Both Texas, Michigan Need Statement Game

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Texas and Michigan players insist the 91st Rose Bowl is a must-win ballgame for their respective programs. Both teams enter the 'Granddaddy of Them All' with something to prove.

The Wolverines ended the regular season with a bitter 37-21 loss at arch-rival Ohio State. FS Ryan Mundy attributed the loss to second-half breakdowns, adding that Michigan coaches have pushed the team hard, real hard, to avoid back-to-back losses. In fact, the Wolverines arrived in Los Angeles three days prior to the Longhorns on December 22.

"The coaches really got on us and we're not going to let that happen again," Mundy said. "We've been practicing hard, watching film and we're ready for this game."

What's more, Michigan is still smarting from its last trip to Pasadena. The Wolverines fell to eventual AP national champ USC 28-14 and insist the team is taking a more business-like approach to Saturday's ballgame.

"We have that extra push," Wolverine RCB Leon Hall said. "No one wants to come to the Rose Bowl and lose twice so that is more motivation for us."

Wolverine DE Pat Massey said the No. 5/6 Longhorns represent Michigan's sternest test of a 9-2 co-Big Ten Conference Championship season.

"They are by far the best team we've faced this year," Massey said. "They have great athletes all around."

The Longhorns, have been skewered in some parts of the country for grabbing what many said was California's rightful spot as PAC-10 representative in the Rose Bowl. The No. 4 Golden Bears finished ahead of the Horns in both the human polls but steadily lost ground during the final three weeks of the regular season in the BCS computer averages that factor-in a team's strength-of-schedule.

"We are very deserving to be here," WLB Derrick Johnson said of the 10-1 Longhorns.

Add to the mix that Texas coach Mack Brown lobbied for BCS votes and you've got a Longhorn team that believes it has the most to prove on New Year's Day.

"If we don't do what we're supposed to do," FS Phillip Geiggar said, "then people will say that it should have been somebody else."

Like Michigan, the Longhorns also want to erase painful memories of their most recent bowl trip to California. The Longhorns, of course, fell to Washington State in the 2003 Holiday Bowl. DT Rodrique Wright said the team's overall attitude is (understandably) better than last season when Texas' BCS plans headed south (literally) to San Diego.

"The attitude is different this year," said Wright. "When we found out we were going to the Rose Bowl, we were very excited. But we know we have something to prove and we need to win."

MICHIGAN INJURY UPDATE: Jermaine Gonzalez is replacing the injured Jason Avant at WR. DE Jeremy Van Alstyne (one start in 2004) is out after suffering a foot injury against Ohio State. Of course, DE Larry Harrison has been suspended following his December 7 arraignment on one charge of indecent exposure.


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