About every 35 years or so, as if by congressional decree, the football teams from Hawaii and Washington get together as they will again...
About every 35 years or so, as if by congressional decree, the football teams from Hawaii and Washington get together as they will again Saturday night in Honolulu.
And for schools that have very little history, there is actually quite a history. The series features:
• What is probably the only time a Huskies team practiced on a ship.
• What might be the biggest upset ever suffered by Washington.
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• And the first start for an African-American quarterback at UW.
The workout-by-sea happened in late 1937 as the Huskies headed to Honolulu to play Hawaii in something called the Pineapple (Poi) Bowl, though to consider it a bowl by today’s definition wouldn’t be quite right. Hawaii was 2-5, having played mostly local alumni teams, and typically ended its seasons by inviting a big-name West Coast team to play.
The Huskies, according to school archives, already had stored their gear for the offseason when the invitation came. Coach Jimmy Phelan took a vote, players unanimously agreed to go, and the Huskies left from Vancouver, B.C., for a weeklong trip, practicing on deck along the way.
The game, played Jan. 1, 1938, was a rout with UW taking a 26-0 lead before the hosts had a first down. The Huskies won 53-13, and still include the game in their official bowl record. (The Huskies also beat the Honolulu Townies five days later, 35-6.)
In 1973, it was Hawaii coming to Seattle for the season opener for what then was a rare visit by the Rainbows (known now as the Warriors) to the mainland. Hawaii at the time was an independent team that typically played at home. They would come to the mainland for just a couple games.
The game at Washington was part of Hawaii’s attempt to begin upgrading its schedule a bit — Hawaii had lost 34-2 at Tennessee the year before.
But few thought Hawaii had a chance against UW — the school’s official history claims it was a 50-point underdog.
Some of that spread was based on the fact UW was coming off two 8-3 seasons. But those were with Sonny Sixkiller at quarterback, and he was gone by 1973.
Washington entered the Hawaii game with a somewhat unsettled quarterback situation, with three players rotating, and coach Jim Owens gave the start to James Anderson, a sophomore from Fresno, Calif., making him the first African American to start at that position for the Huskies, according to school officials.
Anderson, however, didn’t last long, suffering muscle spasms after a hard hit on the second series. He was replaced by junior Denny Fitzpatrick, who promptly led the Huskies to a touchdown with the expected rout apparently on.
Instead, UW never scored again, in large part due to five turnovers and two missed field goals, indicative of a sloppy effort throughout.
“We were just not passionate and hungry enough to take them really, really serious,” said Fitzpatrick, now general manager at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
Hawaii grabbed a 10-7 lead in the third quarter, but Washington drove inside Hawaii’s 23-yard line three times in the fourth quarter.
Twice, the Huskies lost fumbles, the other time — with less than four minutes left — they went for a first down rather than try a tying field goal and were intercepted.
“Personally, I’d rather tie than lose,” said a surprised Hawaii coach Dave Holmes afterward.
Hawaii’s media notes this week refer to the game as “one of the biggest upsets in school history.”
Owens said afterward, “I think we all were embarrassed,” and the game was not “indicative of our team.”
Unfortunately for UW, it was. The Huskies finished the season 2-9 overall and 0-7 in Pac-8 play, the first winless conference season since World War II.
Anderson played sparingly the rest of the season, finishing the year 3 of 13 passing. He was later moved to receiver, though he played a few more games at quarterback, rushing for 102 yards against Oregon State in 1975. And his status as the first African American to start a game at quarterback for the Huskies is generally forgotten, most figuring it was Warren Moon.
“It got a lot of attention at the time,” said Fitzpatrick, calling Anderson “a very talented quarterback. He was very, very fast and quick on his feet.”
Fitzpatrick, however, said it was an odd season, with a lot of uncertainty over the future of Owens.
“There were so many questions in many minds that it affected our psyche,” he said, adding that the loss to Hawaii “felt like the beginning of the end, so to speak.”
Owens, however, lasted one more year, retiring after the 1974 season, which was highlighted by Fitzpatrick’s 249-yard rushing game against Washington State. Fitzpatrick rushed for 697 yards, which until this year was the most for a UW quarterback.
Coincidentally, Fitzpatrick was at Stanford last month when Jake Locker broke his record, having simply picked that game to attend with friends as part of an annual outing. He said he intentionally didn’t tell anyone he was there, wanting to keep the attention on Locker.
He’ll try to watch again Saturday on television when UW and Hawaii renew acquaintances, hoping for another upset.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com