Road to 1991 Perfection: For Mason, Rose Bowl was 'One of Our Easiest Games'

The Husky defensive end remembers being the underdog once in the national spotlight, but they showed themselves to be much better than that.
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Everything was a blur for Andy Mason during the University of Washington's 1991 national championship season.

It was one blowout after another.

The sophomore defensive end, a converted linebacker after others went down with injuries, had an open lane to the quarterback nearly every play because he played next to the fearsome Steve Emtman.

As the photo shows, Mason always was a go-to interview for these Huskies, a guy with a great quote, someone who could play, and he knew it. As a linebacker, he proclaimed earlier in spring practice that he and fellow sophomore Hillary Butler were "linebackers of the year 2000." 

Entering the Rose Bowl, he recognized one thing that hadn't changed. The national press still considered this UW team the underdog to Michigan, no matter what the point spread said. 

Oh, well.

What wasn't so obvious to those outsiders was how downright comfortable the Huskies were in the New Year's Day football setting in Pasadena. One reason was they had played there the season before and defeated Iowa 46-34 in a game that wasn't that close. 

Another was the simple fact there were 49 California-produced players on the 100-plus UW roster.

"It was like another home game for them, with everyone wanting to do well in front of their family and friends," Mason said. 

Oh yeah, these guys in the purple and gold uniforms were really good, too, far more talented than anyone gave them credit for in the other time zones. 

It showed up on the scoreboard: Washington 34, Michigan 14.

Again, it was a game that wasn't that close, wasn't anything like the experts had forecast. 

"We'd obviously played well the year before," Mason said. "We were going up against Michigan and I can't remember how many All-Americans they had. They didn't give us much of a chance."

And what happened?

"Honestly, it was one of our easier games, it really was," Mason said. "That's when we felt like we'd made it."

This is another in series of vignettes about the UW's 1991 national championship team, supplementing the conversation for the pandemic delayed and shortened season. We're dealing with game 12 of this throwback series, the '92 Rose Bowl against Michigan.

Mason, who owns his own construction company, has the satisfaction of being part of Washington's greatest football team and doing something few others in his league have ever done.

Claim a national championship.

College football has crowned 151 champions, with some schools sharing that honor in the same year, and just 13 from the different iterations of the Pac-12 have pulled it off. Since the Huskies ran the table in '91, only USC has reached the national title promised land in 2003 and 2004, and the Trojans had to give the second one back because of improper benefits provided to Reggie Bush.

"It was one of those underdog deals," Mason said of his title run. "Playing Michigan, it was still the underdog rule. The Pac-10 wasn't getting the recognition nationwide. Even today the Pac-12 as it is, no matter if there's a contender for the playoff, it's eh. It's not the SEC or back then it wasn't the Big 8 and that stuff."

No, Mason and his teammates just did what they were told. It was all very simple for the defensive linemen, as instructed, or ignited, by their position coach Randy Hart.

"Coach Hart used to say light your hair on fire," Mason said, "and that's what we did."

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