Osia Lewis (1962-2020): If UW Fans Don't Remember Him, They Should

Dan Raley

Osia Lewis died on Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee, following a four-year struggle with liver cancer. He was 57. It's not out of the question to think that he put up a tremendous fight. 

If you were there on that sullen and gray October afternoon  in 1985, you might remember Lewis as one of the chief catalysts behind the biggest upset ever perpetrated in Husky Stadium.

No, the middle linebacker didn't lead Washington to a resounding victory. Lewis was on the other side, playing for Oregon State, deflating a crowd of 56,544. 

He and his teammates made the home team and all of Seattle pay for an unforgivable show of disrespect -- they went in as 37-point underdogs and pulled off a stunning 21-20 victory. 

The night before the supposed mismatch, Lewis and his teammates went to bed at a local hotel listening to a KIRO-TV sportscaster make fun of them, likening the game to a bye.

The next morning, the Oregon State coaches made sure their players received a copy of Steve Rudman's acidic column in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, where among his many disparaging comments he described the Beavers "as the Barney Fife of college football."

"You know, we have feelings like everyone else," Lewis said after the game. "We practice like everyone else. We're 19- and 20-year-old people playing football, and we work hard at it. We didn't deserve the treatment we got."

To be fair, the Beavers left themselves open to some criticism. Oregon State was coming off 63-0 and 34-0 losses to USC and Washington State, and hadn't beaten the Huskies in a decade. 

The UW was in first place in the Pac-10 at the time, a season removed from an Orange Bowl run and a No. 2 national ranking, and a formidable opponent. 

Yet the level of ridicule heaped on the Beavers was more than unfair, it was piling on. 

Lewis, a squatty 6-foot, 226-pound senior from Tucson, Arizona, responded by having the game of his life. He piled up a career-best 21 tackles, just shy of a school record. He was over the field. 

He padded his tackle total on a valiant Beavers' goal-line stand in the third quarter. He was never more motivated than he was on this series.

On first and goal at the Oregon State 1, Lewis stepped up and dropped running back Vince Weathersby for no gain.

After a teammate broke through and tackled UW quarterback Hugh Millen for a short loss, Lewis and Weathersby collided once more on third down and there was only one survivor -- the leader of the Beavers defense hit the Husky player so hard, he caused a fumble that another OSU player recovered and Lewis knocked Weathersby out of the game. 

The contest ended with Oregon State blocking a punt and recovering it for the deciding points in the closing minutes. 

The Beavers players asked each reporter they encountered if he was Rudman, who actually didn't cover the game and wasn't in the stadium. They sent him a game ball and had T-shirts made up commemorating the surprising outcome.

The Huskies went on to finish 7-5, beating Colorado in the Freedom Bowl. The Beavers lost their next four games to finish 3-8.

As for Lewis, he played in the Arena Football League and got into coaching, joining staffs for the Hartford of the United Football League, Western Oregon, Illinois, New Mexico, UTEP, San Diego State, Vanderbilt and Oregon State. 

Wherever he went, Lewis could tell his players about turning Husky Stadium oddly silent in 1985. Of overcoming the longest odds.

Of gaining back some respect.

Comments (1)
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monkeyarms
monkeyarms

I was there with my dad. He had coached me and my older brothers in sports, and used to say, "One of the best things that can happen is for a team to play poorly but get a win." His point being: That that situation provides great teaching opportunities for the following week's practices without taking a loss. The Huskies had played like shit all day, but were only a few minutes away from getting a victory. All the team had to do was get off a decent punt, and then the defense to hold on. Not to be on that day. Great article and RIP Mr. Lewis.


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