WITH WASHINGTON STATE hosting Idaho on Saturday (11 am, Pac-12 Network) we take a look back to the most lopsided contest in a football series that began all the way back in 1894. Among the more amazing things about the 1975 gridiron hassle between the Cougs and Vandals, the general feeling headed into the game was that it was a 50-50 proposition as to the winner.
This article was originally published Sept. 23, 2015.
DAN DOORNINK actually felt bad about the severity of the beating. Not stay-awake-at-night-bad, mind you, but “a little bad.” John Hopkins remembers fans encouraging the Cougs to go for 100. Yes, 100 points in a college football game. Not combined points, just the home team’s.
November 15 will mark the 40th anniversary of the greatest outpouring of offense in the modern era of Cougar football, an 84-27 splattering of Idaho.
The outcome that day in 1975 was far from expected. Many in the Inland Empire thought the game might be a tossup.
The Cougs came in on a seven-game losing streak, averaging barely more than 16 points per game. The Vandals, meanwhile, were coming off two wins and a tie in which they scored 39, 41 and 40 points.
Doornink, now a doctor in Yakima and a member of the WSU Athletic Hall of Fame, was a running back on that Cougar team.
"Everything went our way, it was almost freakish,” he recently told Cougfan.com. “There were so many plays that they could have had, an interception, knocking down a pass, or making a big stop, but the guys would just fall down and we'd catch it for a touchdown. The score didn't really tell what the game was.”
Hopkins, the starting quarterback for the Cougars, said the avalanche shocked the WSU offense as much as the 19,000 fans in the stands.
"We had no idea we could score that many points," he told CF.C in a phone call from southern California, where he is a shopping mall developer and an assistant high school coach.
“The fans were all cheering ‘We want 100,’ but I was there near Coach (Jim) Sweeney on the sideline and he said something like ‘we're not going to do that’.”
STILL SMILING TODAY: Hopkins (top) and Doornink.
The Cougars scored on their first eight possessions, with Doornink (pictured above left) starting the onslaught with a 7-yard TD run. In all, they piled up 693 total yards.
Harry Missildine, the venerable sports editor of the Spokesman-Review, dubbed the game “one of modern college football’s most incredible offensive explosions.”
"The players maybe thought it was cool to get 100 points, but the guys on the other side worked just as hard as we had to prepare,” said Hopkins (pictured above right), who ran for two TDs.
“And while you can't tell us not to play hard, and it was important to show coaches what you can do, you do feel a little bad. At the time I didn't really care, but now I'm glad we didn’t.”
Chris Tormey, who would go on to become Idaho’s head coach and later WSU’s linebackers coach, was on the Vandal sidelines that day, redshirting with a knee injury.
"The year before, it was a very close game," Tormey said. "We'd had a good season and WSU was kind of struggling. Some people thought it was going to be the best chance to beat them.”
The proximity of the schools added to the anticipation.
"You would see the Idaho guys around town," Hopkins said. "It was a big rivalry mostly because of distance. The year before, we only beat them 17-14, and I think that was a bit of a wake up call for us. It was more important to us to say 'watch what we can do'. That's exactly what we did ...”
The personal aspect of the game was illustrated in the trenches, where the Yarno brothers — Idaho junior center John and WSU freshman defensive tackle George — were doing battle.
Their grudge match extended to the previous signing day, when George -- then a senior at Spokane's Ferris High -- committed to the Cougars. “John refused to speak to me for six months after that,” George told CF.C several years ago.
THE DAY OF THE GAME, GRAY skies hung overhead and a stiff breeze ran through Martin Stadium. The Vandals wanted to put the wind at their backs to start the game, Tormey remembers. But there was a miscommunication at the coin toss and they instead ended up choosing to go into the wind.
"They (the Cougars) scored on the first drive and it was all downhill from there," he said.
The count was 56-13 at halftime.
Tormey, now an assistant with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, said the Vandal offense didn’t play badly.
"Tim Lappano (Idaho running back) had a very good game from what I remember," he said. "We moved the ball well, but it didn't matter... ”
Lappano, who would become a WSU assistant coach under Dennis Erickson, rushed two TDs, including an 87-yarder, and the Vandals racked up 401 total yards.
But there was no stopping the Cougar offense.
Doornink said he only played about a half the game — a welcome respite as he was still recovering from the three broken ribs that had robbed him of much of the season.
"I remember it was nice that the younger players got to play," he said.
All 60 Cougars who suited up saw action.
"I remember coming out (of the game) and it was already 49 to something," said Hopkins. Chuck Lyon took over at quarterback and proceeded to run for two scores and pass for two before giving way to a little-known youngster named Jack Thompson.
Following a 2-0 start that season, the victory was the lone bright spot amid a host of close losses, including a soul-crushing, 28-27 fluke of an Apple Cup defeat in Seattle the following week and Jim Sweeney's subsequent resignation as coach.
But what a bright spot Nov. 15, 1975 was for Cougar football.
To put the score into historic perspective, consider that the only other games in WSU history that rival this one were in 1907 and 1908 — 86-0 over something called Claire Business College and 73-0 over Eastern Washington.