As the 30th anniversary of one of the most memorable games in Husky football history nears, we dug into the archives to surface the account of that unforgettable game.
The frustration of the 80s against Southern Cal became the fury of the 90s yesterday as the University of Washington made history on a day it was supposed to be celebrating it.
They said Nesby Glasgow and Hugh McElhenny, as representatives of another era, gave great performances Friday night in delivering inspirational messages to the team. The 1990 Huskies returned the favor with the kind of wild-eyed physical play on defense and smart, skilled play on offense that embarrassed USC 31-0 and qualified this game with any of the great ones the Huskies have played.
A crowd of 72,617 baked in 92-degree weather and the knowledge that Don James once again could coach, that the early 90s might be as sweet as the early 80s.
That the Huskies are back. Not since the Huskies beat Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl have they won a game as big. Not since they blanked Iowa in the Rose Bowl have they won more impressively.
The Huskies won the battle on every front, from the coaching booth to the trenches, from the overwhelming noise of the crowd to the personal duels of Mark Brunell against Todd Marinovich, Greg Lewis against Ricky Ervins, Mario Bailey against Gary Wellman, and Chico Fraley against Scott Ross.
They gained 213 yards rushing to 28 for the Trojans, 410 yards total offense to 163. The Trojans had only 75 yards total offense after three quarters when the Huskies literally drove Marinovich from the game.
“I’ve never been shut out in my life,”said Marinovich afterwards. “It’s pathetic. I’m embarrassed. We never did anything to shut the crowd up. The only thing that Washington did that was a little different is that they showed blitz every time. I saw purple. That’s all I saw. No numbers, no faces, just purple.”
The win against No. 5-ranked USC should push the Huskies into the Top 10, and if it doesn’t a win over Colorado next Saturday would. If nothing else, the win means that for USC to go to its fourth straight Rose Bowl, the Huskies would have to lose at least twice.
This Husky team – which plays Oregon, Arizona and UCLA in Husky Stadium – doesn’t look like it might.
We’re shooting for the Roses, then the next thing is the national championship,” said Tyrone Rodgers, the nose guard who grew up in Los Angeles and transferred from Oklahoma.We’d like to lead the nation in the top four defensive categories. The sky’s our limit.”
The seeds of victory were sown across the last four recruiting classes, when Don James went for speed, when during the same period he committed to using top players on special teams, when he mixed the spread, one-back formation with the I, firing a line coach in the process.
This was a game in which the Huskies never looked back, when they attacked on offense and defense, threatening USC early with Brunell’s speed and then countering later with Lewis’ pinball running, the kind for which Ervins was justly famous.
SC thought we were playing the kind of defense we used to, read and attack,” Rodgers continued.But it was attack, then read. We set the tempo. They never had a chance to play their game.”
Dean Kirkland spoke for the offensive line, which finally lived up to its potential. We mashed them right from the start,” he said.I was darn tired of losing to USC. They’re a good bunch of athletes, but they’re real arrogant. Today was our turn.”
USC linebacker Scott Ross looked at the outcome from another view. “We came in here thinking we were the USC Trojans and we would beat the Huskies like we always do. I haven’t been beaten like this in my life. I don’t know how to take it.”
The Huskies had pegged this game No. 1 since beating Florida in the Freedom Bowl in December. The Rose Bowl was beginning to be too much Husky history for this group.
You try to take all your opponents seriously,” Kirkland said,but I think that might be why we didn’t play better in our first two games. This was the big one.”
James noticed the difference on Monday, when practices were sharp, the players attentive, their extra work obvious. We talked to them about keeping the TVs off, about not going to the movies,” James said.We told them to save it for Saturday night. I saw them watching more film than they ever have. They used the fact they weren’t in school yet to their advantage.”
Jim Lambright, the Husky defensive coordinator, said serious faces” all week erupted into the kind of emotion seldom seen on the field. Emotion played a huge role in the way we played,” he said. “I don’t remember being around a bigger win against SC, not when we both were good.”
Emotion is one thing, but how can you explain a 24-0 halftime lead by Washington when the Huskies were fortunate, by their own admission, to beat San Jose State and Purdue in their first two games? And after USC had dispatched Syracuse and Penn State without even trying?
You had to listen to Larry Smith, the USC head coach, who talked about the Huskies earlier in the week. Really listen.
They’ve always been physical,” he said of the Huskies,but now they have the quickness back like they did in the early 1980s.
“You can see it on film, those linebackers and defensive backs, none of them run slower than 4.6. And on offense, that’s a line that averages 300 pounds and those aren’t fat kids.”
“I’m telling you, Washington is much better than Penn State, much better.”
The most surprising thing was not the play of quarterback Brunell – that’s the way he’d played in the spring and fall scrimmages – but just the sheer speed and power the Huskies exhibited against a team that traditionally owns speed and power.
It came in all sizes and on both sides of the ball. It was as simple as freshman fullback Matt Jones dragging down USC’s Curtis Conway on a kickoff return, or as spectacular as Tommie Smith utilizing speed, quickness, and great instincts to leap in front of Larry Wallace for one interception, or Briscoe darting in front of Scott Wellman for another.
Or Lincoln Kennedy, all 325 pounds of him, rolling out to lead Brunell around the corner on a 10-yard gain. The Huskies are good. They have strength up front defensively – Steve Emtman, Rodgers and Travis Richardson were dominant – and they have speed at linebacker and in the secondary, especially considering James Clifford and Jaime Fields didn’t play.
Dana Hall ran with Wellman all day long and Smith can be a Kenny Easley-type safety. Offensively, Brunell isn’t Darian Hagan, but his ability to run will drive defenses nuts. And who says you can’t compare Lewis with McElhenny and Joe Steele, or Bailey with Paul Skansi?
The Huskies saw their past and their future on one day in September of 1990, and what a day it was.