(This is the fifth article in a week long series sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011)
What are your most memorable Husky moments? That is a good question because after watching so many games over the past 50 years at home and on the road.
I have a quite a few but these are the most memorable.
1. Becoming a Husky for life
We go full circle in this chain of articles and refer back to December 1959 when my father boarded a train at King Street Station to head South with friends to Pasadena. That is my earliest and most memorable Husky Football Moment. It sealed the deal between me and Husky football for life.
The Big Ten had dominated the Rose Bowl for two decades and the West was looking for a savior. They found it in a young Husky coach with a big smile named Jim Owens. Coach Owens 9-1 Huskies trounced Wisconsin 44-8 in convincing fashion.
The Huskies were led by one-eyed quarterback Bob Schloredt and flashy halfback George Fleming. Washington rushed out to a 17-0 lead before Wisconsin has a first down. Fleming's 53-yard punt return TD broke Wisconsin's back. Schloredt rushes 21 times for 81 yards and passed for 102 more while playing safety on the defensive side of the ball.
Husky football was headed for an incredible run and the rumor was that Jim Owens started walking to the stadium each day on the water from his home in neighboring Laurelhurst. Washington and the West had its savior.
2. Spider Gaines and the 1975 Apple Cup
I was at the 1975 Apple game with my dad and UW was trailing by 14 points with under three minutes to go. We were thinking of heading for the exits but decided to stick it out to see if WSU would score. All the Cougars really had to do was run the clock down and bury the Huskies deep to secure the victory.
WSU coach Jim Sweeney at the urging of his players called a pass that was picked off by Al Burleson that was returned for a 93 yard TD. WSU's offense then went three-and-out and Washington got the ball back at its own 22 with 1:56 left. Moon lofted a pass to the middle of the field intended for Scott Phillips. The ball was batted around, and Spider Gaines, who had followed the play, grabbed it and ran into the end zone for the winning score.
That was one serious single moment. Coach Sweeney ended up resigning a few weeks after the game. It was a loss that was hard to live with. His grandson Nate Fellner is a current Husky. If you can't beat em...join em!
3. Animal House
Don James began the 1977 season with a sense of urgency. This still wasn't his team. It was year three and there was still a division of culture between the Owens players and the kids he had recruited. We have all seen the movie "Animal House"...well to say the least this team was definitely living the movie.
When Washington began the season with a 1-3 record losing to such juggernauts as Mississippi State, Minnesota and Syracuse the fan base was becoming very restless. DJ's coaching career was actually hanging by a thread. He was described as being distant and out of touch by some of his players and the fan base. Coach James reacted by moving out of his home and into his office so he could be with his team 24 hours a day. He became the ultimate hall monitor.
On October 8, in the visitor’s locker room of Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon, something happened to bring the team together. The boosters who were with the team described the intensity as ferocious as anything they had ever seen when the Huskies took the field against the Ducks. Washington demolished Oregon 54-0 that day and Don James finally had the united team he had been working towards since 1974.
The Huskies won six of the next seven games to win the conference championship and the right to face mighty Michigan in the 1978 Rose Bowl. It was just prior to the Washington taking the field to warm up for the game when I was talking to Kenny Gardner who a was freshman on the team. I asked him what he was feeling at that moment. He said it was unbelievable... the most incredible feeling of his life. He could feel the adrenaline surging through the team and he knew it was going to be a big day. As fans we could feel the energy of this team too and knew that Michigan was in for a big surprise.
Washington came out and dominated in the first half and hung on in the fourth quarter to beat Michigan 27-20. The season marked the first of eight-straight years the Huskies would finish first or second in the conference race. It was the foundation that Don James built his dynasty on.
Two years ago my wife Kate chartered a yacht to put on a surprise 50th birthday party for me. We had 60 people on the boat from all over the country who had flew in for the event and it was a complete surprise. We had a great time cruising along the lakes before and after the game. The boat was the highlight of the day because the Huskies were on there way to an 0-12 season. I would rate it as the best tailgate and party moment of my life even though the game was terrible.
As I said it was a complete surprise and she had spent a full year planning it. On our anniversary in September of that year she gave me a single airline ticket to Seattle as a gift. I thought it was strange but she said she was sending me away for a weekend with the boys and who could complain about that.
A good friend of mine picked me up at the airport on Friday and we headed to spend the night at his beach house in Gig Harbor. We drove up to Seattle on Saturday for the game and he said we had to meet some strippers he had met the previous week at the Sands in Ballard to give them a couple of his extra tickets. The Sands...Strippers? He was recently divorced and I rolled my eyes and said whatever.
He got a phone call and we took off to the docks in his car to deliver the tickets. I had no interest in meeting strippers so I said I was staying in the car while he did what he had to do. He convinced me that I had to see this boat and I needed fresh air anyway. I was a good sport and relented.
As I was walking toward the yacht I heard someone yell at him and I remember thinking that one of the strippers looked a lot like my wife. In a split second 50 people ran over to that side of the boat and yelled surprise! I was absolutely dumbfounded and speechless....it was a great day to be a Husky and married to fantastic woman who is a Boston College Eagle and definitely not a stripper.
5. The Sooner Schooner Incident
The 1984 Huskies had the best defense in the country but the offense was challenged. Washington was 9-0 and rolling toward a national championship when USC derailed them in the tenth game of the year by keeping the Husky offense deep in their own territory the entire game. The Huskies finished the season 10-1and USC won the Pac 10 title and a trip to the Rose Bowl. Washington was awarded a berth in the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma which actually put them in a better position to compete for the national championship.
With just over 14 minutes remaining in the game the score was tied, 14-14. Then Oklahoma kicked what appeared to be a go-ahead 22-yard field goal. The kick was negated because of an illegal procedure penalty, something the members of the team operating the Sooner Schooner (Covered Wagon) didn't pick up on.
Oblivious to the penalty the Sooner Schooner charged onto the field, earning Oklahoma another penalty — a 15-yarder for unsportsmanlike conduct. The re-kick from 42 yards away was blocked by Huskies safety Tim Peoples. Inspired by the momentum swing, Washington went on to score two touchdowns in less than 60 seconds around the five-minute mark and won the game, 28-17.
This You-tube video of Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer being interviewed in the locker room after the game gives an accurate take on what happened from his view.