielding only 144 points. Lloyd Carr was in his third season as the head coach. They defeated preseason top 5 Colorado, 27-3 in the season opener on September 13. Michigan defeated Notre Dame, 21-14 on September 27. Two-time Big Ten champion Northwestern was a 23-6 victim on October 11. The Iowa game on October 18 was the closest call as the Wolverines trailed 21-7 at halftime before rallying to win 28-24. Michigan stormed into Spartan Stadium on October 25 and subdued the Michigan State Spartans 23-7. On November 22, it was #1 (Michigan) vs. #4 (Ohio State) for the right to represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl. Thanks to an interception returned for a touchdown and a Charles Woodson 77-yard punt return for a TD, Michigan defeated Ohio State 20-14 to finish 11-0, 8-0. The Wolverines entered the Rose Bowl ranked #1 in the AP and coaches' poll. With the 21-16 Rose Bowl win over Washington State, the Wolverines would claim the Associated Press (AP) national championship, as well as the Grantland Rice Award (Football Writers Association of America) and MacArthur Bowl (National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame trophy).
Washington State hadn't played in the Rose Bowl Game since it lost to Alabama in the 1931 contest—a 67-year absence. But the Cougars, who were led by a high-profile quarterback named Ryan Leaf, ended that streak thanks mainly to their very first game of the 1997 season.
In the opener, the Cougars stormed out to a big lead over the UCLA Bruins and held them off with a goal-line stand in the closing minutes, winning 37-34. WSU followed that with a 28-21 win over the USC Trojans, the Cougars' first win in the Los Angeles Coliseum in many years. The Cougars also survived an overtime thriller against the Arizona Wildcats, winning 35-34 when Arizona chose to go for a two-point conversion attempt and failed. WSU's perfect season was ruined in a 44-31 loss at Arizona State, but the Cougars cemented their Rose Bowl bid with a 41-35 victory over the rival Washington Huskies in Seattle.
The day before the game Washington State coach Mike Price was bedridden with the flu. While Leaf was their best player (he'd declare himself for the NFL Draft on Jan. 2, 1998), they also received important contributions from their wide receiving corps, better known as the Fab Five: Kevin McKenzie, Shawn McWashington, Shawn Tims, Chris Jackson and Nian Taylor. WSU also had a tremendous running back in Michael Black and a future NFL offensive lineman in Cory Withrow. On the defensive side, linemen Dorian Boose and Leon Bender both became NFL draftees the following spring, though Bender died before ever playing a pro game. Linebacker Steve Gleason and safety Lamont Thompson also went on to play in the NFL.
In the first quarter, Washington State downed a punt at the 1 and forced a punt without a first down. After regaining possession at the Wolverines 47, Leaf connected with McKenzie on a 15-yard play to take a 7–0 lead with 3:07 remaining. Michigan moved the ball to the Washington State 37 before punting. Leaf marched the Cougars to the Michigan 14, but Woodson intercepted him in the end zone. The teams traded punts before Griese found Streets in stride on the right sideline for a 53-yard TD pass to tie the game with 7:08 left in the first half. Leaf opened the second half with a 99-yard drive for a go-ahead touchdown to take a 13–7 lead after the extra point was blocked. Key plays on the drive included a 19-yard pass Shawn McWashington and a 30-yard pass Kevin McKenzie to reach the Michigan 38. One play later, Leaf connected with McKenzie for 20 more yards. Then Shawn Tims took a reverse play 14 yards for the score with 8:33 remaining in the third quarter. On the ensuing possession, Michigan mixed four runs by Howard with a pair of short passes to Shaw before Griese found Streets for a 58-yard play-action pass TD to take a 14–13 lead with 5:07 left. After a punt by Washington State, Griese led a 14-play 77-yard drive that ended with a Tuman 23-yard play-action TD pass with 11:21 to go for a 21–13 lead. In the fourth quarter Leaf converted a 3rd-and-18 play from his own 12 by connecting with McKenzie for 19 yards. Then a 42-yard pass to DeJuan Gilmore moved the ball to the Michigan 27. Washington State settled for a Rian Lindell 48-yard field goal with 7:25 to play to make the score 21–16. Michigan started a drive that included four consecutive third down conversions and consumed most of the clock. The conversions were as follows: a 3rd-and-11 Griese scrambled to the Michigan 29; a 3rd-and-7 lateral to Woodson who faked a pass before running eight yards to keep the drive alive; a 3rd-and-6 13-yard pass to Shaw; and a 3rd-and-7 pass to Woodson taking the ball to the Washington State 33. A pooch punt by Feely from field goal formation left Washington State on its own 7-yard-line with 29 seconds remaining. The game ended in confusion with Leaf being deemed too late in an attempt to spike the ball to stop the clock for a last play. The drive began at the Cougar 7-yard-line with 16 seconds left to play. Leaf completed a 46-yard pas to Nian Taylor to move the ball to the Michigan 47. Washington State drew an illegal formation penalty with 9 seconds remaining, but executed a hook and lateral play for 26-yards to the Michigan 26, with a 8-yard catch by Love Jefferson and an 18-yard run by Jason Clayton who was tackled by Weathers and Jones. With 2 seconds to play the clock was stopped to move the chains. With no timeouts left, Leaf spiked the football, but although there appeared to be 1 second remaining on the clock, Dick Burleson, the referee from the Southeastern Conference crew, shook his head as Leaf contested the decision. Michigan's victory evened the series between the Pac-10 and Big 10 in the Rose Bowl at 26 wins apiece.
The next year, the Rose Bowl game would become part of the Bowl Championship Series. This would give a greater chance of the number one and number two teams meeting. Michigan was named the college football national champion for the 1997 football season in the AP poll. In the coaches poll, undefeated Nebraska was voted #1, jumping over Michigan who had entered the Rose Bowl #1.
This was the last Rose Bowl game with an attendance of over 100,000. The Rose Bowl Stadium was modified following the game to widen the playing field for soccer and remove lower seats that were blocked by players on the sidelines.