PASADENA, Calif., Dec. 31 (UPI) -- Coach Mike Price completes 14 seasons at Washington State Wednesday when he leads the seventh-ranked Cougars against No. 8 Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl.
The 56-year-old Price surprised the fans in Pullman when he decided to take the vacant job at Alabama, a school in the midst of an NCAA probation. In another surprising move, both Washington State and the coach were agreeable to having Price work the sidelines at the Rose Bowl.
"To do something different would be very disruptive to the team and the possible success in the game," Washington State Athletic Director Jim Sterk said.
But the decision to have Price coach the Rose Bowl has upset some Washington State fans and players, who feels the honor should go to long-time defensive coordinator Bill Doba.
Doba takes over for Price after the Rose Bowl.
The upheaval in Pullman has put some attention back in the New Year's Day game. Rose Bowl officials did not hide their displeasure when Iowa and Southern California ended up in the Orange Bowl instead of Pasadena.
"We entered the year hoping to return to a traditional matchup. The (BCS) system did not provide that to us," Rose Bowl executive director Mitch Dorger said. "We are happy with our matchup and will go forward with enthusiasm."
Washington State (10-2) will be playing its second straight game in Pasadena. Jason Gesser threw two touchdown passes in a 31-point first half and Jermaine Green ran for 112 yards in a 48-27 win over UCLA on Dec. 7 that wrapped up the Pac-10 Conference title.
Gesser was the inspiration for the Cougars, playing with a pair of braces on his right leg after being injured in a loss to Washington in late November.
"I plan to have a tractor run over his foot before the game since he plays better when he's hurt," Price said.
Without the traditional Pac-10 vs. Big Ten matchup, the Rose Bowl turned to Oklahoma, which will be playing in the event for the first time in its 36-game bowl history.
One of the better matchups at Pasadena will have the Cougars' potent offense going against a Sooners defense led by linebacker Teddy Lehman. The defense, however, has shown some holes this season, allowing a combined 68 points in losses to Texas A&M and Oklahoma State.
Washington State features an aggressive defense that ranked seventh in the nation against the run. The Outland Trophy, given to the best interior lineman, went to Washington State defensive tackle Rien Long.
The Rose Bowl marks the final game for Oklahoma's Quentin Griffin, who has rushed for 1,740 yards this season.
Oklahoma has won two of three bowl games under Bob Stoops and is 22-12-1 in bowl games overall.
Washington State has won four of its last five bowl games, including a 33-27 win over Purdue in the Sun Bowl last season.
This will be the first meeting between the schools in 35 years. Oklahoma won the only two previous meetings with the Cougars in 1938 and 1967.
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