Looking back, 1983 was somewhat of a disappointing season for Washington. It was a roller coaster ride for Don James' squad. They beat Michigan in one of the more memorable finishes in Husky Stadium history, and they did post a shut out of mighty USC. However, they were thrashed by an LSU team that finished 4-7 and with the chips on the line, they dropped conference games to UCLA and WSU.
Winning just one of those Pac-10 games would've sent Washington to Pasadena for the third time in four years. To end the season, they were humbled when Penn State scored 10 points in the last few minutes to beat UW 13-10 in the Aloha Bowl.
To get back to where they wanted to be in 1984, the Huskies needed to beat a traditional power, on the road. Looking back in the history annals, the last time before this game that the Huskies had beaten a non-conference foe with a winning record was the 1972 game at Purdue. That was the first win of that type the Huskies had in their storied football history.
The week before Washington would fly back to Ann Arbor for that opportunity, starting QB Hugh Millen completed just 13 of 26 passes for 154 yards against a weak Northwestern squad. Meanwhile, Jim Harbaugh started his Michigan QB career by out dueling Bernie Kosar and defending champion Miami that same week.
The odds-makers didn't give the Dawgs much of a chance.
After Washington went three and out on their first possession, it looked like they were right.
Then Michigan and the rest of the world would learn what the "Purple Reign" defense was all about. They shut down the Wolverines and kept the home team at bay until Millen could find his bearings.
He found them and soon put the Huskies on the board. On a key 3rd and 9 play at the UW 21, Millen dropped back and found WR Mark Pattison along the Husky sideline. Mark pulled in the pass and tiptoed along the boundary for a 10-yard gain to move the chains at last. Coach James wanted Hugh to build confidence so they continued with a short passing attack. Millen completed all seven of his passes on the drive, many on third downs as the running game was sluggish. After 18 plays that ate up the clock, Jeff Jaeger made a 24-yard field goal that gave Washington a 3-0 first quarter lead. This early strike gave the Huskies confidence that there would be no LSU-style road blowout.
Michigan moved the ball but the Purple Reign would not let them sniff the end zone. On a 3rd and 1 play at the UW 39, Michigan TB Gerald White looked to have a first down but Husky inside LB Tim Meamber forced him to fumble and Safety Jim Rodgers recovered to complete the take-away.
On Michigan's next possession they drove to the Husky 41 but could only muster five yards on their next three plays and Michigan kicker Bob Bourgeron did his best "Gus the Mule" imitation and made a 53 yard field goal to tie the score at 3.
Later in the quarter the Huskies would take control of the game for good thanks to their vaunted defense. The Wolverines had a 3rd and 13 situation on their own 26-yard line. Jim Harbaugh threw into traffic and UW linebacker Joe Kelly intercepted him, setting up the Huskies on the Wolverine 25.
While Ron "Cookie" Jackson started the game at running back, it was Jacque Robinson who found success running the ball for the Huskies. Four Robinson carries took the ball to the UM 8. From there, Hugh Millen found tight end Rod Jones for a short completion to set up first and goal. Rick Fenney blasted in from two-yards out and Washington took a 10-3 into the locker room at halftime. Fred Small made sure of it by drilling Harbaugh on a blind side sack to end the second quarter.
Michigan had out-rushed the Huskies 103 yards to 69, but the Wolverines could not solve Defensive Coordinator Jim Lambright's defense once they crossed the 40-yard line. Offensive Coordinator Gary Pinkel's plan of having Millen throw short and avoid mistakes resulted in no turnovers while Michigan had turned it over twice.
Harbaugh had completed just two of seven passes for a paltry 15 yards and was harassed by Ron Holmes and company.
In the third quarter Millen would deliver a dagger to the heart of UM coach Bo Schembechler. With an inside blitz ready to knock him to the Michigan Stadium turf on a 3rd and 6 play, Hugh Millen stood his ground and delivered a rocket down the field intended for Mark Pattison. Pattison beat two Michigan defenders, took the ball in stride, and raced untouched for a long touchdown that made The Big House go eerily silent.
Michigan was in serious trouble, staring down a 17-3 deficit with the 3rd quarter just a few minutes old. Hugh was well on his way to silencing his critics, as he'd now completed 11 out of his 13 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown.
As they did for several of their other drives in this game, Michigan moved the ball down the field with their running game. But once again, the Purple Reign held tough when Michigan approached the UW 40 yard line. Michigan had a 1st and 10 situation at the UW 43. Inexplicably, Bo Schembechler decided to go away from the run. Harbaugh threw incomplete on first down and a Fred Small sack produced a loss of 10 yards on second down. Michigan had to punt again.
A Michigan miscue provided the final icing on the cake. Their third turnover came when Thane Cleland's punt was fumbled and Rick Fenney recovered at the Michigan 49. Washington still had yet to turn the ball over.
Washington mixed their running game with short yardage passing and continued to move the ball. A 12-yard pass to Rick Fenney on 3rd and 9 and a Jacque Robinson 3 yard plunge on 3rd and two kept the ball away from Michigan. When Jeff Jaeger converted his second field goal of the day, Washington led 20-3.
Washington's defense forced Harbaugh and the Wolverine offense into a 3rd and 14 situation after a Reggie Rogers sack. Just when things looked their bleakest for the home team, Harbaugh made one of his few clutch passes of the day. He found Steve Johnson for 17 yards and a first down as the third quarter ticked to zero
Michigan gamely hung in. Husky free safety Jimmy Rodgers blasted Harbaugh on a blitz and the ensuing fumble was recovered by the Michigan QB, but for a loss of 10 yards. Harbaugh once again came up big on third down, finding scatback Jamie Morris for a 22-yard gain and a first down. They couldn't avoid disaster a third time on that drive, however.
On 2nd and 7 Harbaugh saw Mark Grey on a corner route. Unfortunately for Michigan, so did Rodgers and Husky cornerback J.C. Pearson. The coverage was perfect and Rogers made the interception to kill the drive and give the Huskies their fourth take-away.
Washington's offense continued to play mistake free and let the Purple Reign do their thing. All-American linebacker Joe Kelly stuffed Harbaugh on a fourth down scramble to turn the ball over on downs, and cornerback Ron Milus' interception further sealed the Wolverine's doom.
Michigan would score one final touchdown with just seven seconds remaining when Harbaugh found Vince Bean along the left edge of the end zone. Along with the two-point conversion run, it was just enough to make the poor Michigan offensive effort look slightly respectable on the scoreboard. Washington's defense ruled the day and Millen's smart decisions and accurate throws propelled the Dawgs to a convincing 20-11 road game in front of 110,000 fans.
However since it only looked like a nine-point victory on paper, could AP voters have been influenced if they didn't see the game and how Washington dominated the Wolverines? Did it cost the Huskies at the end of the season?
We'll never know, but BYU needed late heroics from QB Robbie Bosco in the Holiday Bowl to defeat this same Michigan team that Washington had dominated with the exception of allowing a garbage time TD. BYU's Holiday Bowl win and 12-0 season through a cupcake schedule was deemed enough to name them the National Champion over the 11-1 Huskies, who had suffered their lone defeat on the road at USC, but ended the season by soundly defeating Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. The Dawgs finished #2 in both AP and UPI polls, and their 11-1 record was their best in school history until running the table seven years later and winning their share of the National Championship.
Looking back, Michigan was ranked #3 in the country after their season opening win over Miami before the Huskies came to town. This Husky win ranks right up there with the 1980 USC win and the 1966 Ohio State win as one of the great road performances in Washington history.
Husky Rewind: 1984 UW vs. Michigan
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