Nov. 23, 1991- Huskies Steamroll Cougars

WSU quarterback Drew Bledsoe dropped back in the pocket and scanned the field for his receivers. It was early in the 2nd quarter and Washington was leading by a mere 12-7 count. With the pocket collapsing around him and the roar of the Husky crowd reaching a crescendo, he stepped forward and rifled a throw to his left . . .

. . . only to see cornerback Walter Bailey step in front of the pass and sprint unfettered down the sideline 37 yards for a touchdown. The President of Pasadena's Tournament of Roses was on hand at Husky Stadium, and he exalted at the Washington TD. The Huskies went for a 2-point conversion and got it, and this upped the lead to 20-7. It signaled the beginning of the end for the Cougars in this particular Apple Cup, and when the scoring avalanche was finished, Washington had recorded a 56-21 victory to secure a perfect 11-0 regular season record.

It was perhaps Washington's finest hour as a football program, having put the finishing touches on a perfect season. Was it really 11 years ago? I hope that all Husky fans appreciated those moments of greatness and didn't take them for granted.

It would've been so easy to revel in all of the glory and all of the greatness that had unfolded, but yet one man deemed it necessary to not lose sight of one fact while his players celebrated.

Check out this post-game quote from head coach Don James:

"I wasn't very pleased with the way we played. I don't think we could play like that and expect to win a lot of games."

I once read somewhere that William Shakespeare had decried the deficiency of his own abilities. He had compared himself to another writer-- whom he said had a far greater "scope" than he. This is about the only quote I can think of that is more preposterous than James' remark. How towering a football empire was the UW, that there could ever be disgust in crushing a Pac-10 opponent by a 56-21 margin?

It is true that Washington was flagged for 11 penalties totaling 109 yards. But the Cougars held steadfast to their tradition and "Couged it", recording 16 penalties of their own for a whopping 169 yards!

It is true that the Cougars managed to gain more yards than any other team had against UW- 430 (stemming mostly from Bledsoe's 334 through the air). But Washington gained 460 yards themselves, and featured an enviable balance in the process (194 rushing, 266 passing).

It is true that the Cougars won the time of possession battle (33:11-26:49). But the two killer statistics for the Wazzuers was the surrendering of six turnovers and seven sacks to the nation's best defense.

Husky sophomore quarterback Billy Joe Hobert threw for 236 yards and three touchdowns, including two to the greatest receiver in Washington history, Mario Bailey. The late human freight truck Jaime Fields recorded a safety-producing sack of Drew Bledsoe in the third quarter. His "Compton Quake" dance was the icing on the cake. Oh how Jaime (Rest In Peace) is missed in these parts. Mark Brunell subbed for Hobert and tallied a score with 3:50 to play in the 4th, and the celebration was on.

The purple-clad players swarmed the field, and basked in the glow of the collision course that was now set with the Michigan Wolverines in Pasadena. Taken amid the celebration was a great photograph by the Seattle P-I. There are three players in that photo. That which makes it a timeless picture is the look of equal parts relief, happiness and satisfaction that permeate their faces. Dana Hall is holding up two index fingers to signify 11 wins; Tyrone Rodgers has his fingers contorted to illustrate zero losses; and Steve Emtman has his hand stationed above theirs, with a single index finger extended skyward, to indicate Washington's place in college football's pantheon that season of 1991.

It was all purple and it was all good. But Don James made sure that his team, and everyone that would listen, knew that his Huskies could be better. And they were, as an Elvis Grbac-led Michigan Wolverine team would find out in January of 1992.

It's not wise to dwell on the past, but certainly you should never forget it. And what Husky fan could ever forget that feeling that exuded onto Husky Stadium after Washington crushed WSU to climb the final rung on the regular season ladder?

Not me.
Derek Johnson can be reached at Top Stories