Lambo told Robinson that he was to emulate Trojan legend Marcus Allen in practice that week against the Husky's #1 unit defense. In a recent interview with Dawgman.com, the father of current Husky hoopster Nate Robinson spoke of his own football exploits back in the early eighties.
"Our defense that year was one of the very best defenses in the nation," said Robinson. "Practicing against them every day as a freshman was tough! They were out there knocking the snot out of everybody everyday. Those guys didn't take practice lightly! But that one day in practice I was playing the part of Marcus Allen, and they couldn't touch me. I was downfield all day loooooong… So Coach James finally said, hey we gotta get this guy some playing time."
Robinson got into the game in the 4th quarter against USC, and contributed to Washington's monumental 13-3 victory. The following week, the Huskies were squaring off against Washington State with a Rose Bowl berth on the line. By halftime, Jacque had 75 yards . . . and 2 fumbles. In talking about this now, Jacque Robinson howls with laughter and adds further details from the story:
"I not only had two fumbles by halftime of the Washington State game, but I had also fumbled against USC the week before, so that gave me 3 fumbles in less than two weeks. So we're in the huddle and Boots Carter (Husky captain and offensive lineman) glares over at me and says ‘Hold onto the ball, freshman!'"
" I just looked at him and said, yes sir!"
Washington went on to beat the Cougars 23-10 and for the second straight year, and the Huskies were on their way to Pasadena. Their opponent from out of the Big Ten was to be the Iowa Hawkeyes. Robinson spoke of the experience leading up to the game on January 1st.
"We were all kind of overwhelmed to be there. There was this steak restaurant that teams went to every year, and we were looking on the walls at all of the great teams that had been through there. It gave us a sense of how big a game this was to be. Then on Christmas day, we had a team dinner and that was where we all got our Rose Bowl watches. Coach Teeves and Coach Lambright were the ones handing out the watches. Coach Teeves said to me, ‘you're gonna be the difference in this ballgame.' I was like, 'Ok, sure'. Then Lambright says to me, 'Jacque, you're gonna be the difference in this ballgame.' He said the exact same thing! And I was like, ‘Yea, OK coach, whatever, just give me my watch!'"
What was to occur was the first shutout in the Rose Bowl since 1954. The Huskies would run wild to a 28-0 whitewash over Iowa. It was in the second quarter that Robinson scored the first of his two touchdowns. But prior to this, he would first have an interaction with a coach that made an impression.
"It was the Rose Bowl, you know? So I'm on the sideline and attached to my uniform I'm wearing this little towel with pretty roses on it so I can look good. And coach (Al) Roberts comes over to me and snatches it off and says ‘the pretty boys are over there playing wide receiver! You're here to play football!' Then a little later he turns to me and says; 'wake the hell up! I see a freshman in your face! I don't want to see a freshman in your face!' Soon after being on the receiving end of the coach's wrath, Jacque was put into the game and was in position to tally his first touchdown.
"It was 4th and one!" exclaims Robinson. "We had already run a couple of dives, and Iowa had stuffed those completely. So we're sitting in the huddle, and they called the play to go to me. I knew I had to be careful of their inside linebacker because he had been slicing in a lot. But after I received the pitch, I practically walked into the end zone. I was like wheeeeew!"
The Huskies led 13-0 with 9:47 to play in the game when Jacque Robinson took a pitch, weaved, and then scampered 34 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown. "It was a draw, one of my favorite plays", he said. "I cut back then cut back again. Andre Tippett (Iowa's All-American LB) was the last person to have a shot at me, but I didn't even feel him at all. It wasn't until I watched film later that I saw just how close he came to getting me!"
Two minutes later, Washington was knocking on the door again with the ball at Iowa's 3-yard line. The Huskies huddled and QB Tim Cowan gave the play.
"They called my number again and I was freakin' out", said Robinson. "I was like, 'OK! I gotta pound it in there!' But then Tim faked the handoff, but I didn't know it, I'm reaching for the ball and it's not there. And my first thought was OH NO! DID WE FUMBLE? But Tim had kept the ball and ran around end for a touchdown. He came back to me and said, 'sorry Jacque, but they had two big guys in the middle just waiting for you.' And when Tim had faked the handoff those two big guys from Iowa WERE charging in to get me. I told Tim, 'hey don't worry about it, you did me a favor!'"
Robinson finished the day with 142 yards rushing and 2 TDS on 20 carries. With his performance he became the first freshman ever to earn the Rose Bowl MVP award. The media response and sheer number of microphones suddenly thrust before him was overwhelming. Robinson also saw significance in the number 28.
"I noticed that we won 28-0, I wore number 28, and it was the first Rose Bowl shutout in 28 years… And the year was 82. You better bet those numbers!"
As the interview drew to its conclusion, I had the following exchange with Robinson:
DJ: "Jacque I'd be remiss if I didn't ask you—is there any chance in a million years that your son Nate might end up experiencing a Rose Bowl too?"
Robinson: (extended pause) Yea, I may take him down there next year to watch it."
DJ: "Oh yea? (chuckling).
Robinson: Yea… But the question is when is the next time that the HUSKIES are going to go to the Rose Bowl? Because the last three years have been bad. And I was at the spring game, and maybe everybody is that bad at this time of year, I don't know. But I'm tellin' ya, I didn't see no roses there.
"It hurts to see what has happened to the program."
Derek Johnson can be reached at vieux_Montreal@msn.com
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