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It's Not Easy for UW to Win a Big Ten Road Game, But Not Impossible

The Huskies are 14-18 in football road games played throughout the Midwest conference.

A road trip for the University of Washington football team into Big Ten country is sort of like coming face to face with a grizzly bear. Always an eye-opener, usually uncomfortable. 

You back away carefully, never run away. 


OK, real bad analogy, considering last weekend.

The Huskies have played football in a Big Ten city 32 times since their first sojourn into Minneapolis to face Minnesota and open the 1938 season. They've won just 14 times in this section of the country, hard by the Great Lakes, where the interstates run forever and the smoke pours out of the factories nonstop.

Beating one of these Midwest marvels on their home turf can be done, it just doesn't happen all that often for the UW.

At Michigan, you're forced to play in the biggest football stadium in the country (boasting a 107,000 capacity, with the ability to jam a few more people in there if necessary). 

Ohio State similarly lists its seating in the same elbow-to-elbow stratosphere (104,000), no doubt looking to add on and someday surpass the Big House ... with the Even Bigger House.

This can all be very unsettling for an innocent band of Northwest football players who show up in one of these raucous coliseums almost expecting to be eaten by bloodthirsty lions.  

Out of those previous victories over eight decades of trying, we select the Huskies' five greatest moments in the exalted land of Bo Schembechler, Woody Hayes and Duffy Daugherty.

5 UW Big Ten Conquests

1. 1966, UW 38, Ohio State 22 — This is possibly the greatest Husky road victory ever, though a 36-21 win in 1991 at Nebraska, then a Big Eight team and now in the Big Ten, resonates more with some UW fans because it led to a 12-0 season and a national championship. Unlike the trip to Lincoln, which required a fourth-quarter comeback, this intersectional game was a Husky beatdown on a big stage that was never in doubt. Coach Jim Owens simply unleashed his powerful and speedy tailback Donnie Moore for 221 yards and 2 touchdowns rushing on 30 carries, which included a 47-yard scoring dash. Moore, who played just a season and a half at the UW before getting booted for drinking beer in a tavern a few weeks later, was the second coming of the great Earl Campbell, a bowling-ball kind of runner who relished handing out wicked punishment. Consider his take on what happened that day, with Donnie flatly stating the obvious, "We got down and dirty in the trenches and then we broke their spirits." The Huskies are 1-4 at imposing Buckeye Stadium.

2. 1984, UW 20, Michigan 11 — The Big House was reduced to a mother-in-law apartment by a group of Huskies who eventually were headed for the Orange Bowl and an 11-1 record. The UW defense, led by take-no-prisoners safety Jimmy Rodgers, forced five turnovers and didn't permit a Wolverines touchdown until two seconds remained in the game, while the offense came up with a 73-yard scoring strike from Hugh Millen to Mark Pattison. Michigan was quarterbacked by Jim Harbaugh, now the head coach. So a UW victory can be done, though not often. The Huskies are 1-3 in this vaunted setting (Rodgers describes this game for us on Friday).

3. 1972, UW 22, Purdue 21 — Quarterback Sonny Sixkiller and his teammates pulled this one out of the dumpster, overcoming a 21-0 halftime deficit with 15 fourth- quarter points. With 2:04 left to play, Steve Wiezbowski converted a 25-yard field goal to complete the scintillating comeback. You want halftime adjustments? In the first half, the UW permitted Gary Danielson, the Boilermakers' quarterback and now a highly recognizable college football TV broadcaster, to rush for 206 yards on the option; he picked up only 7 more yards after the break. 

4. 1951, UW 25, Minnesota 20 — This marked the first ever Big Ten road victory for the Huskies in six tries, and it was not easy. Eighth-ranked in the country, a Hugh McElhenny-led team built an 18-0 lead before frittering it away and falling behind 20-18. Dean Rockey's 2-yard TD pass to McElhenny with 2:17 remaining pulled it out against the Gophers. McElhenny finished with 119 yards rushing on 14 carries, breaking off a 56-yard TD run. However, he also fumbled the ball away once and threw an interception. This game was so perplexing to Husky coach Howie Odell, he made this startling postgame comment, "If we had lost that game, I'd have taken a gun and blown my brains out." The Huskies are 2-6 at Minnesota.

5. 1990, UW 20, Purdue 14 — The Huskies were in the early stages of their golden era of three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances when they notched a tough road win in the Big Ten using an evenly balanced attack. Mark Brunell, the UW's fastest quarterback ever before suffering a knee injury in practice seven months later, rushed for 76 yards, including a 47-yard TD run, and he threw for another 150 and the game-winning points on a 35-yard scoring pass to Orlando McKay early in the fourth quarter. West Lafayette, Indiana, remains the most hospitable Big Ten city for the Huskies, who are 3-0 at Purdue.

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