On this day 25 years ago, the Huskies blow past the Cougars for their first undefeated season since 1915.

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It wasn’t a perfect game. It still ended up being a perfect regular season for the 1991 Washington Huskies.

On this day 25 years ago, the Huskies defeated the Cougars 56-21 at Husky Stadium to wrap up an 11-0 regular season.

“I think going undefeated in a conference is maybe the most difficult thing you can do in football,” UW offensive coordinator Keith Gilbertson said afteward. “My hat’s off to the guys I get to work with. They did it every week.”

Here’s how coverage of that game looked in The Seattle Times:

Published: Nov. 24, 1991

By Dick Rockne
Seattle Times staff reporter

At times yesterday the Washington Huskies were flawed. But in the end they were perfect.

The Huskies completed the school’s first unbeaten, untied regular football season since 1915 by defeating Washington State 56-21 in an Apple Cup game that was far more entertaining than might have been expected.

The Huskies, 34-point favorites, did not take the lead for good until early in the second quarter and couldn’t relax for good until early in the fourth, when Tommie Smith ended a Cougar scoring threat by returning an interception 86 yards. One big play in a game of big plays, it set up the touchdown that propelled Washington into a 42-14 lead in cold, wet Husky Stadium.

The victory for Washington, which plays Michigan Jan. 1 in the Rose Bowl, was its 11th of the season. This year’s Huskies are the first to complete an undefeated season since the Gil Dobie-coached 1915 group went 7-0-0.

The Huskies, ranked No. 2 in the nation in the most recent Associated Press poll, have a chance to move at least closer to No.

1 this week. Top-ranked Miami struggled in defeating Boston College yesterday, 19-14. The new poll will be released tonight.

Washington State’s loss left the Cougars 4-7.

And it wasn’t hard to tell the winners from the losers afterwards – the Huskies were clutching long-stemmed roses after being formally invited to the Rose Bowl by Robert Cheney, president of the Tournament of Roses.

But after gaining more yards (430) and scoring as many points (21) against Washington as any of the Huskies’ previous 10 opponents, the Cougars were anything but glum.

“I think this is the start of something really, really good,” said WSU Coach Mike Price. “I know the score doesn’t show that. I’m no idiot. I can read the scoreboard. But I really think this is the start of something good.”

The Cougars’ 430 yards nearly doubled the average of 217.8 yielded by the Huskies this season. Until yesterday, no team had gained more yards against Washington than the 329 posted by California. Only Nebraska had scored as many points against the Huskies as the Cougars.

The Cougars averaged more than five yards per play and controlled the ball for more than six minutes longer than the Huskies. But they hurt themselves with three turnovers and 16 penalties for 169 yards. The Huskies, too, were flagged frequently – 11 times for 109 yards.

“I wasn’t very pleased with the way we played,” said Husky Coach Don James. “I don’t think we could play like that and expect to win a lot of games.”

But James, his assistant coaches and the players all were pleased after taking possession of the Apple Cup for the third year in a row from Gov. Booth Gardner.

“I think going undefeated in a conference is maybe the most difficult thing you can do in football,” said offensive coordinator Keith Gilbertson. “My hat’s off to the guys I get to work with. They did it every week.”

Defensive tackle Steve Emtman, named to the Kodak All-America team earlier in the day, said he “couldn’t be happier” about being 11-0. He credited the team’s seniors for getting the team focused each week.

“We didn’t underestimate anybody,” Emtman said.

For a while, Washington fans in the crowd of 72,581 might have thought the Huskies had underestimated the Cougars, who were leading 7-6 after the first quarter, largely because of a balanced offense.

Of the 82 yards they had gained, 40 were on the ground.

But after the Huskies made some adjustments to close down the inside, the Cougars were limited to minus-eight yards rushing in the second quarter, when the Huskies scored 22 unanswered points for a 28-7 halftime lead.

Big plays were responsible for the rally.

A 36-yard punt return by Beno Bryant led to Billy Joe Hobert’s second touchdown pass – a four-yard lob to fullback Darius Turner – that put the Huskies ahead for good, 12-7.

Moments later, cornerback Walter Bailey intercepted a Drew Bledsoe pass that had been tipped by Cougar tight end Clarence Williams. Bailey returned it 37 yards down the sideline for a touchdown and a 20-7 Husky lead after Hobert passed to Jay Barry for a two-point conversion.

Three downs and a punt later, the Huskies were back in business for a series that led to a 20-yard touchdown pass from Mark Brunell to Mario Bailey, and it was 26-7.

Then, with 1:09 left in the half, Jaime Fields sacked Bledsoe for a safety to make it 28-7.

It was a big play – a 69-yard pass from Hobert to Orlando McKay – that produced Washington’s first touchdown.

In the second half, Bryant had a 21-yard touchdown run and a 39-yard run that set up a touchdown, and Smith had his long interception return. Bryant finished with 127 yards on 24 carries.

The Cougars had their share of big plays, too.

Bledsoe, who completed 18 of 35 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns, hit Augustin Olobia with a 33-yard scoring toss. He set up touchdowns with a 52-yard pass to Philip Bobo and and a 48-yarder to Albert Kennedy.

Hobert completed 16 of 26 for 236 yards. His three touchdown throws gave him a school-record 22 for the season, two more than the previous mark of 20 set by Chris Chandler in 1986.


Published: Nov. 24, 1991
By Steve Kelley
Seattle Times columnist
About 40 minutes past high noon yesterday, the talking, the taunting, the week-long teasing stopped.

Like two boxers meeting in the middle of the ring before a championship fight, the eyes of Washington receiver Mario Bailey and Washington State cornerback Torey Hunter met across the line of scrimmage.

The moment of truth.

For a week, these two had staged a multimedia trash fest. On the telephone and television, on radio and in the newspapers, each had done his best to prick the ego of the other.

At 12:40, the talking stopped. At 12:43 Washington quarterback Billy Joe Hobert overthrew Bailey. At 12:45, Hobert hit Bailey for an 8-yard gain and Washington’s first first down.

Back and forth, parry and thrust, serve and volley. For the next four hours the Washington senior and the Washington State freshman backed their adjectives with action.

“He came out on the field and I was already out there,” Hunter said. “We had heard what each other had said. There was a lot of hype between the two of us and we knew it. He was looking down at me and I looked at him. We both shook our heads and gave that look like, `Strap it up and be ready to come.’ ”

To nobody’s surprise, Washington finished its first 11-0 regular season, winning a quirky, sloppy, big-play, big-mistake Apple Cup game, 56-21.

Bailey caught seven passes for 72 yards and two touchdowns to win his personal Apple Cup against Hunter. But Hunter, a converted wide receiver, who spent most of the afternoon alone, in front of 72,000 one-on-one with one of the most dangerous receivers in the land, didn’t embarrass himself.

Hunter had one interception, broke up one pass, had six unassisted and five assisted tackles. He served notice that in the next three years, a defensive star will rise in the Palouse.

“Mario called over to Pullman last Sunday and told my girlfriend what he was going to do to me,” Hunter said. “That’s the kind of player I like playing against. If I had to play against anyone, it would be a player who tells you directly, `I’m going to bring it at you, so you better be ready.’ ”

The Bailey-Hunter debate is understandable. Three years after 5-foot-9 whippet Bailey left Seattle’s Franklin High, 5-foot-10 whippet Hunter, playing for Tacoma’s Curtis, was being called the next Mario Bailey. But when Hunter went across the mountains and switched to defense, a rivalry was born. A Husky and a Cougar. A receiver and a cornerback. A Hatfield and a McCoy.

“Out of high school, both The Times and the P-I started comparing me with Mario Bailey,” Hunter said. “I don’t like being compared with anyone. I want to be myself. You keep hearing Mario Bailey. Mario Bailey. After a while, you get sick of hearing it.

“This week, he fired the first blow. He usually calls (WSU’s senior cornerback) Michael Wright, but this time he called my girlfriend and her friend and told them he was going to do this and that to me. I never took it personally, but I’m the type of person who’s going to be firing one back. Mario’s having this great year, but I didn’t think he was as great as everyone was saying.”

Bailey had a slightly different story to tell.

“He said I was nothing special and he called me a video-game kid and was going to do this and do that,” Bailey said of quotes attributed to Hunter. “Well, I have a friend down there and I sent a message back to him: `If you’re going to talk, back it up.

“The only (Cougar) defensive back I knew was Michael Wright. I hear this Torey Hunter guy is talking and I find out he’s a redshirt freshman and I’m thinking, `Well, boy, he hasn’t even been tested.’ I felt embarrassed that somebody like that would even talk about me.

“He played a good game but I think we won the battle.”

For the record, Bailey finished his regular-season career with 1,037 receiving yards, second-best in Washington history. He has 17 touchdown catches this season, tying a Husky record. His 62 career catches and 2,093 career yards are Washington records.

“I said on radio that he’s a great receiver, but he’s nothing extraordinary and I still stick by that today even though he did get the better of me,” said Hunter.

Bailey beat Hunter to catch a 20-yard touchdown pass from Mark Brunell in the second quarter, giving Washington a 26-7 lead. Early in the fourth quarter, Bailey scored again on a diving catch of a 7-yard pass from Billy Joe Hobert and bowed to the crowd as the lead swelled to 42-14.

“He had a good day on a day when I don’t think I played very well,” Hunter said. “I’m human. I can get beat.

“Mario’s not the best receiver I faced this year, but he’s up there. I think (UCLA’s) Sean LaChapelle is the best receiver in the league. And (Stanford’s) Chris Walsh is a real good, scrappy receiver. Mario’s not low or anything. It’s just that playing against him and watching him on film, I don’t think he’s the best receiver in the conference.”

Last week, Cougar Coach Mike Price said he voted for Miami as the nation’s No. 1 team. After losing by 35 points to the Huskies, he was asked if had changed his mind. He wouldn’t answer.

Torey Hunter, however, is never short of answers. Is Washington the best team in the country?

“From the sideline, you watch their defense and the things that they do; the blitzes and the sacks and things, their defense is the best in the country.

“Their offense? To be honest with you, I know they had close to 500 yards in total offense (actually 460), but it wasn’t as explosive as I thought it would be.”

Four hours and 56 points later, WSU’s Torey Hunter still is looking for a Washington explosion. The freshman’s future is bright, but yesterday senior Mario Bailey taught him that adjectives and acrimony don’t mean squat on Saturday afternoon.