The Michigan Daily - Sports Monday - December 9, 1991 - Page 5
The head Husky gives his views
on the New Year's showdown
W Washington coach Don James
has established himself among na-
tionwide coaching greats. his 157-
73-3 career mark, combined with a
reputation of integrity and class, has
made him the Pac 10's dean of
coaches. In addition, James was hon-
ored Saturday as the nation's 1991
Coach of the Year, after an unde-
feated season which could earn
Washington a national champi-
*onship. Daily Football Writer Jeff
Sheran spoke with James about his
team's upcoming matchup with
Michigan in the Rose Bowl Jan..
Daily: A lot of people out here
aren't too familiar with Pacific
Northwest teams. How would you
characterize your type of team?
James: You're right - we get a
lot of TV out here, but it's more re-
gional. We didn't get a lot of na-
tional stuff this year. We would look
a little bit like Miami on offense,
and not too dissimilar to Michigan,
with two backs, two tight ends, and
that type of set. Defensively,
Michigan has more of a 5-2 look
than we do. Our running backs are
not big, but we've got big linemen.
Our receivers are quick; Mario Bailey
is like a smaller version of Desmond
Howard. (Steve) Emtman is our
most celebrated defensive lineman.
He's a 290-pounder.
D: It seems like Michigan is
most vulnerable to speed. Its one
loss this year was to a very fast team
in Florida State. How do you think
Washington matches up with Florida
State in terms of speed?
J: It's really hard to say. Maybe
we could all submit our 40-yard dash
times. What we've got is two or
three track guys, and that kind of
helps us look like a fast team. For
instance (wide receiver) Orlando
McKay is a good track player.
D: What do you see as Michi-
'I don't think either
team was at all
concerned with the
other team during the
season. You have to
go out and win your
own games first, so
we really didn't
concentrate on that'
J: I'm really impressed. I think
it's the best team we've faced since
the Colorado team that won the na-
tional championship against Notre
Dame. Maybe the best team we've
played in three years. Their defense
just gets better and better. Obviously
the problems you're gonna face are
offensively. You try to take Des-
mond out and they're gonna run the
ball at you.
D: What have you seen in terms
of defensive improvement in the sec-
ond half of Michigan's season?
J: I've seen four games of film
on Michigan. I'm trying to get in
one a day when I'm in town. I've
seen Notre Dame, Florida State, and
then Indiana. The last game I saw
was against Minnesota. They're get-.
ting better. The thing about Min-
nesota is that their offensive linemen
couldn't hold Michigan's guys out,
but they had a good quarterback.
D: During the season, when it
was becoming evident that you two
were going to meet, did you keep up
on Michigan's progress, or are you
What effect do you think that will
have this year?
J: Well, I think Michigan is a
much better team than Iowa was last
year; I think Iowa is a better team
than it was last year.
D: Steve Emtman beat out Greg
Skrepenak for both the Lombardi and
the Outland. Do you see them lining
up against one another?
J: No, I don't think so. Greg
lines up as a left tackle, and we don't
play over the tackle, unless we come
up with something in the next few
weeks. Steve will line up over the
D: Your thoughts on the two
in the balloting.
D: The Rose Bowl has seen
some legendary coaches - Bo
Schembechler and Woody Hayes
come to mind on the Big Ten side.
You now virtually preside over other
Pac 10 coaches in the same way. Is
it a situation you like?
J: Well, I was the elder states-
man in the Pac-10 after about my
third year. But as far as this game
goes, Gary Moeller and I won't have
too much impact on the game. It's
gonna fall mostly on our players and
D: In Ann Arbor, every player
and coach insists from day one that
the team just wants to win the Rose
Bowl. Is it the same at Washington?
J: Yeah, you ask every player in
the Big Ten or the Pac-10, and they
almost all feel that way. It's a great
D: How are you handling your
title hopes. Is it a priority or a dis-
J: I've been in this situation be-
fore, you know, high in the polls
late in the year and all that. You just
can't get caught up in that. Just play
the game and do the best job you
D: Will the players be con-
sciously playing for the national
J: Yeah, I think they're smart
enough to know that. In fact, I think
both teams will have that in mind
when they take the field. There will
be no holding them back.
D: If Miami does lose, and
J: Michigan should get the title.
They'd get my vote.
D: What about Florida?
J: I like Florida. I just like the
other team better.
D: Whereas last year's game
didn't draw as much publicity, do
'I've been in this
situation before, high
in the polls late in the
year and all that. You
just can't get caught
up in that. Just play
the game and do the
best job you can,
you see this year's game putting
Washington among the prestigious
football schools in the country?
J: I'm not so sure that I'm real
excited about that. It's not some-
thing I set as one of my goals. But
this year will get a lot of attention,
especially if Desmond wins the
Heisman, and with Steve winning
the Outland and Lombardi. It's
gonna be kind of a showcase game.
Rose Bowl lives up to
December is a great month for college football. Of course, there's not
the usual deluge of Saturday games, but December means bowl time. And
My favorite promo for one of the New Year's Day classics was for the
Rose Bowl. "The granddaddy of them all," a majestic voice would
proclaim over footage of the USC Marching Band, or a clip of Bo
Schembechler berating an official.
Yes, the Rose Bowl seemed the best of them all. I'm from neither Pac-
10 nor Big Ten country, but it just seemed like the game.
Even the name signified this. Other bowls took their names from
various fruits, like peaches, cherries, or oranges. Some from textiles, like
cotton. Still others from miscellaneous entities, like bluebonnets, people
named John Hancock, or products that kill weeds.
But the Rose Bowl takes its name from the sweetest-smelling, most
prestigious flower of all. And though most Rose Bowl games lack a
pleasant aroma, they were, for a time, the most prestigious.
However, this prestige has declined in recent years. The Rose Bowl
Champion has not won the national title since 1975, when USC edged
Ohio State, 18-17. New Year's Day has since been dominated by the Fiesta
and the Orange, a fruitless experience for the Tournament of Roses.
But this year, all eyes will refocus upon Pasadena. For the first time
since 1980, when No. 3 USC dethroned No. I Ohio State, the Rose Bowl ig
the best game there is.
The Michigan-Washington matchup pits against each other two
undefeated conference champions, two teams with title hopes, two teams
with winning football traditions. Even the Orange Bowl showcases
Nebraska, which just doesn't earn top billing as an opponent to a top-
ranked, undefeated Miami team.
Both games are worth watching. Part of the beauty of New Year's Day
is that there is a wealth of excellent football from morning to night.
But the Rose Bowl is the best game.
The Rose Bowl Committee deserves this year's premier matchup.
While other bowls have gone after the championship game each year,
offering bids instead of berths to money-hungry football powers, the
Rose Bowl has remained above the fray. Or at least out of the fray.
The Rose Bowl has remained locked into an agreement with the Big
Ten and the Pac-10 to invite each conference's winner, whether the
matchup promises to be a gem or a wash.
And even more commendable is that the two conferences with which
the Rose Bowl is bound are leagues that field true student-athletes.
Schools like Stanford, Northwestern, Michigan, and Cal-Berkeley
characterize an elite mix of athletics and academics.
The by-product of this commitment is the inevitable off-year in
Pasadena, which we have seen for much of the last decade.
"In recent history, we haven't had title implications," said Jack French
of the Tournament of Roses Committee. "But this year, our game is the
best game. We've got the potential No.1 and No. 3, the potential Heisman
winner, the Lombardi and Outland winner and runner-up..."
And although independents and weaker-conference teams always seem
to win the national championship, these teams don't always feature the
best players. Of all NCAA Division I players in the NFL, 65 percent
come from Big Ten, Pac-10, or Southeastern Conference.
"These conferences are so good and so balanced that they tend to beat
each other up," Washington coach Don James said. "We've had great teams
in the Rose Bowl with one or two losses, a lot of times because of the
tough league schedule. I think an independent's got a little better chance
of scheduling well - they can go tough-easy, tough-easy, tough-easy.
When you can do that, you can get your injured guys back, and it makes
In addition, the Rose Bowl has the highest payoff of all bowls,
approximately $6.5 million this year. The Orange Bowl is next with
Something about the idea of all $4 million possibly going to one team,
the independent in the Orange Bowl, seems awry.
More palatable is the idea of splitting the Rose Bowl purse between
two conferences whose teams all field broad-based, multi-sport athletic
In addition, there is a certain nobility to the way every Big Ten and Pac-
10 team asserts its consummate goal of winning the Rose Bowl. At times,
this denial of looking beyond Pasadena seems like a robotic response.
But players' and coaches' widespread insistence of this goal proves
that, indeed, the Rose Bowl is something special for each of these teams.
And this year, deservedly enough, the Rose Bowl will be special for
many more people.
1991 Coach of the Year Don James leads Washington into its second
consecutive Rose Bowl.
just watching film right now?
J: I don't think either team was
at all concerned with the other team
during the season. You have to go
out and win your own games first,
so we really didn't concentrate on
D: You're playing against a
tough Michigan team, but at the
same time, it could also be a benefit,
because beating Michigan might
seem stronger than Miami beating
Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.
J: Nebraska's a whale of a team.
If Nebraska beats Miami, Michigan
could win the championship. So
they've got as much riding on this
game as we have.
D: Do you like playing a strong
opponent in the Rose Bowl?
J: The thing for me is that it fi-
nally gives the Rose Bowl a great
matchup. It's the best bowl game
this year. All the big games usually
go on down in the Orange Bowl ev-
D: After last year's rout of Iowa,
Washington asserted its dominance
over both the Big Ten and Pac-10.
J: It's just easier for a defensive
player to win the award. It's so hard
or an offensive player to get atten-
tion, unless he misses a block or
something negative. The defensive
guys have statistics to boost.
D: Your thoughts on Desmond
J: He's a fantastic player who
can get you a lot of ways.
D: Do you anticipate changing
your game plan for him?
J: You have to know where he
is. I don't think you can line up de-
fensively without knowing where he
is. When you face a guy like that, a
lot of times you can't do much
about the way he's playing, but
you've got to know where he is.
Sometimes we'!l have to double
him, but if you double him too
much, you're gonna get burned.
D: Will he win the Heisman?
J: I think he'll win it, no ques-
tion. As far as who's behind him,
Steve Emtman is third on the ballot
right now. A player like Emtman
will never win the award, but it's
nice to get that kind of recognition
Skrepenak's living large as seniorf
by Theodore Cox
Daily Football Writer
"Skrepenak! Skrepenak!" a high-
pitched, gravelly voice screamed
from the sky. From the Michigan
Stadium turf, offensive tackle Greg
Skrepenak started searching the
empty stands trying to find what
had interrupted his solitude.
"Stop feeling sorry for your-
self!" the voice rang out again.
Skrepenak's eyes rose to the press
box hovering over the Michigan
sideline, and there underneath
stood Michigan offensive line
coach Jerry Hanlon.
"If that wasn't a signal of what
was to come..." Skrepenak said of
his first-year at Michigan.
Five years later, Skrepenak was
on the field with the stands empty
Skrepenak said. "A lot of things
have changed. There have been a lot
of struggles personally, not only
with the weight problem that ev-
erybody knows about, but with aca-
demics and trying to fit in so-
But the weight problem became
the largest obstacle he's had to
overcome. He came to Ann Arbor
weighing 330 pounds, too much
even for his 6-foot-8 frame. Then he
discovered the several pizza deliv-
ery places around town and made a
habit of dining on one as a bedtime
snack. His weight quickly rose to
370 pounds. And the extra weight
still wasn't giving him the aggres-
siveness he needed.
It wasn't until this summer
that Skrepenak made a full com-
ergy quicker at first, the
"pancakes" (where a lineman
knocks a defensive player to the
ground) were coming easier by
His personal goal from the be-
ginning has been to improve each
game. And after his 44th straight
start dating back to the 1988 sea-
son, he had his best game against
"That really means a lot to me
to see a guy keep his motivation
up," Moeller said. "He is a super,
super individual along with being
an outstanding football player.
He's been a great leader."
The opportunity to lead the
Wolverines was one of the main
reasons Skrepenak returned for his
fifth year. He certainly had the op-
rolled over Illinois to clinch the
Rose Bowl, Skrepenak knew he
needed to keep his teammates moti-
vated, so he predicted a victory be-
fore the media.
"There were two reasons I did
that," Skrepenak explained. "One, I
wanted to say something and then
go out and do it. That I'm a man of
my word. And also, and probably
more importantly, I wanted to put
a lot more pressure on my team-
"He'd better say we're going to
win," Moeller said. "If he didn't,
I'd get a new tackle in there."
The announcement worked as
Michigan went on to crush Ohio
State, 31-3, to win the Big Ten
"It's kind of like icing on the
Continued from page 3
equally solid, (No. 2, 67.1 ypg), al-
lowing only six rushing touch-
downs, and holding opposing ball
carriers under two yards per carry
all season. Most impressively,
Washington's defense forced 506
total negative rushing yards.
The Wolverines' ability to rul
the ball against Washington couli
be the key to the game. They were
unable to do so against Florida
State, and it came back to haunt
Michigan in its 51-31 loss.
However, if the Wolverines
can't run the ball into the Washing-
ton end zone, they could fall back on
their air game. Thanks largely to
Desmond Howard's 19 scoring
grabs, Elvis Grbac, has thrown al-
most as many touchdowns (24) as
the running backs have carried (26).
The Huskies also nose a danger-
ines did. He was a finalist for.both
the Lombardi and Outland awards,
recognizing the best lineman in the