1903: Washington beats Nevada 2-0

When faced with either dissecting Washington getting outscored 39-0 in the second half against UCLA last Saturday, or writing about the fact that the incoming Nevada Wolf pack have had to wait 100 years for revenge against our Huskies, the latter makes for a more interesting story. So I hereby flush Saturday's loss to UCLA into the septic tank of Husky disasters past.

Incidentally, the tank is starting get backed up. But that's for another article.

And so… In a festive game played before a famous Indian Chief making his first trip to Seattle, the 1903 Washington football team won the West Coast Championship with a 2-0 triumph over Nevada in a game played on a field in downtown Seattle. That marks the last time the two schools played each other, until this coming Saturday at Husky Stadium.

Chief Joseph was a famous Nez Pierce Indian who traveled to Seattle with his nephew Red Thunder. Chief Joseph was the guest of his friend, Professor Edmond B. Meany, whom Joseph nicknamed "Three Knives."

Highly regarded Nevada was coming to town, having beaten California and playing Stanford to a tie. Washington entered the contest undefeated, with Jim Knight as the head coach.

Right before kickoff, Professor Meany walked out onto the field with the bow-legged Indian Chief trailing behind him. The Washington players ran over through the mud to greet him. The rooters in the crowd began to cheer, "Rah! Rah! Rah!", and Professor Meany became delighted at this and excitedly told the Chief that those cheers were for him. This made the elderly Chief turn his head toward the crowd, then smile.

Then they took their seats and the game started. In the mother of all defensive struggles, the game's only points occurred early on. Nevada had a heralded player named Friesell who was their half back and prime kicker. Friesell was back to punt and standing in his own end zone. The snap back to him was over his head, and he had to leap up to snare it. This delay was costly however, as Washington's defender came flying in and buried Friesell in the end zone for the safety.

Chief Joseph didn't laugh at this, and perhaps didn't even understand it. He sat smoking with a watchful, docile manner. But he did laugh every time that someone kicked the ball. Professor Meany later told the Seattle P-I that it was the most the Chief had laughed in the past 10 years.

On the opposite side of the field was small group of fans from Nevada with a big, blue banner with a silver "N", emblazoned across it. The only time that these fans had reason for huge optimism was late in the game, when Friesell broke free into the Washington secondary, and was apparently headed for a touchdown. But then Washington standout Enoch Bagshaw, outran the Nevadan and hauled him down short of the goal line. Nevada was subsequently unable to score.

Bagshaw subsequently went on to become the head coach who led Washington to the Rose Bowl in 1924.

So Washington held on to win and was declared "West Coast Champions". The citizens of the rugged, fledgling town of Seattle had a serious party that night, according to the Seattle Times:

"In spite of the fact that Seattle is scattered from the beginning of the earth to the end of China, the town was not large enough last night. In the afternoon, the youthful blood of the community was charging through veins like molten rubies.

"… The championship of a stretch of country from the Rockies to the sea lay in the balance."

Referring to Washington's fans, the Seattle Times said, "And how those 5,000 people did yell!! Bass drums sounded above the sobbing of the tuba. Businessmen in the passing of the moment became the college boys of thirty years ago. Class strife and fraternity fighting were forgotten, while above it all, shrill and clear, rang the piercing shriek of femininity."

Of the Nevada fans, the Times reported, "(They) howled defiance at the rapidly increasing mob of men and women who had come to cheer for Washington. Their `He, he, he! Ha, ha, ha! Bully for the boys from Ne-va-da!' was the busiest little screech on the grounds during the gathering of the crowds, but when Washington's contingent was fully represented, (Nevada fans' cheers were) swallowed and lost in the avalanche of whiskey wee wees and rickety racks that were showered down from the crowded sections of purple and gold.

"All that, however, faded away when a (6-year old boy) marched proudly up and down in front of the howling thousands clad from head to heels in a suit of purple and gold."

After the game the little boy was hoisted upon the mob's shoulders and paraded up Second Avenue and back down First Avenue, in downtown Seattle.

Concluded the Times: "(The mob of fans) stopped in front of the downtown newspaper offices and whooped for everybody, from editors down to the devils. They said a lot of things that were a mixture between a rah and an exalted feeling, and then they continued their triumphant march.

"And that is why Seattle wasn't large enough last night, and never will be large enough to hold the backers of Washington…"

A reporter from the Seattle P-I wanted to interview Chief Joseph afterwards to get his impressions of witnessing his first football game. Because he didn't speak English, the Chief had to answer through an interpreter.

"I saw a lot of white men almost fight today," said Joseph. "I do not think that this good. This may be alright, but I believe it is not. I feel pleased that Washington won the game. Those men I should think would break their legs and arms, but they did not get mad."

Concluded the Chief: "I had a good time at the game with my white friends."
Thanks to Bow Down to Washington by Dick Rockne, Centennial Program, the Seattle Times and the Seattle P-I.

Derek Johnson can be reached at uwsundodger@msn.com

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